With the makerspaces, our students are now working through various stages of the design thinking process. Our schools are already immersed in Engineering Design challenges, and the maker program gives them a new way to work that into challenges and other curriculum areas. On a typical day in one of our Innovation Centers, you will see students working with robotics, coding, circuitry, 3D printing, and visual design. Students are sharing ideas and discovering new ways to solve problems and develop new ideas. It’s exciting to see them so engaged in the creative process.
Students are eager to come to the makerspaces and are often knocking on the door in the morning before school starts. We’ve seen students blossom who used to struggle with finding good reasons to come to school. They’ve found something they love, and it has ignited their passion for learning. Parents are also finding ways to help support the spaces by volunteering or helping schools network with other community resources. Teachers are exploring collaborative opportunities with the media specialists and discovering ways that they can integrate the maker program and materials with their classroom instruction.
Our advice to other schools and districts looking to create makerspaces is this:
- Start small and build the program slowly.
- Create a solid vision and work on your plan from there.
- Organize a team that supports your vision of what the project will look like. This group of professionals should represent the schools, the media centers, and district departments such as educational technology and curriculum. Our media specialists are the key to our successes. They have provided strong leadership, and their input into the process has been invaluable.
- To document your work and research, consider creating a digital or online portfolio that chronicles your journey as you work through this transformative process. It’s also helpful to look to the community for ways they can support your program.
- The hardest part is letting go of control and feeling like you need to be an expert before you can teach or share. Use students as the experts and don’t be afraid to use materials that you are not familiar with. In this model you learn as you go, and failure is just the first attempt in learning.
The Innovation Center project has created a systemic change in how we work at all levels in our district, and we are excited to see how those changes further develop and the impact they will ultimately have on our students and community.