Last year my school started to create a “makerspace” lab. It’s a place where students are able to go with their classmates in order to create and build in the classroom community. When I first heard about makerspace I had no idea what to expect. In case you are still unsure, makerspace provides students the opportunity to design, experiment, and build in a hands-on environment. It promotes collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication – more information here .
The staff at my school was introduced to makerspace by participating in a makerspace with our grade level teams. We were required to build an apple container using household materials. The only stipulations were that the container had to have handles, must be easy to carry, must hold at least three apples, the apples could not be held by anyone’s hands, and the apples had to stay in the container as they were carried for 10 steps. This activity showed us the importance of doing similar types of activities in our own classrooms.
The AIG teacher and the technology teacher at our school took on this challenge and created the lab with all the materials needed. Each grade level chose four makerspace labs they wanted to complete by the end of the year and then they submitted the plans. We were given a book – see below – we could choose labs from or we could find another lab that would interest us/our students.
They then collected all required materials, created interactive google slides to introduce each lab, and turned the computer lab into a place where students could create together.
At first I was unsure how this would all connect back to the classroom besides connecting to our Science standards. I was quickly proven wrong. Literacy is such a big skill needed to complete any makerspace activity. The students are expected to read the directions, rules they must follow, and write a design before they can build. Before students are put into teams they need to draw the design they think will work best and describe in detail how they would go about building it. Once students have had their individual time to brainstorm they are then put into groups of four. Groups choose roles for each other – speaker, timekeeper, materials manager, and recorder – and their roles must be taken very seriously. In groups the students discuss all of their ideas from the brainstorming session and must decide on one design they will use when they go to the maker lab.
Next comes the build part! As a class we go to the maker lab and get to work. The materials manager is the only person allowed to collect materials and if the group decides on a change for their design, the recorder is the only one that can change the design on their paper. During this time the teacher and parent volunteers are circulating the lab, asking questions, but never helping the students with the design. One of my favorite labs we did last year was students had to build kites on a budget after we learned about our air and weather unit. Some questions I asked while circulating were, “What are you doing to make sure your kite doesn’t fall apart? Have you had any unexpected challenges and how have you fixed them?”
The final part of the maker lab is the presentation. The presentation is a big component of literacy as students are expected to speak and listen to other groups present. Some of the standards it covers for 2nd grade alone are:
Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
Build on others’ talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others.
Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to clarify comprehension, gather additional information, or deepen understanding of a topic or issue.