By: Joshua Evans
DISCUSSION LUNCH: Makerspaces
Yet another fruitful discussion over lunch...
The topic: Makerspaces.
A makerspace is any physical space that specifically facilitates interdisciplinary project based learning and that supports methods for engaging learners in higher-order problem solving through hands on design.
The burning questions: What role(s) should we as architects and designers play in the implementation of Makerspaces? What are the challenges and obstacles facing the creation of academic makerspaces in schools?
● Team up with Educators
While most teachers are aware of the need to provide an experiential learning experience that keeps students engaged, it may prove difficult to develop such experiences in spaces designed for students almost a century ago. Academic makerspaces provide educators with the tools necessary to keep students with diverse and alternative learning styles engaged. As design professionals, we can and should be advocates for the integration of academic makerspaces into 21st century education. As designers, not educators, our role extends past employing age-old and often outdated strategies for the creation and renovation of schools. Re-imagine, propose, and promote - as professionals specifically responsible for envisioning how people can occupy new and successful spaces, we would be a proven asset to any school board that wants to make the jump towards reinvigorating their school and curriculum. An academic space aligned with school culture and value will be the most successful.
● Test Scores ≠ Lifetime Success
Design professionals are lifetime learners too, and we would be the first to tell you that in our field, project based learning encourages problem solving in a constantly evolving and collaborative setting. Academic makerspaces facilitate learning in a variety of modes that are key to eventual success in a collaborative working environment. Hands on learning, an integral aspect to any makerspace curriculum, promotes more engagement among students by allowing them to directly observe what is happening while creating physical evidence of learning. Students are able to think outside of typical lesson plans, take ownership of their learning, and discover new interests along the way.
● Reappropriate & Locate
Space in schools comes at a premium. The academic makerspace is a very new concept, so a lot has to be considered when integrating them into schools designed as early as the 1930s. Reappropriating program spaces like, unused classrooms, former vocational training classrooms, art rooms and even libraries to accommodate an academic makerspace are key strategies to ensure that makerspaces can take hold. Any space is a potential makerspace! As designers, it's up to us to pave the way for integrating project based learning spaces. It is our job to help educators plan for their implementation. The scope of an academic makerspace is important to consider - if it’s a shared space available during school hours, the extent to which it can have an impact changes greatly compared to a makerspace that is only available during after school hours. The typical classroom layout: four walls, rows of forward facing chairs should not set the basis for 21st century education. The fact that the makerspace is not designed according the the archetypal classroom allows it to have greater flexibility. Experimentation of different space organizations in schools are opportunities, not risks.
OCP Media. “IF YOU BUILD IT (Official Trailer)”. Online Video Clip. Vimeo. Wednesday November 20, 2013. http://www.projecthdesign.org/film/
Project H Design. “No Reason To Be Bored”. Online Video Clip. Vimeo. Wednesday March 11, 2015. http://www.projecthdesign.org/
Raths, David. “8 Design Steps for an Academic Makerspace”. THE Journal (2015): 1-5. Print.
Fisher, Erin. “Makerspaces Move into Academic Libraries”. ACRL TechConnect Blog (2012): 1-5. Print.
“Makerspaces”. EDUCAUSE (ELI): 7 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT…(2013): 1-2. Print.