Monday, February 16, 2015

Setting up a Makerspace culture

Today marked the launch of our syndicate Makerspace Mondays. Every Monday afternoon approx 80 students in our syndicate of Year 3 & 4 students will be making stuff. I was really keen to introduce this to my class this year and when I presented the idea to my syndicate they also embraced the idea. Man it feels good when others "get" what you are thinking. In the junior part of the school they run Discovery Time and the Makerspace idea really connects well with this. However we want to take it "Next Level" - ha get it? Level 2 of the curriculum of course!

I am really wanting the students to get into some real gritty projects but I appreciate that this new found freedom of creativity needs a few boundaries to begin with (perhaps think of them more as margins) so that students are aware of the many different ways that they might "make" and to perhaps spark ideas.  When I was introducing the activities and the drive behind this activity one of my students summed it up:

"Sometimes when you are building stuff and it doesn't work then you try something different and end up building something even better" - R. age 7

I showed the whole group of students some pictures of people working in a Makerspace environment and then also showed them what coding was because only around an eighth of students knew what it was. My had split the 3 classrooms into 3 "spaces" for today and they will change each week as we extend ideas. 

1) a building space (think lego and blocks)
2) art and construction (think hot glue guns and cardboard boxes)
3) coding (using ipads and chromebooks)

Interestingly enough the kids with free choice split almost evenly across the 3 activity spaces! I took the coding session.  It was a big day for me as this was the first time that the school iPads (that I have been working tirelessly to get up and running) have been used.  I handed them out and told the kids to check out the Scratch Jr app and Hopscotch.  I gave no other instructions other than they were to help each other out and that I was no expert. Wow. What happened next was awesome. I had 20 something kids busily engrossed in creating all sorts of animations. It was also really quiet. That noise level that you desire in your class but don't always get. They were communicating with each other on this whole other level through dialogue but also visual/kinaesthetic actions.

In the other classes the students were also given little instruction.  The art construction area blew me away. Some of the stuff that they were making was phenomenal.  My colleague reflected with me at the time about how into it they were. She was a little surprised about how hands on they wanted to be. My reflection was that perhaps they didn't have opportunities to do this stuff at home as much any more? And that perhaps we beat the creativity out of kids because we don't give them enough opportunities to make things?

Across all 3 spaces students worked collaboratively with others and engaged in dialogue about their creations. There was learning happening everywhere. 


I used the two R words when I introduced the afternoon to the students and used McGyver and Bear Grylls to help paint the scene.  I definitely started seeing these learning dispositions start to develop in this very short time. I am so incredibly excited for next Monday afternoon. Who knows what will be created??