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Makerspace: The Modern Day Lab

Makerspace for STEM education in schools

If you can imagine an art room, science lab, computer center and woodshop all rolled into one, you are probably picturing a makerspace. This up-and-coming innovative classroom concept is becoming a key component of STEM (and STEAM) education. A makerspace allows students to explore and create prototypes of anything they can think of. This is where students can really hone their 21st century skills to start becoming the creative thinkers we need in today’s world.

What belongs in a makerspace?

that can help students create can be part of a maker lab. However, there are certain things that are generally found there. First of all, there should be computer workstations which allow students to program, work on app development and use all kinds of planning software. Of course, there also need to be tables to work at. Additionally, if you want to be fully up-to-date, a 3D printer with all of the accessories required is a must-have item.

What is the best layout for a makerspace?

You want to have a flexible design because you can’t predict exactly what students will be working on and what kind of layout will best support their collaboration. Students can be working independently or in groups so you want to make sure that the workspace supports all of these options. The easiest way to maximize flexibility is by choosing furniture on wheels. There are tons of options when it comes to work tables, computer desks and carts which have locking casters, so they are stable while students work, but easy to move when the space needs to be rearranged.

While flexibility is definitely desired, quiet work areas should also be included in the plan. While some people get caught up in teamwork and enjoy brainstorming out loud with their team, others might prefer a quiet workspace which allows them to better focus on the task at hand. It is a good idea to make sure that your maker space accommodates different work styles so everyone can feel at home and be able to take advantage of everything this unique area has to offer.

What can you do in a makerspace?

Many STEM education programs like to use the makerspace to host challenges where students need to solve a problem by creating their own prototypes. This room might also be used for experiments and demonstrations related to Physics, Art or Math. Schools might even want to consider offering a makerspace elective where teachers can expose them to all sorts of programs and tools they might never have seen before. This could also be a good opportunity to make sure students are using the tools properly.

A makerspace doesn’t have to stand on its own, in fact some schools have come up with amazing ways to incorporate making into the curriculum in a variety of subjects. This year, every grade in the ‘Iolani Lower School had a makerspace project incorporated into their studies in subjects as diverse as Biology, History and Art. After a year in which the teachers and students were introduced to the space and its potential, the STEM teacher who was in charge of the maker lab worked one-on-one with teachers to plan out projects that used the space. By incorporating the space into other subject areas, students learn that innovating is an integral part of every subject and that life is interdisciplinary.

The Stewart Middle Magnet School transformed their library into a makerspace . This is a great example of how you can use the space you already have and build on existing furniture. They have a lot of projects based on Legos, K’nex and other basic building sets that are meant for children. Much of their designing takes place in clubs and after-school programs, rather than as part of regular classes. You don’t need a 3D printer to have a makerspace, you just need an innovative teacher with a vision and some creativity.

Having an up-to-date makerspace will definitely set your school apart from the competition. If you are looking for ways to beef up your STEM education curriculum and show how dedicated your school is to student success, adding a maker lab will make a big statement. By using some of the tools and furniture you already have and adding some cool technology and devices into the mix, you can put together a fully functioning maker space that your students will love.

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