Makerspaces: Fearlessness Required

In every new venture there exists an element of risk. Often this risk is accompanied by a fear of the unknown. These truths were brought home for me during a presentation that I shared this past Saturday. The session attendees wanted to gain an understanding of makerspaces, and learn about our process in creating a makerspace in the Gleneagles Elementary Learning Commons. When I shared the following photo of our makerspace team standing in front of our brand new Lego wall, a collective “Oh!” filled the room.  (I’m certain it’s because the audience was impressed with our stunning goggles!)

Makerspace Team

Our Gleneagles Makerspace Team: Scott Wallace (principal) me (teacher-librarian),  Andrea Smith, (intermediate teacher)

Then came the question:

“How noisy is it?”

“You mean the Lego wall?” I asked, for clarification.

“Yes, how noisy is it?”

“Well, it’s not really noisy at all…”I responded, “except for the rustling of Lego as students’ hands rummage through the bins. That, and the sound of their animated explanations and stories about their creations,” I added. I explained that our initial approach to the Lego wall was not a “free-for-all”, but rather a structured approach using literacy as both a launching point and extension activity. The Lego wall is a new commodity and we are still in the learning phase of how to maximize its use as a makerspace resource.

Later, I discussed our exploration of robotics as one of our five makerspace themes for the year and this yielded more questions:

“Are you an expert in robotics?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Have you taken some training in robotics to prepare for this?”

“No.”

I explained that setting up a makerspace requires that you are constantly learning new things.  If I waited until I “perfectly understood” the nature and workings of each new maker resource before I introduced them to our students, the items would never make their way out of the box.  Instead, we learn together. For me, nothing beats the “Aha!” moment that occurs when a student figures something out for himself and then, in turn, can explain his process to the teacher.

Kurti, Kurti and Fleming (2014) stress the importance of the “spacemaker” role—this is the term they use for the individual that sets up and manages the makerspace:

“Spacemakers, like every leader, will be likely to face challenges and obstacles.  They must be resourceful, failure tolerant, collaborative and always learning themselves” (p. 11).

After my session was over I reflected on the root of the questions I fielded and the nature of my responses.  I repeatedly stressed with my audience that I am not an expert on maker resources and that I am just learning as I go. This “learning as you go”— with students acting as both learners and mentors— reflects the true nature of a makerspace.

Moorefield-Lang (2015) explains the makerspace process perfectly:

“There is a fearlessness required in working in these spaces, being vulnerable to failure, offering new classes, accepting aid and training from peers and volunteers, building new connections, and working with new tools and technologies.  It might seem a little scary but in reality it is very exciting” (p 108).

At the end of the session, I candidly shared with a participant that setting up a makerspace can be “a little scary” but it’s definitely worth the challenge. Her response heartened me.  Squeezing my arm warmly, she said,

“Thank-you for what you are doing for children! I’m sure it’s a lot of work”.

Sometimes that’s all you need to hear, for the fear to slip away.

Works Cited:

Kurti, R. S., Kurti, D. L., & Fleming, L. (2014). The philosophy of educational makerspaces part 1 of making an educational makerspace. Teacher Librarian41(5), 8. Retrieved from http://www.teacherlibrarian.com/2014/06/18/educational-makerspaces/

Moorefield-Lang, H. M. (2015). Change in the making: Makerspaces and the ever changing landscape of libraries. Techtrends, 59(3), 107-112. doi:10.1007/s11528-015-0860-z

 

 

 

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