Over the summer of 2021, I collaborated with our 6th grade science teacher as part of a grant to find ways to incorporate makerspace activities into the curriculum. (Look for posts coming soon about some of the projects we did). Part of our work was reading the book, Making Science: Reimagining STEM Education in Middle School and Beyond. I found it to be a fantastic, practical resource for bringing hands-on maker learning into the classroom. Reading this book as a maker librarian gave me a ton of ideas for new ways to collaborate with our STEM classes. And it’s an excellent resource for classroom teachers as well.
Making Science: Making as a Part of Science Literacy
“To help others learn science, it is essential to ask what ‘science’ is, and to challenge our own assumptions about the status quo of teaching science. The history of science is full of people who push boundaries and ask tough questions, despite ridicule or accusations of blasphemy. Teaching science should be no different.’ (p1)
Flores starts off the books by setting up what science literacy is and how it is connected to Constructionism. Which in turn, bring the reasoning for why we should be making things in science class and how that directly ties into learning. I love this approach. Having enthusiastically read and re-read Invent to Learn when I first started my makerspace at Stewart, the theories of Constructionism are near and dear to my heart. And with the research Flores cites, this provides an excellent defense against those who see makerspaces as a “fad” or “fluff”. There are decades of sound educational pedagogy backing up the value of learning by making.
Invention, Inquiry, Modeling
Flores uses a framework of Inquiry, Invention and Modeling as a set of tools for bringing Constructionism into the classroom.
- Inquiry – “Asking questions of exploring to gain new knowledge or deeper understanding”
- Invention – “Designing and making innovative artifacts that meet needs in the real world”
- Modeling – “Creating effective, compelling representations of scientific content or concepts”
This model helps us to reframe the way that we look at science classes, focusing on a more student driven, exploratory approach. I also love how it connects what we learn in science to the real world and how we can change things
“Having small constraints… has led to a world of creative problem solving that can highlight the individual solution brainstorming potential of each student in unexpected ways. Scarcity breeds creative exploration with what we are given.”
One question I frequently get from those interested in maker education is how to assess students. But in the makerspaces I’ve worked in, assessment was always organic – I don’t have a class where I give grades to students. Because of this, I think MANY educators will find the chapter on assessment invaluable. Flores provides multiples examples of forms of assessment (mostly qualitative) that you can use with students throughout and after a project wraps up to provide feedback. My science teacher decided to go with self-reflections and group presentations for the projects we worked on together.
“Overstructuring a lesson kills opportunity for students to develop and practice agency and curiosity on their own.”
Making Science Case studies
One of my favorite sections of the book are the many case studies Flores provides. These show what this can actually look like in a science classroom. While not all of these ideas would work with our curriculum, my science teacher and I found this section really helpful in showing what was possible. For example, I love the idea of the Tiny Green Houses project. I modified it into part of a cardboard challenge I did with my afterschool group. Some of my other favorite projects were The Sound Project and Design Detectives for the Common Good.
Read This Book – Making Science: Reimagining STEM Education in Middle School and Beyond
In short, Making Science is a fantastic resource to have in your professional and personal library. I found a lot of great ideas and applications for my library makerspace. But the incredible value comes from handing this book to your science teachers and using it as a tool for collaboration. I highly recommend this book.