How do we encourage our students to be more creative? How do we foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills?
In my years in the classroom, I have found that by having a maker space that’s actually inside my classroom has helped a lot.
When I first came across the idea of a Makerspace for my classroom the technology landscape was quite different. The only technology I had in my classroom was a television and DVD player. I also had a desktop computer on my desk.
Students weren’t on devices since devices weren’t really a thing.
I was first introduced to the Makerspace in the classroom concept by a Japanese teaching assistant who worked with me. She had just returned from Australia where she had been working as a teaching assistant and got the idea from a teacher there. She referred to it as “box collage”, but it was essentially a maker space.
We asked parents to donate boxes, tubes, string, ribbon, washed meat trays, egg cartons, etc. We quickly had a table full of “stuff.”
We explained to our kindergarten students what they could do with the maker space. At first, they weren’t interested. Most of the boys stuck with what they know. They stayed on the carpet and played with Lego.
Eventually, one boy made his way to the maker space table. We encouraged him to try to make something. For the next thirty minutes, he worked away on something. Tubes attached to cones. String tied to other things. Things colored with markers.
Eventually, he triumphantly shouted, “Finished!”
He held up a totally amazing rocket ship! The other boys stood up and surrounded him. They all wanted to take his ship.
I said, “You can’t do that. It’s his! He just made it. BUT…you can make something too!”
That was it!
My class was hooked.
For the rest of the school year, I had an amazingly creative crew of engineers and inventors.
What a great way to get young learners interested in STEM / STEAM!
To this very day, I make sure that there is a maker space in my classroom. At the beginning of the school year, I send information and pictures home to parents explaining what a classroom maker space is and why it is such a valuable education tool. Then I ask for donations of materials.
Normally within a few days, I have more than enough!
When the supplies run low because of heavy use, I simply put out another call to action! Parents are normally more than happy to recycle materials that would otherwise probably have gone into the trash.
Every Friday afternoon we end-off our week with a Golden Hour/Genius Hour time called “Fantastic Friday.”
I discourage the use of devices and computers and encourage creative play, art creation and Makerspace time.
Technology has its place in the classroom of course, but Makerspace time is about communication, creativity and the sharing of ideas. Often, once a child has a device in front of them, they get sucked in and become lost to the outside world.
It’s the best part of the week!
If you don’t already have a classroom Makerspace, you should build one.
About the Writer:
Kevin O’Shea is an IB/PYP educator currently based in Beijing, China. He is a father, husband, and avid conservationist. Kevin is also the host of the upcoming Making Better Teachers Podcast as well as the host of the long-running Just Japan Podcast.