A balsa-wood city of skyscrapers. A maze of electronic circuits. Cardboard and construction paper. These are just a few of the tools in newly-created makerspaces across the Five Star District that allow students to tinker, create and explore at school.
Taking that time to create builds a skill important to their future, educators say. That’s because more and more, entrepreneurial, innovative skills are an essential part of success in a career. The maker trend isn’t new, but it’s building momentum in schools.
“The maker movement is a national trend that started several years ago as companies began to realize employees entering the job market were lacking some of the inventive, creative and innovative skills necessary to be successful in the job market,” said Five Star Library Services Coordinator Tiah Frankish. “Adams 12 Five Star Schools recognizes that not all students learn in a traditional way, and schools are seeking ways to inspire students to create and innovate.”
This year, the Five Star Education Foundation awarded more than $20,000 in grants to schools to create makerspaces. Most schools are in the first or second year of having a makerspace in their buildings, Frankish said. Often the makerspaces are set up in school libraries because of the flexibility of that space.
Each makerspace is as unique as the school it’s in. Some feature robots or cardboard furniture made by the students, often relying on found items. But what’s in the space is constantly changing. For example, some spaces feature a challenge for students to tackle to spark the creative process.
Starting in February, the district also began offering a makerspace lending library that features different technology and maker tools that rotate around the district. It’s a good way for educators to see what tools most impact students and how they learn, Frankish said.
While what the students create in these spaces may not always directly relate to something in class, Frankish said spending time in the makerspaces helps students further develop critical thinking skills and encourages them to come up with an idea quickly, test it and then retest it — a process called design thinking. Students are also encouraged to explore projects they’re passionate about, an opportunity that engages them in lifelong learning.
“Sometimes this relates directly to a subject they are learning about in a class, but it often supports the understanding that we are creating a community of lifelong learners,” Frankish said. “Students feel supported as they explore their interests in a less traditional way and this fosters a sense of success.”