Makerspaces, while not a new concept, have been popping up with greater prevalence in young learners’ lives. But what is a makerspace? How does it fit into an academic curriculum? Previously home-ec, shop, and art classes have been venues to tinker and experiment within schools, but now educators are embracing makerspaces across all disciplines in order to effectively bridge the gap between teaching and learning. Students are printing replicas of atoms, sewing costumes, building robots, testing gravity, and creating model towns. Whether the equipment consists of modern tools like a 3D printer and computer, or conventional ones like scissors and construction paper, it is a place where students are active learners.
Today many students passively take in information, often through a digital format, which can be problematic for developing critical thinking and involvement. To combat this, makerspaces are allowing educators to reevaluate a standardized pedagogy with a
more engaged one, introducing an instructional method that immerses students in learning at the middle and upper school levels as well as colleges and universities. For younger students, educators find that active learning cultivates more stimulated engagement that leads to deeper understanding of concepts; for college students, an interdisciplinary environment opens up new levels of discourse among their peers and equips them with skills for the future workplace.
While it is hard to define what “makes” a makerspace, it is widely agreed that it is a place to learn and explore, and that the tools used to make that happen can be as varied as the individuals that use the space. Indeed, a “makerspace” is not defined by what it is, but rather by how it is used. Revamping standardized education will not be instantaneous, but students and educators are seeing, hearing, and feeling the difference of hands-on education. How will these new spaces evolve and what will be in the makerspaces of the future?