Are you thinking about starting a makerspace? The idea is exciting… but figuring out how to start can seem daunting, and it can be easy to talk yourself out of starting a makerspace before you even begin.
Below are 7 things that I wish I’d known about getting started with makerspaces back when I was thinking about first taking the plunge.
1. The best way to learn is just to just jump in.
“It’s difficult to learn to swim without getting wet. You can read about swimming, watch an educational DVD on water safety… but at the end of the day if you want to learn how to swim you really do have to get in the pool. Learning about makerspaces follows the same principle.”
Before I started the makerspace program in my library I spent several months on the edge of the pool trying to wrap my head around exactly what a school makerspace was supposed to be. But the best way to understand what a makerspace is would be to just take the plunge and start making things with your kids in your space! Trust me – you will figure it out as you go! This leads us to the next idea that…
2. You don’t have to be perfect – There are no makerspace police who are going to show up in your classroom and say ‘That is NOT how you are supposed to do a makerspace!’ I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a while to really understand this, and that this fear actually held me back.
3. You can just dip your toe in – Starting a makerspace doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing…’ You don’t have to make a big splash, plant your flag and declare to your school community that you are now running a designated makerspace program (although that’s certainly a fine way to go). You can simply start by saying to your kids: “Today I thought we’d try making something” and start slipping a few making activities in to your regular program. Grab a copy of Coleen Graves‘ excellent ‘Big Book of Makerspace Projects’ and have a look. You’ll find dozens of easy to teach makerspaces activities that will get you and your students excited about the possibilities of having a makerspace!
4. Start with what interests you – When you’re first getting started you might want to begin with activities that you really enjoy. Knitting, computer coding, crafts, paper circuits, Arduinos… it’s all good! Passion is infectious – if you are genuinely excited about it then there’s a good chance your kids will be to.
Pretty quickly you’ll find yourself branching out and confidently empowering your students to start making in areas that interest them, but there’s nothing wrong with leveraging your own expertise and passion and beginning with maker activities that keep you in your comfort zone. For me, I can’t be trusted not to burn my library down with a hot glue gun, but when I realized that I could take something I loved like coding with scratch to get kids excited about making, I started to see the possibilities!
Not sure what lights a spark in you? Why not head over to www.makerspaces.com and see all the amazing projects that they share… you’re guaranteed to come away with several ideas to inspire you!
5. Seriously… it’s not about the gear – Yes, some makerspace programs have a kick ass maker lab. But other equally successful makerspace programs just use a mobile maker cart. This one just happens to have a bike attached 😉 but I started with a spare library trolley.
All the available gear out there is pretty awesome, but it’s easy to get distracted by all of the cool tech that’s available for making.
As Sylvia Martinez correctly points out:
Yes, I’d love to get a space that looks as wonderful as Judy Bowling’s (I LOVE her giant Lego bricks) but it’s what you do in the space that you have that counts.
6. It’s OK to turn them loose – I’m a recovering control freak, and the idea of a kids working on a dozen different projects does at times cause me to grind my molars. But here’s the thing… it’s actually pretty awesome! Amazing learning starts to happen when you turn kids loose in a guided culture of inquiry and wonder.
Yes, I often have specific making challenges. Sometimes I have making centers. But some day’s it’s completely student choice and that can make for some great opportunities for students to develop collaboration and design skills, problem solving and resiliency. You can be open ended in terms of projects and products while still being very rigorous in terms of helping your students to develop the skills necessary for success in the 21st century!
7. Your kids will have a blast – Makerspace activities are serious fun. If I’d known just how fun, I would have started sooner. Much sooner.
So how about you? What’s holding you back?