Learning and Life: It’s What You Make It

Photo CC by John Fischer

In high school, I traveled down to Kansas City with my family to visit the Maker Faire. It was awesome. For my final project for my Library Information Management minor, I compiled a bibliography of resources about makerspaces.

It’s no surprise, then, that when I saw the Maker Movement as one of the learning approaches, I decided to showcase it and see if I could learn and find more resources about it; it has been, after all, about two years since I compiled that bibliography, and longer still since I was a high school student.

What is the Maker Movement?

MakerBridge  (@makerbridge) explains a makerspace as:

Dale Grover of Maker Works in Ann Arbor describes makerspaces as “tools + support + community.” In makerspaces, people share tools, skills, and ideas, and often work together on projects. In these spaces, learning is hands-on, collaborative, and often crosses traditional divisions such as age or level of formal education. Instead, makerspaces focus on bringing together people to explore and create around projects that interest and excite them.

Makerspaces are a part of maker culture, which focuses on DIY projects and values creation over consumption. Other terms used for makerspaces include hackerspaces, hacklabs, or fab labs. A maker is anyone who participates in maker culture.

The statement of “learning is hands-on, collaborative, and often crosses traditional divisions such as age or level of formal education” is the heart of the Maker Movement, especially when paired with “projects that interest and excite [people].”

The benefits of such an approach are obvious: it allows students to explore, to utilize their creativity, and makerspaces are often largely self-motivated. Makerspaces are also beneficial because, as MakerBridge explains, “a maker is anyone who participates in maker culture” [emphasis mine]. One comment I’ve heard throughout the course of my life — from art to writing to technology to crafting — is “Oh, I could never do that.” But the beauty and the accessibility of makerspaces has the potential to show people that they can.

Tim Bajarin explains the importance of makerspaces — and the maker movement — in his article for Time magazine. He quotes Zach Kaplan, who says that makerspaces have

the potential of giving anyone the tools they need to become makers and move them from passive users to active creators.

Diana Rendina (@DianaLRendina) is one educator who utilizes makerspaces in her middle school library. Her blog, Renovated Learning, chronicles both the construction of the makerspace throughout the years and also offers resources, tools, and advice about constructing a makerspace of one’s own.

This TED Talk showcases what a non-classroom makerspace can look like, and the importance of community-based learning:

Another resources is makerspaces.com (@Makerspaces_com), which provides many helpful pointers.

Making a makerspace can be challenging — they often require time to set up, financial resources, and they also require staff members to be trained on the use of the equipment and safety guidelines.

But in the end, the opportunity for all people to be creators is well worth that cost.


8 thoughts on “Learning and Life: It’s What You Make It

  1. Woo hoo – I love maker spaces too. They don’t always have to be expensive, but provide lots of parts to work with. Adult supervision for the free form creativity is probably the hardest part.b I usually run out of led lights first.


    1. I’ve done so much enthusiastic reading and research about them, but outside the Maker Faire I’ve never actually been to a makerspace. I intend to remedy that in the near future; I’m hoping that wherever I settle, I’ll find an opportunity to participate. I’ve been in love with 3D Printers ever since I first saw one. I agree about the supervision – no matter what equipment or supplies is being used, managing the space is important for the longevity of the space.


  2. I enjoy this approach because it allows for students to be creative and expressive about their learning. Being able to make things allows for students to be more motivated and intrigued at the content. This just goes back to the modules where we talked about incorporating creativity and fun in the classroom. Great post!


    1. Thanks! I agree — it teaches young people that there’s not just one way to learn things, that learning doesn’t have to be some intangible concept we can only interact with in our minds. It also can be hands on, innovative, and fun.


    1. I think they started popping up maybe five, ten, years ago or so? They’ve become a sort of centerpiece in the conversations about “libraries of the future,” although libraries aren’t the only spaces in which makerspaces can be found.


  3. Wow. This is such great stuff. The TEDTalk was really powerful. I am on board with all he had to say about connecting people, and how making things bring people together, and how all of that put together can work as a catalyst for spreading empathy and love. I also appreciate his comments about race and privilege and how important it is to respect where you are and find out where these projects fit rather than swooping in thinking you’re going to save people. It’s all very real and true. I loved the real-world results he shared about kids like Raven wanting to make a Sari and her teaching so many people how to solder. Warms my heart. All of these ideas and philosophies are incredibly important – in the classroom as well as in our sadly divided world. Thanks for sharing.


    1. I really appreciated his comments too, that those who want to implement makerspaces can’t view them as panaceas, or themselves as “saviors,” especially when seeking to set spaces up in underprivileged areas. Because when that happens, often the true needs of the community are ignored in favor of someone’s ego. Thanks for bringing up a lot of great points!

      Liked by 1 person

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