Here is another post from our new series, Of Art + Technology.
Tis the season for gift-giving and receiving. While the average kid may have a wish list of games and tech toys that level up and allow you to see in virtual spaces, many of these tech treats are passive activities that while innovative, don't allow your kids to be the innovator. Learning by making, as a concept and a tool of instruction, has been around for ages now and is highly beneficial given the fact that concepts and skills learned through doing are bound to sink in better than the ones which are learned theoretically, passively or by rote. Today, learning-by-making, or MakerSpace has been adopted by many schools and educational institutions into their curriculum. Using a whole range of kid-friendly tools, apparatus and instructional videos on the internet, kids can be encouraged to have a more active interaction with the concepts of art, science and technology. In simpler terms - kids can learn to make their own tech toys.
A MakerSpace is such a learning/play/tinker space where kids can experience science and technology creatively to enhance their academic and personal learning. It's a space where they design, create, iterate and explore their own imagination.
Making a Makerspace
1. Do your homework
Research the various types of MakerSpaces that are already operational around. The type of tools and tinkering challenges they offer. If possible join a Makers community to get a hands-on idea about the logistics behind the scene and the expected outcomes.
2. Define and plan challenges
What are the challenges that your MakerSpace will offer? The challenges, like any preparatory lesson or pre-assessment, allow kids to test their interests and ingenuity by limiting their time and materials or having a desired "product outcome" For example, students may have to build a 3D model house with open windows, etc only using paper, tape and scissors. Plan how the space will help in offering these challenges. Makerspaces work best as collaborative spaces where kids can explore, experiment and observe each other's process. What will be the culture of the space, as in, will it be planned and in accordance to a curriculum or will the kids take the lead? Design the space to accommodate the aforementioned points. This may mean co-oping a spare room, using a roller trolley packed with supplies and a corner of the living room, or even partnering with the free library or other community spaces.
3. Purchase resources
Based on your plan and design of the space, you will now need to pick up your tools. If you are working on a shoestring budget, there are a lot of DIY tutorials you can follow to create this space. The idea is to offer a safe and motivating environment to the kids to explore their creativity.
4. Build a community
Host some workshops, invite other homeschooled children around to participate, ask your church, homeschool co-op and/or community centers to sponsor maker events, and use your MakerSpace to build a community of sorts. Get in touch with MakerSpaces across the country to explore new ideas and participate in challenges.
Integrating MakerSpace into Curriculum
Whether you end up building an elaborate MakerSpace or a DIY sorts in your closet, make sure the challenges and projects from it are well integrated with your homeschooling curriculum. By focusing on the transferable skills like iteration, observation, collaboration and documentation (older kids can keep a workbook/journal to document their "experiments"), the makerspace format can be used to unpack most content. Picture the MakerSpace as an extension to your classroom or a practical lab where your children can experiment with the concepts that they learn theoretically. While the idea of building an entire MakerSpace within your home or co-op might seem daunting at first, you will soon realize that all it takes it a little bit of planning and creativity to get started!
Still a bit unsure about what all this makerspace stuff is about? Check out this Edutopia video that takes makerspace and tinkering to a new level!