We are back in action after the summer break. Bigger, and better, as promised! We’ve grown in numbers. We have twice the number of young makers this year! Joining our seasoned group of makers who are now in Grades 6 and 7, are our freshers from Grades 4 and 5.
Along with student numbers, we’ve increased the number of hands helping on board. We now have a second facilitator who helps run the sessions. We’ve also grown in size, as we have expanded. Given that our students are now spread over two different campuses, we have two Makerspaces as well! A Primary Makerspace for my newbies, and a Secondary Makerspace for my old-timers. The plan is to meet with each group once a week, for a two-hour long session.
We’ve also managed to secure a place in this year’s school budget. Yay! Which means I am no longer doing my weekly shopping trips to the stationer, and fancy store. 🙂
Both the spaces are now well stocked with craft supplies, paper supplies, sewing supplies, office supplies, and some basic electronics. When it comes to materials and tools, we definitely plan to take only baby steps! For one, we are a relatively new school, so budgeting for a 3D printer or laser cutter or a full fledged woodshop is really not where we are right now. But also, that’s not our vision of a Makerspace. Making, to us, is a mindset, it is about creativity and exploration, it is about nurturing student independence, and fostering problem-solving skills. Expensive gadgets and fancy accessories are not a requisite for achieving any of this. So we wanted to start small and add on organically as and when required.
Over the course of the summer, we sat down and had many discussions on how to take our space, and our students forward. The more we talked about it, and the more I chewed over our pieces of conversation in my mind, I was able to see clearly where I wanted my students to be, what I wanted them to be able to do, what skills I wanted them to possess, what attitudes I wanted them to display, and basically what kind of young adults I wanted them to grow into. Once, I had my vision set on that end, it became simpler for me to see the means to reach it. So here is what we plan to do in our space.
- We are going to continue to bring to our students, teacher given problems and design challenges. These will work on building skills like creative thinking, problem solving, collaborating, effective communication, and facing failure.
- We are going to try and bring in more curriculum connections, so that Makerspace is not just a two-hour session a week where students come in to build something fun, but really an extension of their classroom subjects and learning. Students can apply their classroom knowledge to solve design tasks. It is also equally possible that by way of working through a challenge, students could gain better understanding of their subjects and concepts. This potential two-way learning would not only help cement students’ understanding, but actually help them draw their own connections as well!
- We are also going to provide opportunities for students to notice problems around them, to come up with problems meaningful to them, and to find solutions for those problems. The process of “making” is such, that students are constantly problem solving. As part of getting their design to work, they problem solve, as part of using their materials to achieve something, they problem solve, why even as part of working in a team, they problem solve! But that’s not it. The “problem” that I am talking about, is the seed that sprouts ideas, the need that leads to a solution, and the very reason for anyone to “think outside the box”! While teacher suggested problems are a great starting point, it is only when students start bringing in problems closer to their hearts and homes, that the problem solving takes on a whole new meaning. The motivation, the interest, the determination to solve, all comes from within, and needless to say the connection is deeper, and the outcome more gratifying!
- Eventually, subject-driven and student-driven making needs to become the mainstay of this space. The Makerspace should be looked to as a place where students can walk in, use the available materials, tools, and resources to enquire about anything that matters to them, to understand or explore further anything taught to them in the classroom, or to come up with a solution for any problem in their home, school or society. So the focus really becomes them, and their learning! This will of course require that students are self motivated, responsible, focused, disciplined, and mature. Sounds a little Utopian right now, but in time, we will get there. 🙂
So cheers to another exciting year of making, exploring, and learning!