Makerspace: What’s your purpose?

So, if you have been following my digital journey of planning and implementing a school-wide makerspace, then we have already established what a makerspace is, and how engineering design challenges can play an integral role in aligning activities with the standards being taught in the classrooms. It’s now time to being envisioning the purpose of what your flexible learning space will be.

I like to begin with the end in mind and I’m also very visual. I have no shame in admitting I was Googling and Pinteresting my little heart out to gather ideas. After almost one school year of implementation with our school’s Makerspace, I am happy to report that our original purpose and vision was strong and withstood the year’s challenges. Below I will share the process I followed to formulate our Makerspace’s purpose and mission.

Step 1: Research varying options

Step 1 to forming a clear outline of your Makerspace’s purpose and mission is to do some research and explore resources. During this phase I encourage you to have as many conversations as possible. Administrators, educators, media specialists, profit and nonprofit organizations, students, and community members all have differing perspectives about how education should be impacted. Assess the needs of your school either formally through a survey and data analysis, or informally through conversations with the stakeholders. Either way, you will begin to see very quickly how your makerspace will serve the needs of your learning community.

Here are some resources I found very helpful:

Our Instructional Leadership Team creates an end of the year survey in which all staff members participate. During the 2017 end of the year survey, I proposed specific questions about the STEM initiatives we had in place and how we can move forward with transforming these initiatives in a more sustainable and equitable manner. My findings were that many staff members were not as informed about the current initiatives as I would have liked, thus they reported not feeling as involved in knowing and understanding the options available. DING! A problem was identified.

Step 2: Identify a need and plan how to address it

From the reported data, I knew that the need for our school was to become more knowledgeable and involved in the district wide STEM initiatives. Our school is, after all, a STEM Innovation Hub and are responsible for participating and leading in Hillsborough school district’s STEM ecosystem.

Each school will have differing demographics, academic strengths and weakness, financial restrictions, and culture. As you analyze your research, try to hone in on one or two needs to address within the first year of implementation. This will allow for a comfortable amount of time to continuously reflect and improve upon the new initiatives.

To best address the involvement of participating in district-wide initiatives, a STEM committee was formed during the 2018-2019 school year with one member being from each grade level, as well as a member of the administrative leadership team. Each committee member was responsible for reporting the STEM updates and news to their grade levels, as well as weighing in on all STEM related decisions and assisting with the implementation of STEM-based community events. During the summer of 2018, some members of the STEM committee and I met in order to create our purpose based on the end of the year survey results, and the new calendar for district-wide STEM initiatives.

Step 3: Choose three words

Once our STEM committee felt comfortable enough with their research of what a Makerspace is and how this will benefit our school community, we reflected upon our school culture as a STEM Innovation Hub. As a school, we constantly strive to implement innovative strategies within our classrooms that allow students to creatively express mastery of the standards and make choices about their paths for learning. Based on this core culture we decided our three words would be Make, Innovate, and Create.

Within the Makerspace environment, students would have the flexibility to make products or solutions to real-world problems. This problem/project based learning (PBL) approach allows for the teacher to focus on the learning process through conferencing with the students as they blueprint, design, and apply their understanding rather than a graded product. Sometimes, however, the solutions for one problem may be innovated for solving another. In the Makerspace, students have the freedom to view other’s unfinished products for inspiration, computers for research, or collaboration with their peers. To critically think, students must apply their standard-based knowledge to create a solution, however, the process to which they develop their product/solution is their own unique journey.

Step 4: Share the vision

Once the purpose is developed, share your creative thoughts. Make an image (like the example above), create an intro teaser video, announce it on the morning show, tweet all about it, and talk to the students! The buzz will spread quickly about this new, amazing feature of your classroom/media center/school that can be accessed by the students. Whether you have a full plan for materials, the space, or the funding complete or not, begin sharing the vision and you will be surprised at the positive feedback and support provided.

For more images of our Makerspace, please follow me on Instagram using the link below!

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