September 24, 2015

Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School

Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School

By Laura Fleming, 2015

As the title suggests, Laura Fleming’s Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School, part of the Corwin Connected Educators Series, is a practical guide that provides general information about the Maker Movement and a persuasive appeal for starting a makerspace in your own school. Flemming’s appeal is backed up with research, specific examples from a variety of sources, as well as plenty of resources. Throughout the book, Flemming shares her own experiences as a library media specialist who launched a makerspace at the school where she works, New Milford High School in New Jersey, making you feel like you have a knowledgeable and trustworthy champion guiding you through the process.

There are designated chapters focused on the value of makerspaces to support curricular connections, STEM learning, Common Core and International Society for Technology (ISTE) standards, and skills acquirement. Beyond those specifics, the overarching themes of the text emphasizes the potential for makerspaces in schools to foster a culture of teaching and learning focused on creativity, innovation, curiosity, inclusion, and risk taking.

To define a school makerspace by its purpose in the simplest of terms, it is a place where young people have an opportunity to explore their own interests; learn to use tools and material both physical and virtual; and develop creative projects. It should be envisaged and implemented as a concept that can adapt to a wide variety of users, shaped not only by educational purposes defined by teachers or the school or the wider curriculum but also by students’ own creative goals and interests. (p. 3)

Makerspaces are popping up at libraries around the country.

Makerspaces are popping up at libraries around the country.

From her vantage point in the library makerspace, Flemming offers advice about how such a space might come to be the epicenter of a school campus. Support from leadership, focus on school culture, space, tools and materials considerations, working with the local community, and celebrating student work are all included in Flemming’s punch list. The role of the teacher is addressed here as well:

The primary objective of a teacher in an ideal maker environment is to facilitate the acquisition of concepts—this requires the teacher be prepared to take on a more complex, and it has to be said, more difficult role than would normally be the case in a normal classroom. With this pedagogical shift, meaningful student learning is encouraged through a combination of self-directed learning on the part of the student himself or herself, collaborative learning across the group where there is one, and the teachers deploying the full arsenal of methods and judgment at their professional disposal. (p. 47)

There is plenty more to learn beyond the book on the accompanying website, an advocate who leads by example, Flemming is an active twitter user, @NMHS_lms and has a variety of online resources that share what’s happening at the New Milford makerspace including a Vine Channel.

While we have not yet had the pleasure of visiting New Milford Highschool’s makerspace, the Agency by Design team has had the privilege of visiting several school-based makerspaces and has learned from “maker-librarians” in a variety of settings. We have no doubt that paying attention to the potential of maker-centered learning in libraries is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone who is embarking on a journey of bringing the Maker Movement to campus and that Flemming’s text is a useful guide to embark on that journey.

–Jess, September 24, 2015