Using Mentors in Makerspaces

At a school I worked at until recently, the use of Reading Grandparents made a difference in the literacy time of every Division I student.  Once a week, a reading grandma or grandpa would engage students in various reading exercises.  Relationships were built.  Learning was done.  In a community with many transient children, someone, unconditionally, had time for them.


Can this model be applied for the Makerspace in schools?  Yes, of course.  As a teacher and facilitator in the makerspace, finding experts to engage with kids about simple maker projects would create amazing connections.

The local bike shop operator may jump at the opportunity to help students learn to take care of their bicycles.  What about a baker making dough with students?  A local crafts person may be happy to pass along some skills.  While on the forefront of skill development, maker mentors can also build community.

At my former school, we also had Calgary Police Services in conjunction with the Calgary Public Library visit every few weeks for a story time and book borrowing.  It’s a Crime Not to Read program showed students from various backgrounds that the police were approachable and embedded in their community.


Look for opportunities to meet some experts in your community, ask them about sharing their expertise, go through the administrative work to get them in your school and introduce students to real people who do real things.

Creativity and Classrooms

In the five weeks of the Robert Kelly hosted Book Lab about his latest book, Creative Development: Transforming Education through Design Thinking, Innovation, and Invention, I feel I understand where we, as educators, are headed better than I did before.


I also  have more questions than ever before.

Creating a culture of collaboration and creativity is essential to move towards a more student-centred decision making model. Kelly’s notion that by flattening out the hierarchy in any educational environment, it allows for true collaboration among all participants.  He articulates the idea of teacher as facilitator and student as captain of their own learning in a way I wish I could.

Kelly challenges the structure of the classroom and the mindsets of those within it so thoroughly as to set the whole concept of education on its head.  And that is a good thing.  Through anecdotal evidence, we see how students who direct their own learning are highly motivated and engaged in self-motivated challenges that round their learning not tied to curriculum but more in tune with how learning takes place in the real world.  This type of learning is messy, not highly structured, not completed in a period, a day or a week. This learning is inclusive, consuming and relevant.

Educational technologies are the tools that suit the task, not a separate skill to be acquired through artificially created and staged outcomes.

Robert Kelly’s ideas challenge how I see students engaging in their education and that is exciting and interesting and scary all at the same time.   Look at this book to promote some “outside the box” thinking for yourself and your students.


Awakening the Maker

Having maker minded people in a maker space makes for a more interesting learning experience for students.  You may invite experts to help on occasion or have students who have more making experience facilitate classes.

Another way to promote a creative atmosphere in a learning space is with browsing materials.  Students make connections through the visual browsing of books and magazines.  Of course, Make Magazine is the first resource that comes to mind.  These magazines focus on projects, makers and ideas. Keeping back issues on tables would be a great idea.

Two new books that have recently come into the Doucette Library also make for wonderful maker browsers.  First, Things Come Apart, by Todd McLellan, a book containing 175 colour illustrations and 21,959 components and 5 relevant articles.  The author has dismantled a variety of items like a stapler, a sewing machine, and a two-seater light aircraft.  He has arranged the component parts in an organized photo display and also photographed the pieces as they dropped through the air, sometimes layering several images to complete the picture.  Articles like, “The Repair Revolution” authored by Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit extolling the valuable learning gained by “tear-downs,” the disassembling of electronics are also featured. Let’s face it, though, the real charm in this resource are the amazing photographs.  Set it beside your Take Apart Station for greatest impact.


DK has published the “Smithsonian Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects” a resource aimed at the elementary and middle school maker space where definite recipes for project outcomes help students to experience hands-on making and gain essential foundation skills that they can later apply to more creative making.  Photographs show step-by-step instructions and the sidebar always shows “How It Works” to reinforce the science behind each maker project.


Choose carefully but surround your makers with various resources that they can browse in their own time.  Ideas can come from the exposure to what other makers are doing, creating or photographing.

Visit the Doucette Library to take these and other books out to showcase making in your space.