Education Opinion

How to Create a Makerspace in any Space

By Matthew Lynch — June 09, 2017 3 min read
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Makerspaces are spaces for hands-on interactive learning. These spaces have become popular in many communities, schools, and libraries due to their emphasis on creative learning and STEAM subjects. Both educators and parents have seen the impact of makerspaces on the ability of children to learn twenty-first-century skills. These spaces have sprung up across the country and can be found in a variety of locations. The primary aspect of any makerspace is the fact that creative hands-on learning opportunities are provided to users.

The first step in creating a makerspace is to identify the focus of the space and the skills that will be taught. Depending on the focus of the makerspace a certain amount of space and specialized equipment could be necessary. Many makerspaces are focused around a particular learning style. The focus of any makerspace is hands-on learning for users, and this aspect is illustrated by Caitlin Bagley in her book, Makerspaces: Top Trailblazing Projects, "...makerspaces encourage collaborative learning that has a focus on interpersonal and small group skills as well as creating a sense of accountability.”

In order to create a well-functioning makerspace, space and equipment provided should be selected carefully to ensure that the desired activities can take place. Another consideration for a makerspace is the age of the participants. Makerspaces that will be used primarily by children, rather than adults, may have a stronger emphasis on collaborative learning.

The second step to create a makerspace, in any organization, is to select a location. The size of the space available for the makerspace may have an impact on the focus and equipment. One important fact regarding makerspaces is that there is no perfect model or formula that must be followed. In fact, it is not necessary to have a space set aside solely for use as a makerspace. If there are available study rooms, meeting rooms, or classrooms that are not always in use they can easily be converted into a makerspace. Converting a room into a temporary makerspace can be easily accomplished by bringing in the equipment for the maker activities.

In order to have a makerspace, there are very few requirements. According to John Waters, the author of What Makes a Great Makerspace?, makerspaces do not have to be elaborate, “A successful in-school makerspace provides kids with a variety of tools and materials and the freedom to create.” The emphasis in makerspaces is not on the space or equipment but on the creative learning of users.

The final step in the creation of a makerspace is to select the equipment. According to Aaron Kemp, author of The Makerspace Workbench, a basic makerspace might include: creativity, computing technology, soldering irons, hand tools, and power tools. Larger and more specialized makerspaces might also have standing power tools, 3D printers, and a laser engraver. Depending on the focus for the makerspace, educators may want to obtain particular computer software applications or tools for sewing, art, and craft projects.

Kemp believes that educators do not need to purchase specific equipment to have a great makerspace, “Makerspaces thrive on the creativity and imagination of the Makers inside, and that is surely something you cannot buy.” The tools that support the learning activities and programs related to the focus of the Makerspace are what should be acquired to use in the space. Basic tools that foster creativity and innovation are all that are needed for success.

By following these three steps, educators can create and adapt a makerspace to fit any organization. Due to the focus on hands-on and creative learning, makerspaces are an ideal way for students to learn a variety of skills outside of the traditional classroom environment. Many educators create makerspaces focused on teaching twenty-first-century skills. These skills are important for students to learn so that they are more prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation.

For educators, the most important points regarding makerspace creation are that makerspaces can be developed in just about any space and the only requirement is the creativity of the learner. As long as the space available is large enough to accommodate hands-on learning of users and provides equipment that supports the focus, then a successful makerspace can be established.

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