Education Secretary King Calls on Schools to Build ‘Maker Spaces’

By Liana Loewus — June 20, 2016 2 min read
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In an op-ed piece published today, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. called on schools to help foster “making”—or hands-on creating, building, and tinkering—by giving students space for that sort of innovation.

This week (June 17-23) marks what the White House has dubbed the National Week of Making. As we’ve written, the “maker movement” started about 11 years ago with the inaugural issue of Maker magazine, which was geared toward homegrown innovators doing everything from robotics to sewing to 3-D photography.

Making has typically taken place in informal spaces such as libraries, museums, and garages. But as my colleague Ben Herold wrote recently, many educators and schools are now embracing the trend, and working to bring it into the formal school system.

King is hoping to see even more of that. In U.S. News and World Report, he wrote:

“We have to make sure that all our students have access to these kinds of challenging and hands-on activities. ... That’s why, today, the Department of Education is issuing a call to action to give every student opportunities to use these advanced tools and leverage the act of making for real learning. Achieving this goal will require creating ‘maker spaces’ in schools and after-school programs and recruiting talented mentors for our students.”

King notes that the Department’s 21st Century Community Learning Center program has helped put maker spaces in more than 20 schools. And he offers suggestions for how others can help expand making: Companies can sponsor maker spaces and have their employees serve as mentors, principals can commit to designating such spaces in their buildings, entrepreneurs can create maker “kits” to get schools started, and foundations can help build spaces in low-income schools.

The Education Department also recently ran a contest challenging high school students to design maker spaces for career and technical education programs.

But some worry that bringing making into the formal education sphere could divert its purpose. As Herold wrote, “Can schools, with their standards, state tests, and bell schedules, maintain the do-it-yourself, only-if-you-want-to ethos that fueled making’s popularity in the first place?”

Image: John King sits down with Education Week reporter Alyson Klein at the Department of Education on June 3.—Swikar Patel/Education Week

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.