The purpose of this post is to provide the information educators inquire about most often when visiting our school (in person or from afar). Check out the "Table of Contents" below to hone in on what you're looking for. Sometimes it’s helpful to see a pedagogy and supporting tools in action, so there’s also plenty of video in the “Video Vault” section. Finally, you can see real-time updates by checking out our school's hashtag on social media: #GWgreats.
Table of Contents:
Several years ago, a team of teachers in our school started meeting to discuss the type of learning experiences we wanted our students to have. Our planning covered a range of topics pertaining to "making" including equity, logistics, and the 4C's (creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration). Since we didn't have the luxury of designating an extra classroom as a “MakerSpace” we opted for a mobile-cart model.
When we conceptualized this model we were not aware of any other schools using this approach, so much of our learning has been from the well-intentioned missteps we've made along the way. Fast forward to today, and we now have a fleet of 15-20 Mobile MakerSpace carts stored in our Media Center and surrounding hallways. Accessing a cart is as easy as checking out a library book!
The expanded access to resources that support student creativity has contributed to some truly innovative work. Our students have experienced a level of empowerment in their learning that transcends school, and they’ve had some pretty cool opportunities in the process. I’ve blogged about some of these stories in the past, but will include only highlights here.
Here are the things we’ve continued to think about since the inception of our Mobile MakerSpaces. (Our thinking continues to evolve, so feel free to share your comments and questions.)
It's NOT about the carts...it's about the kids and empowering them to create, collaborate, and explore.
Our mantra is simple: Get them creating.
Students can create using high-tech, low-tech, and no-tech tools. (This is not a technology initiative.)
Providing students the opportunity to collaborate is not enough; they need instruction and feedback on how to work together.
A culture of innovative learning can permeate the hearts and minds of everyone in a school.
“Making" should not be reserved for a single grade-level, art class, or space in a school.
“Making" is a process that happens in our heads and becomes outwardly visible when our hands have the opportunity to show our thinking, take risks, and iterate.
Every MakerSpace should be a unique reflection of its learners.
Follow the energy and ideas of your students & colleagues when developing your MakerSpace plans.
“Making” doesn’t need to compete with other core learning; in fact, it can unleash literacy and invigorate mathematical thinking.
We don't want anybody to think we have this all figured out, so here are a few things we learned the hard way!
Don't assume "making" is separate from learning or in direct competition with student achievement. The LEGO "Build-a-Book" station above is a perfect example of how creativity can make learning more immersive while enriching conversations about literacy.
Don’t go all-in on any one product (this includes carts). Try piloting a tool prior to making a large investment or buying in bulk.
Don't forget to involve students and staff in the purchasing process; when they ask for something they are more likely to put it to good use.
Be careful when purchasing super-specialized tools. The more grade-level or content-specific something is, the less utility it might have to others. This can lead to expensive tools collecting dust.
Don't pigeonhole "making" or label a certain type of teaching as good or bad. This digital poster contains a 'Taxonomy of Making' listing a variety important approaches.
Don't forget to budget for attrition and replenishing consumables. For example, a certain level of attrition occurs with LEGOs and other small parts. (Batteries, Play-Doh, and yarn do not last forever.)
The most rewarding part about our MakerSpace journey has been seeing learning come alive, and cheering students on during many of the different opportunities they’ve earned. Here are a few of those highlights:
Seeing kids recognized by our Board of Education for outstanding collaboration during a School Board presentation (see picture above).
Watching students combine materials from different MakerSpace carts to amplify their engineering efforts.
Accompanying students to an out-of-state EdCamp in which they taught teachers about an original robotics competion they helped create with their teachers.
Having a former student selected to speak at our state principals conference about his experiences with collaborative drone challenges, MakerSpace learning, and more.
Following along as our teachers celebrate students’ work using social media.
Watching our after-school advisors lead a MakerSpace Club to provide students additional opportunties to interact with their passions outside the school day.
Seeing great ideas of staff expand beyond our wildest expectations; we now have three different LEGO walls located throughout our school. (We also have an Eagle Scout working on several more LEGO “Build-a-Book” Stations for us!)
Much of our mobile MakerSpace Fleet has been purchased using our site budget, and our school community has been hugely supportive as well. We’ve prioritized this type of learning alongside our literacy and character education initiatives.
We have a line-item in our site budget for innovation.
We reserve some carry-over dollars to support one-sentence grants and other requests from staff.
Our PTA is incredibly supportive and values innovation.
The WPSEF Foundation (see image above) funded a grant to support a cross-site Mobile MakerSpace model. This allowed us to cut costs in half while doubling the opportunities our students enjoy simply by sharing four of our carts with another school!
We used crowd-sourced funding (e.g. Donors Choose) to procure our first 3D printer; since then, we’ve added three more printers so the tools can be used as part of core learning (as opposed to being a novelty).
Our team also asks for donations of cardboard, boxes, tape, etc. because some of the best student projects are free!
Before we get to the comprehensive resource section, I wanted to share a few of the videos our team has created over the past couple years. The first video is an overview of our mobile carts, and all the others relate to specific learning experiences or “making” in general.
Resource List, Cart Supplies & Links:
This resource list includes the supplies and current cart configurations. We tend to shift things around based on usage, demand, and how the four carts we share with another school are being accessed. There are many materials we have not tried yet, and we’d love to hear what our most “notable omissions” are.
Cart #1: K'nex
Cart #2: Knitting Looms, Yarn & Supplies
Cart #3: Lego
Cart #4: Lego
Cart #5: Lego Friends
Cart #6: Makey-Makey and Bee-Bots
Cart #7: MakerBot 3D Printer
Cart #8: Osmo Cart
Cart #9: Creative Construction Dough
Cart #10: Modular Robotics
Cart #11: Digital Content Creation Cart
Cart #12: Miscellaneous
Cart #13: Sphero
Cart #14: YOXO and CircuitScribe conducive pens and draw your own circuits
Cart #15: Makedo Cardboard Construction Cart
Cart #16: PVC Pipe and PVC connectors
Cart #17: Edison Robots
Our Cart Vendor:
Remember, it’s not about the carts…it’s about the kids! However, I understand that people like to compare prices and see different options. We’ve used Innovative Office Solutions for our carts. (I’m sure if you mention our school or Mobile MakerSpaces they can share the different models we’ve used in the past.)
Student-Created Tutorials & Demos:
We love working with students on their communication and presentation skills. The tutorials below showcase some of our MakerSpace supplies while highlighting our incredible student leaders in the process.
When it comes to MakerSpaces, I rely on the input and ideas of amazing educators (I get to work with several of them every single day)! Here are some of my go-to people and true leaders in the field: