It seems like everywhere you go, someone is talking
about the maker movement, making or people who are makers. You may also be
hearing about making in the classroom and, as a teacher, wondering how you might
bring making to your school.
The makers are taking over ISTE 2014 with sessions, hands-on
playgrounds, interactive workshops and more. But why?
education programs are cropping up in schools across the nation as the maker
movement gains momentum. Making relies heavily on skills such as problem
solving, innovative and creative thinking, and perseverance — and it promotes
positive mindsets and attitudes. What could be better for our classrooms,
schools and society than confident, determined, innovative youth? Making
empowers youth and amazing things can happen when we get out of their way!
Making often incorporates modern technologies such as 3D printing, micro
controllers (such as Arduino) or robotics. Integrating these technologies can be
a costly venture as it typically requires a lot of tools, equipment and
materials — not to mention physical
space for all of this. Resource-intensive activities or practices aren’t
generally synonymous with teaching. So how can we make making affordable and
approachable for teachers?
At Digital Harbor Foundation, we
find and create maker activities and resources that are accessible and
affordable for our youth. Our tech center is located in the heart of Baltimore
City and we serve youth from a variety of backgrounds, so it is important to our
mission to make making something that anyone can participate in.
Here are three inexpensive ways to start making in your classroom:
1. Begin where you are.
Start with something you already know and are comfortable with. Are you a
hobby crafter? Happen to have a lot of cardboard around? Skilled at graphic
design? It doesn’t matter your level of ability in a given area. Everyone can
make something and teach someone else how to make something. Just start with
something you are familiar with and find a way to share it with your
2. Create a makerspace in a box.
One of the resources we recommend creating for your classroom when you are
just getting started is what we call a “makerspace in a box.” This is a great
place to start because it doesn’t require a permanent space, which can be
costly, or a lot of expensive tools and materials. Find a box, bag, bin, or cart
and begin collecting everyday materials that can be used to make something, such
as yarn, aluminum foil, paper, tape or cardboard. Add a few additional materials
— LEDs, coin cell batteries, copper tape, play dough, etc. — and you’ve got the
makings of a great makerspace!
3. Use free tools and resources.
As the maker movement expands, we’re seeing a ton of great free resources to
help teachers get started. Our favorites include:
Tinkercad, an easy-to-learn
and simple-to-use 3D design software for creating objects that can be 3D
printed. It’s easy for a five-year-old to use but robust enough to be useful for
more experienced designers as well.
Scratch, another easy-to-use online tool for
making games or animations. With a drag-and-drop interface, it’s appropriate for
students and teachers of all ages and abilities.
Make Magazine is the premier source for DIY
projects and resources. It’s a great place to gain inspiration as well as take a
deeper dive into advanced topics.
Stephanie Grimes is the director
of curriculum for Digital Harbor
Foundation and a former early childhood educator.