If students only learned the information that they hear in lectures or read in books, then Thomas Edison would not have created the incandescent light bulb and Edward Jenner would not have developed the first successful vaccine. While it is still important for students to learn what is already known about the world around them, it is arguably even more important for them to uncover new knowledge and possibilities for themselves. This philosophy is the heart of the maker movement.
Understanding the Maker Movement
Preschool and kindergarten curricula traditionally focus on hands-on educational experiences because young children learn best by doing. As students rise through the grade levels, education becomes far less hands-on and the emphasis is placed on books, lectures and discussions. The maker movement puts education back into the students’ hands – literally. Within a school’s “makerspace,” students can follow their curiosity wherever it may lead them. They can sew wearable computers, design sensors and build rockets and robots. Some makers have funneled their passion for tinkering into their own YouTube channels and companies.
Identifying the Benefits of Makerspaces
School administrators and teachers feel the pressure of educational standards every day. But in the rush to “teach to the test,” true understanding and a passion for learning is lost. This leaves teachers wondering if there is a better way to engage students while giving them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. The maker movement meets all of these needs. It transcends subject areas and speaks to students with all sorts of interests. Makers are curious individuals who dare to ask, “What if?” Along the process of answering that question, students discover that they are capable of more than they thought they were. The maker movement sparks students’ intrinsic curiosity, unleashes their creativity and strengthens their inner motivation to achieve. The outcome is graduates who become lifelong learners.
Creating a Makerspace in Your School
Makerspaces sound revolutionary, and not all school administrators are willing to shake up the status quo. But the idea of the maker movement actually is not all that new. It builds on the pedagogical approach developed by well-respected education experts such as Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert. The goal of shaping self-directed learners is a worthy one, as these students will grow up to become the self-directed leaders of tomorrow. It may be easier to convince school administrators to shift toward makerspaces if you point out that it is not necessary to buy expensive equipment like 3D printers right away. All you need to get started is to form a committee, secure a space, establish purchasing guidelines and develop ideas for workshops and programming. Once your makerspace is underway, you can look for a Maker Faire near your school (or start your own). These offer opportunities for students to showcase their creations and share ideas with other makers.
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