About Ms. Jasztal Student Resources Educator Resources Affirmations This Is Science Creative Challenges Links Connect
[Go back to the main page]

Designing and Establishing a Makerspace
by: Ms. Jasztal

These past few years, I have learned quite a bit about makerspaces, also referred to as "hackerspaces". Essentially, at the school level, they are places where students can be innovative by designing and testing prototypes, coding, manipulating technology, wiring up items, and so much more. Some communities have established makerspaces as well that offer a phenomenal array of services like laser cutting, 3D printing, and modular robotics.

If you have not heard of the Maker Movement, it is widespread and is capable of profoundly redefining education. Students who prefer a kinesthetic approach thrive in a learning environment that promotes "making".

Starting At Home--

If you are a homeschooling parent, forward-thinking parent in general, or an educator with enthusiastic kids, you can try a few of these tips below.

  • Bring your family to a Maker Faire. Check this website to see if one is occuring near you in this next year. There are numerous levels of maker faires. Maker Faire Orlando is the first maker event I ever attended, which is a large-scale faire "produced in collaboration with Maker Faire". (They also host an event called the Otronicon annually.) Even more expansive than Orlando's event is the Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, which is known as a "flagship faire".
  • Is there a community makerspace or hackerspace located within an hour or two of you? Search online to see if any close-by cities have one-- a few in Florida I know of are the Tampa Hackerspace, Factur in Orlando, FamiLab in Orlando, and Melbourne Makerspace. See if they have websites and if they offer any classes or Open Make times, especially for youth. Furthermore, your local library may have one.
  • Purchase a maker gift for your child. My first three purchases for my classroom makerspace were the MaKey MaKey, littleBits (educators get a discount), and 3Doodler 3D Printing Pen.
  • If you have an old erector set, take it out and show your child. I remember playing with my dad's erector set when I was around... ten, I guess.
  • Do you have any local events or places that are Lego-related? Bonus points if you are located near Legoland; again, here I am promoting Florida and California. There is also a very unique place in central Florida called The Brick University, where kids can construct with Legos.
  • Is your child an artist? Then you may like to try Chibitronics circuitry stickers. One can design art or greeting cards-- and then get parts of the design to light up.
  • Take your child shopping at a hardware store-- in the case of perusing, the smaller, the better. Harbor Freight Tools is a wonderful option. You never know what unique items you may find that can enhance a maker project.
  • You can download a few programs for free on your computer-- Scratch, Python, and Game Salad are video game creation tools. Audacity is a quality voice recording program. Free trials for Adobe products are available to download as well. Furthermore, Google Sketch-Up is awesome.
  • Show your child what other makers have accomplished; a few very well-known teen makers are Sylvia Todd and Quin Etnyre.
  • Depending on your child's age, have him or her start a website or weblog.

    Incredible Tools For a Makerspace (whether you are making one at home, classroom, or a school location)--

    I remember reading a post from a friend online last summer asking about tools she should put in a Makerspace. Before I was made aware of some of the incredible technological gadgets that are out there, my answers were pretty ordinary. This list is very comprehensive, including ordinary items as well as extraordinary items you may or may not know of.

  • Around-the-house items like: Play-Doh, wooden dowels, a hot glue gun, small wooden craft planks, washers, Wikki Stix, aluminum foil, corkboard, tools (screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, nails, etc.), alligator clips, marbles, Velcro, key rings
  • "Retro" items like Spirographs are also very cool.
  • Items for artistic expression: Colored pencils, oil pastels, washable markers, Sharpies, Mr. Sketch markers, watercolors, charcoal pencils, crayons, small acrylic paints
  • The three technological gadgets I mentioned above: MaKey MaKey, littleBits, and the 3Doodler 3D Pen
  • Arduino boards, shields, kits, and accesories
  • Raspberry Pi and HDMI monitor
  • Items for Wearable Electronics (this directs you to one of my favorite tech sites, Adafruit)
  • Items for paper electronics: conductive ink/pens, Chibitronics circuitry stickers, copper foil tape
  • Drawdio (directs you to Adafruit)
  • Strawbees
  • Cubelets
  • MOSS Modular Robotics
  • Hummingbird Robotics Kit
  • LEGO Mindstorms, and of course, Legos themselves
  • Roombots
  • Sphero
  • Ozobot
  • Tinkerbots (Robotics for younger kids and kids at heart)
  • Watercolorbot
  • HP Sprout All-In-One Computer
  • Books about coding for Scratch, Python, or Game Salad, for example
  • If possible, at least one 3D printer and potentially a vinyl or laser cutter or Shop Bot

    Introducing and Encouraging the Maker Movement at School--

  • As a teacher, infuse "making" in your lessons. In science class, incorporate open-ended engineering challenges that still revolve around the standards and concepts you are teaching.
  • "Making" coincides well with engineering and scientific thought processes. Teach your students about innovators in history who made a profound impact on our society. Students will learn about vision, perseverance, and commitment.
  • In the fall of 2014, I initiated our school's Technology Club for students in grades 6-8. If something like this could be made possible at your school or started in your community, it could have a tremendous impact. We held fundraisers so we could purchase some of our "maker gadgets", had the opportunity to sleep under the Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center, and began learning about green screen technology at the end of the school year. One thing that enhance your club, too, is bringing in knowledgeable guest speakers and mentors.
  • Schedule field trips to engineering expos, Maker Faires, museums, and any other place that incorporates innovation and exploration. I have scheduled early college awareness field trips over the course of a number of years, too, which excited the students tremendously. Some colleges now have 3D printing labs available as well.
  • Remember, "making" does not just address the scientific/engineering aspect of things, if you know what I mean. The A in STEaM stands for "The Arts", which refers to music creation, costume design/sewing, acting (which addresses green screen technology), and dance (perhaps students can design a wearable with an electronic aspect that detects movement).
  • Have students make things they can share with younger students. For example, students can write books for younger classrooms that incorporate circuitry stickers, or they can mentor young students on how to use littleBits.

    (c) Ms. Jasztal, over the course of many years--2014-2019, and beyond.