MakerSpace, FabLab, HackerSpace, STEM Lab, Think Tank...
No matter the title, a “MakerSpace” contains resources for designing, constructing, building, programming and creating, bringing together diverse subject areas that have left many students perplexed about their value. The goal of a “makerspace” is to provide hands-on creative ways for students to design, experiment, build and invent as they engage in tinkering.
As Northumberland Middle/High School’s library media specialist, I recognize that one of the major challenges of educators is to provide engaging, meaningful activities for students. I have long been aware that students can become bored and lackadaisical in the traditional school environment. Worse, they seldom understand the relationship between curriculum and real-world applications. The quest, therefore, becomes finding ways to use meaningful play and experimentation to heighten motivation while providing learning that is relevant to students’ interests and identities.
Research shows that personalized, hands-on lessons engage students more actively in learning. Educators know that when students are using their hands and creating something, they are engaged. When students can see, touch, show, explain and use the physical results of their efforts, they know they have accomplished something valuable. Hands-on activities also help learners expand their critical thinking and problem solving skills.
I find it encouraging when members of the school community pool their resources to help students make connections between home, school, community and world. Keeping all this in mind, I have created the rudiments of a MakerSpace which I have entitled “Think Tank” to provide a physical location where ALL students and teachers can engage in a variety of activities:
One PC is dedicated to creating video animation utilizing the Hue Animation camera and software. This program enables students to easily create stop-motion animation, incorporating a variety of effects, including chromakey.
A dedicated HDMI monitor connected to a Raspberry Pi 3 affords students the opportunity to explore and experiment with a variety of coding and programming: Raspbian SCRATCH, Python. Intuitive and user-friendly, the Raspberry Pi allows students to experience and modify existing programs as well as create their own programs.
We are currently in need of a dedicated PC for the Makey Make; however, this electronic kit can be connected to the Animation Station PC. Makey Make began as a project by two MIT students in 2010. This electronic kit uses a circuit board, alligator clips and a USB cable to send closed loop electronic signals keyboard or mouse stroke signals to the computer.
Arduino Starter Kit
Arduino is an open-source programming platform that enables users to build electronics projects. The kit allows students to build and program both basic and more complex electronic projects. The collaborative nature of the open-source platform easily allows students to contribute and share within the Arduino community.
A pocket size coding robot that allows students to learn the basics of coding. Beginning with color coding and expanding to blockly coding, the Ozobot enables students to use both a physical coding environment such as paper as well as a digital coding environment.
Books and Magazines
Several books and magazines on robotics, digital design, animation, gaming, creativity and industry careers are displayed in the THINK TANK for perusal and circulation.
Manipulatives and Materials
Most of these resources benefit from the incorporation of manipulatives and materials such as blocks, pipe cleaners, glue, paper, markers and figurines. Students can explore and tinker with physical, electronic and digital items to create unique products.
Future acquisitions will include more arts and crafts supplies (such as colored duct tape, craft sticks and pipe cleaners), claymation supplies, more print materials for student self-directed learning, a 3D printer as well as dedicated computers. My goal is to continue providing a welcoming, collaborative, user-friendly environment where all members of the school community can:
Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.
Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.
Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.
Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.
("National School Library Standards - AASL http://standards.aasl.org/)
Tinkering, collaborative learning, play, conversations for learning, intergenerational learning, experimentation, inquiry, the act of creation, and problem solving–these are just some of the qualities that can happen in our Think Tank and encourage participatory learning.
Come and see! Better yet---come and create!
Liz Hood is the school library media specialist at Northumberland Middle/High School. Passionate and enthusiastic, she is dedicated to best practice education for 21st Century Learners. Learn more about Liz at www.cybrarianliz.com
The Northumberland Assn. for Progressive Stewardship (napsva.org) continues to develop, conduct and sponsor nature and STEM learning programs and projects in local schools.