The concept of a makerspace has been a seemingly new idea where students can work with various tools and technology in order to bring their ideas to life. People tend to jump right to 3D printing when they think of a makerspace. However, there are much more to these places than just 3D printing. The “maker movement” has been defined as the use of digital tools to create products (Burke, 2014). While it is understanding to see a makerspace as a bit a of a “fad”, the idea of a makerspace has actually been around for quite some time. The technology has changed significantly in addition to its use in educational contexts, but the use of a space that can assist in inventing and creating is not entirely new.
Prior to makerspaces were “Fab Labs”. A Fab Lab stands for fabrication lab which is a similar idea but is more centered around digital and computer software tools. MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld, was one of the originators of Fab Labs. He led a course called, “How to Make Almost Anything” (Burke, 2014).
The Gowanda Free Library in New York back in 1873 was one of the earliest adopters of a making community where activities were led in quilting, knitting, and sewing. Libraries have always been a location for the discovery of knowledge. It is naturally an open space and is conducive for collaboration where we can learn from the past in order to create for the future. However, makerspaces have built upon more skills that extend beyond reading and analysis and now also are spaces for people with more hands on skills. While a place to motivate learning, it is a place where students can begin to think more deeply about the world around them.
As I have continued to network with other schools in the Westchester area and across the country, I am noticing many more programs similar to this than were available when I was younger. Schools are collaborating with one another, developing formalized curriculum, and extending learning outside of not just the classroom but outside of common core as well. In other words, emphasis is being placed on skills that are not directly linked to the main subjects.
In prior years, “making” stuff has always been seen as an engaging and hands on activity that people tend to enjoy. These types of activities were more seen in art and woodshop classes.
Before this, in the earliest of time, humans were always looking to create new technology that could help them to navigate the world. However, in 2013, Make: magazine started events called “maker faires” which allowed for inventors and creators from around the world to share their unique projects and a more collaborative community was developed. “Do-it-yourself” became more like “Do-it-with-others”! (Burke, 2014). Before that came President Obama’s “educate to innovate” which promoted the merging of science and engineering in order to excite students so that they may “be makers of things, not just consumers of things” (Sheridan et al, 2014).
While a makerspace is typically associated with “making”, it stands for something much greater. It is a new approach to learning that can benefit students with diverse learning styles. It also provides opportunities for students to explore their skillsets and become actively engaged with their world.