What if I told you the Maker Movement in classrooms is not just about the ingenious kits that you can purchase to introduce to students? It is not only about the unique prototyping and creativity that comes from students.
What if I told you the making is about great citizenship? What? Not about the kits? “Surely you jest!” In a K-12 classroom there are learning opportunities that change from day to day (or in some classrooms stay the same from day to day) but in a maker class set up to appeal to K-12 students something else happens.
In an elementary maker classroom, students are gaining foundation skills other than how to complete a circuit or video and edit an iMovie. Students are learning to co-operate, collaborate, take turns and negotiate with fellow classmates and other mentors in the room. They are learning, sometimes most importantly, to listen carefully to someone else in order to solve a problem. They are learning to effectively communicate their own ideas to their peers and facilitators. Some are learning to slow down and enjoy the process and others are learning how to observe, learn and apply their learning to new situations.
In middle school, challenges are beginning to show leaders in various fields and peer groups are, sometimes, the most important people in a student’s life. In a maker classroom, we see new experts coming forth, peers learning to respect others and unusual groupings getting together to solve challenges. Engagement in a middle school classroom looks like elementary in the noisy, active way but with more technology based solutions coming forth.
In high school, more sophisticated ideas are emerging in classroom maker spaces. Students are using and learning foundation skills to solve authentic problems that they have invested time and energy in. Engagement and investment from students comes from their brainstorming of solutions that address current problems they are aware of in the world at large. Groups are formed with the solution in mind and students are focused on collaborating with a group that can further their goals.
Gaining these skills throughout each student’s experience in the K-12 classroom prepares them for life after their formal education. Workplaces and post-secondary institutions value these “soft skills” that are acquired in classrooms that are innovative, student-centred and contain “making” as a focus of curriculum learning.
Start including hands-on making with the available materials in your classroom and see the evolution of a more caring, respectful classroom.
Also, one more practical tip, check out this link to an interview of Gary Stager of Invent to Learn given by the ATA. He discusses all the most practical reasons why a Maker Space in your classroom makes sense.