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Editor’s Picks 2015, No. five: Journey to the student-centered makerspace

By Abbe Waldron
December 25th, 2015

Explore a collaborative makerspace where students design the space and take charge of their learning

Ed. note: This year the editors selected ten stories we believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016 (look for No. 1 on Dec. 31). The modern makerspace exploded this year, popping up in schools across the country and snagging a spot on the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report as a trend to watch. In this piece, educator Abbe Waldron takes the concept further, using students to lead the transformation.

makerspace-studentsWhether you know it or not, your students are already making things outside of school. From digital animation and programming to video production and duct tape crafts, it’s surprising the number of outlets students have found to vent their creativity.

So I learned when my school, Wamogo Regional High, decided to harness this expression productively by designing a student-centered makerspace for collaboration, creation, and problem-solving. We wanted a place where students could access materials, equipment and supplies to explore their interests and take on new challenges. And we wanted to create an environment where students could extend their learning, take risks, and build capacity as leaders.

As we designed our makerspace, it was important to consider how our program would fit with both the established core values of our school and our 21st century learning expectations, such as information literacy, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and community and civic responsibility. We knew it all began with the students.

I met with as many students as possible at first and created surveys to collect information on their interests. Students were an invaluable resource in putting together our makerspace and helping me choose the tools and supplies we needed to get started. Of course the students were extremely excited about the prospect. “I think this will have so much impact on kids,” one student told me. Another chimed in, “If we could do this all day, I would live at school!”

Next page: Turn students into mentor leaders