Writing a post like this isn’t easy. I feel like I know in my heart what my philosophy on makerspaces is, but putting it into tangible statements seems harder. So I started thinking about this more as a manifesto – if I was to make a grand statement about what I feel the value of makerspaces in schools are, what would it be? To me, what are the most important values of makerspaces?
The Renovated Learning Philosophy of Makerspaces
This is my own personal philosophy on makerspaces. Yours might be different, and that’s okay.
Every student is creative
The older students get, more and more of them will tell you they aren’t creative. It gets even worse with adults. But creativity is innate. It is in all of us. As we get older, though, it is neglected. Instead of seeing creative pursuits as something we all do (think about kindergartners and Playdoh) we begin to see creativity as something reserved for artists, designers and others pursuing creative careers or passions. But we ALL still have creativity inside of us. It just takes the right person, the right circumstances, to bring it out. And it manifests in different ways.
Makerspaces can help to bring out the creativity in EVERY student
Because you don’t have to want to be an artist to be creative. Tradespeople benefit from creativity. Professionals benefit from creativity. Human beings benefit from creativity. It is an important and vital trait for all of us. No matter what subject area a student may be most interested in, there is value in helping them to practice and explore their creativity. Frank Lloyd Wright learned spatial skills from playing with blocks as a child that later influenced his architecture. That’s a powerful example of the effect of creative experiences as a child.
Every student should have access to makerspaces
A makerspace shouldn’t only be a closed off lab just for the gifted kids. Or the STEM kids. Or classes where the teacher chooses to take them there. Makerspaces need to be accessible to ALL students in the school. Library makerspaces can be a great solution for this because EVERY student has access to the library (or at least they should. If they don’t, y’all need to work on that first). Another option could be making the makerspace such a part of the school culture that every class visits it at some point. But I especially love creating ways for students to choose to come to the space on their own terms.
Makerspaces should include student-voice and choice
Makerspaces can be fantastic for structured and curriculum-focused activities that support what students are learning in their classes. They are fantastic places to hold design challenges that strengthen students’ critical thinking skills. But it’s also important to allow for open-exploration and student choice in projects and pursuits. A good makerspace finds a way to balance these different learning opportunities for students.
It’s a journey, not a destination
None of what I’ve written here is meant to be a judgement on others. We are all at different places in our journeys. We all have to start somewhere. Maybe your makerspace is a table with coloring sheets right now. Or maybe the only way you could get your school to approve creating a makerspace was to make it closed-off and completely curriculum focused. That’s still giving students opportunities for creativity. That’s giving you the opportunity to show proof-of-concept. We don’t have to have “perfect” makerspaces right away. Just make some sort of opportunity for students to be creative. It can grow from there.
What is your philosophy on makerspaces? How does it affect your work?