Four Ideas to Kickstart Your Makerspace

You don’t need a huge budget or high-tech gadgets to create an engaging makerspace program. The best innovations often spring from a well-defined problem and a shoestring budget. Here are 4 simple ideas to kickstart your makerspace program and get your students engaged:

Design a Trap. Teach the 5 steps of design thinking by issuing a challenge: Ask students to design a trap to catch a leprechaun. You’ll teach students about the St. Patrick’s Day while walking them through the design process. Leprechauns are smart and don’t want to be caught, so students need to empathize with them—figuring out what they might think and what bait they absolutely could not resist. Have them define the problem, brainstorm ideas, and build a prototype. Leave the project overnight and see whether students catch anything in the morning. Bonus idea: Have them design an alarm clock so the groundhog isn’t late on Groundhog’s Day.

Create a New Toy. Tinkering is a really valuable skill. It teaches kids to recycle and reuse materials, and done right, it can also teach kids to productively deal with failure. Mistakes are just part of the creative process and often lead to breakthroughs. Give students limited resources and a broken toy. The project: Make a new toy from the parts. Start the project by analyzing why it won’t work as it was intended, and figure out how to make the toy’s “failed” parts into a plus. Encourage them to ask “what if” questions to brainstorm possible new uses for the toy. Bonus idea: Have students build a Scribble Bot from materials they likely have in their own home.

Teach digital literacy and current events simultaneously. Research studies indicate that writing out notes long-hand helps improve retention of knowledge. Unfortunately, many students have failed to translate note-taking into digital media. They may use the highlighting feature or search through documents, but they often don’t take the time to synthesize the information into their own words. A quick project to improve both digital literacy and retention is to have students create a Twitter feed on scientific discoveries. Have them curate articles from vetted, reliable sources and create multiple tweets summarizing the finding in 140 characters per tweet.

Create a Wikipedia page. It’s never been easier to search for information. Unfortunately, many students are not able to discern between vetted sources of information and biased information. To demonstrate how easy it is to put information up on “trusted” sites, have the class create a Wikipedia page. The page will likely be taken down within 24 hours, but students will see first-hand that just because it’s published on the internet doesn’t mean it’s factual. Follow up by comparing Wikipedia pages of controversial topics to more scholarly sources.

Inspiring scientific thinking need not cost a bundle. The Big Book of Makerspace Projects offers dozens of DIY projects to teach kids new skills. Check out this free project from the book.

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