Creating a makerspace: A Journey of a Teacher as Learner

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” – William Butler Yeats

I came across these words while reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I have long thought about the teacher as learner. In fact, I always said that if I were in charge of interview questions for prospective administrators and educators, my first question would be: “Are you a lifelong learner?” To me, it is critical that we do the work that we are asking of our students.

I have been thinking a lot about how taking the stance of a learner impacts student achievement, teacher morale and school cultures. It makes perfect sense that happiness is at the heart of this stance. Learning and growing impacts our happiness as teachers, coaches, administrators. 

This year, my teaching assignment includes teaching a gifted and talented program for students in Grades 4-6. When I received the news of this addition to my work as a literacy specialist, I felt overwhelmed. The literacy and humanities part of designing this program comes naturally to me but it has been a while since I taught hands -on math and science. I am also striving to make this program inclusive of all students in the upper elementary levels, not just those who come to my room once a week. How do I satisfy the STEM part of this program and make it inclusive?

The answer came when one day when I was scrolling through old episodes of the Cult of Pedagogy and came across Jennifer Gonzalez’s interview with John Spencer on Makerspace (Episode 96: What is the Point of a Makerspace?). A makerspace is basically a room, or in my case, part of a room, filled with supplies (cardboard, Lego robotics, robots, yarn, duck tape, glue… you name it).  Students use these materials to create, engage in projects and learn. For more on Maker’s Space, click here for the interview. 

After listening to this interview I thought: “This is it! I can create a makerspace in my classroom! What a great way to engage students in inquiry based and collaborative projects.” For some guidance on getting started, I went to the experts! 

  • I visited a makerspace at our local college (in this case it was a small building). The director walked me through and explained how the space supports students’ core classes. He also made recommendations for materials for elementary aged students. 
  • I conferred with the Director of Technology of a school district who has built numerous  makerspaces. She gave me the nuts and bolts of what I needed to get started. 
  • While walking into work one day, I approached the middle school technology teacher in my district who happens to be a part of a master teacher program. He was thrilled with the idea of mentoring me and bringing his work to the elementary school. 

I envision the makerspace serving not only the students in my class but also students in Grades 4-6 in my district. In addition to using the space, my students will maintain it for other students to use. Honestly, I am not sure how we will accomplish this, much less how I will grow and maintain the space myself,  but I am looking forward to hearing my students’ ideas and learning alongside them. And I can’t wait to see what they create!

The humble beginnings of a makerspace. Stay tuned to see its growth in the month ahead!

I will continue to write about this journey and share developments along the way. If you have any ideas or resources to share, I will happily receive them! Let’s learn (and be happy) together!

 

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