makerspace makerspaces

Teachers talk: 12 makerspace must-haves for back-to-school

Four experienced “makers” and K-12 educators dish their top tools and advice to build a meaningful classroom makerspace from the ground up.

Makerspaces are becoming a classroom staple. As these shared spaces for student-led learning continue to flourish, the concepts, tools and applications of makerspaces have reached a new level of variety. For those new to “making,” developing the blueprints for a classroom makerspace this back-to-school season can be intimidating.

The teaching and learning benefits of maker education are clear and simple. This practice enables students to exercise creativity and abstract thinking to see a problem from beginning to end. They test, analyze and modify ideas in both the design and production stages. Making offers our youngest generation a fluid model for approaching problems through trial-and-error, a skill that can last a lifetime.

So, how can you bring making to your classroom?

We’ve turned to educators across the country, from classroom-level K-5 teachers to district-wide technology specialists. First, we’ve outlined the key takeaways from our conversations with seasoned makers. Next, we’ll share their shortlist of must-have makerspace tools.

Draw inspiration from your students.

I always tell teachers to talk to their students before they dive in and build a makerspace. Students will help direct the growth of the makerspace and make sure all purchases are for things that students will actually use. – Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher), Middle School Technology Integrator and Makerspace Director at University Liggett School and author of ‘Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces.’

Nicholas Provenzano.

Know your students, know their interests, and have them help design the makerspace. A lot of the materials in my classroom were things my students suggested. There are a million makerspace ideas on Pinterest, but each school and school population is different. – Faith Plunkett (@missfplunkett), Entertainment Technology Academy instructor at Huntsville City Schools

Faith Plunkett.

Avoid getting bogged down by technology intimidation; start small.

I often draw inspiration for project ideas from my immediate surroundings. For example, I was across the hall from the Spanish department last year. When students began decorating for “Day of the Dead”, I thought my printing and imaging technology course could join in by designing and printing sugar skulls. My students enjoyed it, and it was the perfect entry point to printing and design. – Joy Schwartz (@joysschwartz), a high school mathematics and technology instructor at Beaumont Independent School District in Beaumont, Texas

Joy Schwartz .

Mark out your space first, no matter how big or small. Once you have your makerspace, you can determine which tools make sense for your environment. Stock up on low-cost tools, like cardboard and other household items that students can tinker with before “leveling up” to an industrial tool. – Ken Hawthorn (@ken_hawthorn), Mechatronics Instructor at St. Raymond School of the Archdiocese of San Francisco

Ken Hawthorn.

(Next page: Tech-buying tips and must-haves)

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