At Delta Junior High School, we’ve been working on developing a growth mindset within our student body. We try to emphasize growth along with objective success— we celebrate the students who show growth throughout the year as well as those who maintain straight As. We try to show students that our subjects are related, that you use language arts in social studies and science in music, and so on. We want students to find value in what they’re learning, that it will come in handy when they’re out of school. Ultimately, we want to prepare our students for a future in the “real world”, which includes using technology and working in jobs that don’t all exist yet. A makerspace would incorporate all of these things and more.
A makerspace encourages a growth mindset, where “failure” is not an end, but rather an obstacle to finding a better way to do something. Students will try lots of things and lots of ways of achieving an end, and not all of them will work. This will hopefully encourage students to try multiple ways of solving their problem, not giving up until they find something that works. If DJHS had a makerspace, or developed the one we have, student would have a safe space to practice failing, where it wouldn’t affect their grade, but would instead be part of the learning experience. Ideally then they would take this mindset into their other classes and experiences. (The Tech Advocate)
According to CuriosityCommons, “Authentic, real-world experiences engage children, enabling them to see beyond their own context to understand the applications of what they are learning and doing.” Within the makerspace, students would consider real world problems, or simply something around the school, and develop a solution to the problem or a new way of doing something. The makerspace would be a place for students to use what they’ve already learned or are learning in their classes and applying it to their project developments. In this way, students would see that what they’re learning in their other classes really does relate to the “real world”. If we’re preparing students for the real world, they need to develop the skills they’ll need, skills that are transferable to jobs that don’t even exist yet! Like Makerspace for Education says, “Innovative researchers, and those who wish to see schools develop 21st century learners with the skills to work in today’s multidimensional career settings, know constructivism and constructionism are necessary methods.” Those methods are ones that are practiced within the makerspace, and creating their own knowledge in that way, through hands-on learning, would be exactly the kind of skill set and mindset that would transfer into new and future jobs.
The people at CuriosityCommons also say that “Similar to school libraries, makerspaces promote inter-disciplinary learning and knowledge, effectively dissolving the artificial barriers that schools create for subject areas.” I don’t know how often students have said “This is history, why do we have to write correctly?” or “This is English, why are we studying history?” or “This is music class, why are we doing science?” It would so amazing to have a place where those content barriers don’t exist, where students have to use the math they’re learning to develop an art project, or use their language skills to write a science grant. Going back to the real word examples, students would hopefully see how problems in the real world are solved using knowledge from multiple content areas, that real life isn’t contained in boxes like our subject areas tend to be.
To rationalize a makerspace for our school, I would first provide my audience with copies of or links to the above sources, which do an excellent job of explaining in more detail the benefits of a makerspace within schools. Then I would emphasize that a makerspace provides a designated space to develop skills in our students that we’re already trying to instill in them. While all of our teachers do the above to some degree as much as they can, a makerspace would allow students to practice all of those skills all of the time. It would be a different space than the regular classroom, and because of that, students might be more willing to take risks, to stumble and try again, and to work with each other to solve problems that they care about. If students know there’s a space in our school where they can do that, and that their regular teachers support it, then perhaps those skills will transfer into our regular classrooms, and perhaps we could use the makerspace within the regular content areas.