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Makerspaces - What are they and why do we have one?

posted 5 Dec 2015, 03:51 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 5 Dec 2015, 03:56 ]

'A makerspace is a physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build.Makerspaces provide tools and space in a community environment—a library, community centre, private organisation, or campus.' (Educause 2013)

Makerspaces are not a brand new paradigm. MakerSpaces or 'hackerspaces' were common in the 1990s in Germany and have since grown exponentially in the 'Computing World' in FE establishments, innovation organisations, hospitals (!) and even on high street. 

For a couple of years now, the U.K. has familiarised itself with the approach and makerspaces can now be found in Newcastle, Manchester, London etc - shop-type spaces where adults and children pay for the pleasure to be innovative!! How amazing!

They've also started to make their way in our education establishments. Spaces to build, create, solve, take part, fix and analyse WHATEVER they want. An area for children that has no limits! An area where there is no right or wrong, where nothing is differentiated by grade or level and an area where the learner can take ownership!

In our academy we have dedicated a room adjoining our 'ICE Studio' that was previously used for intervention, group work and green screening to our makerspace. It consists of a seemingly  endless supply of cardboard, thread, wool, wire, screws, wood, computers, cameras, coding robots, clay, modroc, paint and a series of old electrical equipment that has been taken apart and studied! At first, the area was met with a lot of confusion by the children! 'You mean, I can just go and do what I want?!' That was one response! But that very quickly started to change to, 'Can I build a Trojan Horse at lunchtime to go with my homework?!' and 'We'd like to host a radio station in the MakerSpace to make people aware of the different types of bullying'.

The area is used as reward for some of the more challenging children across school, but for most part it is an area where children can be free to innovate. The children use the MakerSpace to prove their 'mastery' or 'security' of their knowledge. They produce tutorial videos using the green screen in maths and freeze frame animations in English. To demonstrate their expertise in IT, they'll fix the components of a PC together or code the Rolling Spider drone to fly around the room twice and take a photograph before landing in a particular spot. They've made temples out of modroc, the walls of Troy with sand and card, a giant Trojan horse using card and a table, circuit models and models that manipulate shadows to produce a recognisable silhouette.

Alongside the ICE Studio, the MakerSpace is developing  the independence of our children and their self-sufficiency in learning. It is aiding in the training of skills outside of vocation - creativity, leadership, team work, resilience, problem solving, positivity, intrinsic motivation and attitude - the skills that we feel will ultimately make them successful in a 21st Century, unknown future!

Craig Nicholson (Vice Principal) - 5th December 2015