The World is our Makerspace

Brooklyn Mermaid
(My 20-year-old’s artwork, courtesy of an old piece of unused canvas hanging around!)

A number of years ago, I was at school for a PD event while my three daughters were at home alone, all at that age where they didn’t require daycare. I checked in on them frequently, because…well that’s what I do! At one point, my second daughter shared their activity for the day…their very own home-made fort. In my head, I was thinking that every sheet in the house was being used to its fullest potential in the living room! Wrong! They had repurposed all the lumber that we had in the back of the garage, ready for the dump. But I was not to worry, because they hadn’t used powertools ‘this time’! THIS TIME! Admittedly, the fort was amazing, solid and well-designed. And the reality is that they spent their time doing something that was innovative, inventive and creative with whatever happened to be lying around the yard, their own personal makerspace. This is something that has continued their entire lives, as they make the most of what is around them to develop their ideas. Recently, one daughter finished what I think is an amazing work of art (no bias here), using an old piece of canvas. Another is making a planter for succulents, using damaged books, some paint and an exacto knife. How cool is that!

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(My eldest daughter’s reuse of some damaged books…just waiting for the planting to begin!)

Which brings me to my next thought, one of my many tangents. I find that more and more, as schools explore project-, inquiry- or passion-based learning, talk centres around opportunities to create Makerspaces. Some schools are fortunate to be equipped with all the latest techno-gizmos, power tools and spaces that lend themselves beautifully to hands-on, creative exploration. But what about those schools that don’t have access to either the space or the materials to make this happen?

In her blog ‘Defining Makerspaces: What the Research says, @DianaLRendina defines a Makerspace as «a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.” (http://renovatedlearning.com/2015/04/02/defining-makerspaces-part-1/ )

So I ask myself, “Isn’t this what should be happening in all classrooms and not just in spaces designed as makerspaces?” Rendina goes on to say that
“a makerspace can be anything from a repurposed bookcart filled with arts and crafts supplies to a table in a corner set out with LEGOs to a full blown fab lab with 3D printers, laser cutters, and handtools. No two school makerspaces are exactly alike, nor should they be. Makerspaces are as unique as the school cultures they represent. There is no such thing as one form of making being more valid or better than the other. Makers are artists, crafters, knitters, seamstresses, builders, programmers, engineers, hackers, painters, woodworkers, tinkerers, inventors, bakers, graphic designers and more.”

Can I get a halleluia here? Schools do not need state-of-the-art equipment or newly designed spaces to allow for students to be creative explorers (although who is kidding who, this would be amazing!). What they need is the opportunity to invent, with whatever tools and materials happen to be in front of them. And we only have to look in front of our noses for this inspiration, because, let’s face it, our entire environment is one huge makerspace. In my school community alone, we have an amazing group of parents who are great contributors to the cause, recycling much-needed supplies from ceramic tiles to leftover pieces of plywood to art supplies and paints…and even 400 recycled milk jugs to build an interesting, if not lop-sided igloo. And it doesn’t cost us a dime! A quick tour through the neighborhood park can also help a class reap a bounty of treasures that can be used for any project. My point in all this is that makerspaces don’t require an endless cash flow to exist. They just need a little of our own inventiveness to make them possible for our students…in every classroom! That and a little flexibility to allow for the mess that comes with this creativity and the possibilities are endless!

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(Our Grade 4 students’ work on an igloo with milk jugs…because we ran out of snow!)

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