What are “MakerSpaces”?

This last week I was tasked with researching a “makers lab” for an elementary school project my firm is working on. Unless you have kids in the school system, work with a school district in some way, or are in the education field, you probably haven’t heard of these “MakerSpaces” before. I know I hadn’t.

Apparently, the school educational model is trying to shift away from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). The arts are an integral part of the new model that have, until recently, seen the largest budgets cuts in the primary school system in the last ten years or so. The model was originally created in 2006 by Georgette Yakman, who was a master’s graduate student at Virginia Polytechnic and State University’s Integrated Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics Educational program. You can learn more about her research at SteamEDU and at StemToSteam. There is much more to this school of thought than I had time to read about, but it brings creativity back to learning rather than rote memorization. It get students to interact with their education.

This program has seen much development over the last few years. An integral part of this program is having a MakerSpace. These spaces are meant to be flexible spaces for the students to create, collaborate, and solve problems related to each of the subjects being taught at their age level. For those of us who have gone through Architecture school, it is much like a studio where you can work in groups on a project and work alone on a project. These spaces have to be a bit more flexible as they are meant to teach more than one subject. At the high school level, these spaces can get pretty complex, combining wood shop with auto shop, or introducing 3D printers and laser cutters into the curriculum. Though I am well out of school myself, I wish this level of technology was available when I was in high school.

Anyway, my research led me further, (mostly as I was getting distracted by the possibilities) and I discovered SLO MakerSpace. Yes, that’s right. San Luis Obispo has it’s own MakerSpace meant for the community, not just those in education. Now that I’m no longer a student at Cal Poly and no longer have access to the laser cutter for projects, this SLO MakerSpace is actually a perfect solution for those who want to continue learning and developing skills and projects that require expensive equipment. I plan to visit the SLO MakerSpace sometime in the next month and will post pictures of what I create. You should check out the program for yourself and see what you discover.

I didn’t finish designing the space for the elementary school project for work, but I did discover something interesting in the process. I thought I would share and encourage you to find out if there is a MakerSpace in your community. What do you think of this shift in the educational system?

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