Today, a vendor tried to sell me a Makerspace in a Box. I’m not going to say who, because I am not about bashing companies and organizations. It’s my own personal policy to only mention names of companies or products that I actually support. And besides, there are a lot of companies out there right now offering similar things, and the companies themselves are not bad.
At a conference, I commented on some of the products at the booth, which is what started the conversation. The woman was professional but quickly transitioned into telling me about their “makerspace in a box kits”. “We put together all the supplies you need. We’ll even have our consultants come and design and set up your makerspace for you”* I’d like to say that I had a quick witty retort or that I challenged her on the notion of a makerspace that doesn’t take the unique qualities of the students or school into consideration at all, but I didn’t. I tend to avoid confrontation. I realize that she was just doing her job and that she probably has no control over what the company tells her to sell. This is not her fault and it would be wrong of me to attack her for it.
What’s Wrong with Selling a Makerspace in a Box
I am not anti-vendor. I have great relationships with a lot of vendors. They can provide support and advice and professional development and can be a huge help to educators who want to start makerspaces. What I have a problem with is this misconception that feels rampant in the education world – this idea that there’s some magic shopping list, some makerspace in a box kit, that will give us the perfect makerspace. That if we’re too overwhelmed to figure out how to create a makerspace, we can just pay someone else to come in and do it for us. I get it. Educators are busy. We’re tired. And we’re tasked with way too many things to get done in forty hours every week. But if we want our makerspace programs to be quality, we have to put in some time and effort to make it happen.
Why I Won’t Build a Makerspace Like This
I try not to judge others. I’m not always perfect at this – it’s something I’m working on. So I’m not going to sit here and judge the schools and educators who use these types of kits**. If you have used one or are considering one, I hope you don’t take this post as a personal judgment against you.
I will never build a makerspace by purchasing a ready-made “makerspace in a box” package. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all-makerspace. What worked for my makerspace at my previous school won’t work in the exact same way at my new one. What works for your school might be completely different from another school just down the street.There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all-makerspace. Click To Tweet
We need to build our makerspaces with our unique school environments and our students in mind. More than just in mind, we should involve our students directly in the process of creating and running the makerspace. In this way, it can be their space rather than our space. Also, we can pursue slow change in creating the space. We can try things, see how they work, and redesign based on those iterations. We can use the Design Process itself to shape our space. Buying a quick-fix kit won’t do this, and it’ll probably be a waste of money.
We Need to Include Our Students
Some people might not like this post, but I felt like it needed to be said. Makerspaces are amazing opportunities to create environments where students can explore, design and create. But buying a Makerspace in a Box that “does the work for you”? Creating that makerspace without asking the students what they think? Without taking care in each and every tool and material that you select? That isn’t putting students first. And that’s why I’ll take the slow road instead.
*Rough paraphrasing, as I was too busy biting my tongue to write down what she actually said.
** I don’t think all makerspace kits are bad. They can be quite useful and budget-friendly. But they should be purchased because they’re what the students want and what will work for the school.