Should Makerspaces in Community-based Organizations, Schools and Libraries Coexist?

12/06/2018 9:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

What are makerspaces? Makerspaces can take the form of places where individuals meet to share space and tools for the purpose of making things. Some makerspaces may be for-profit companies, non-profit corporations or organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools, universities or libraries (https://spaces.makerspace.com). These spaces provide opportunities for people of all ages to create, build, collaborate and learn together using no tech to high tech tools and equipment. 

On December 3 at the 2018 VSTE Conference in Virginia Beach, VA, Diane Painter (Makersmiths.org member) and Nick Grzeda, Digital Media Integration Specialist for Loudoun County Public Schools, led a presentation-discussion session about the purpose of makerspaces with over 40 principals, school superintendents and other educators throughout Virginia and Maryland in attendance. They began with observations and impressions of makerspaces in schools they have visited.

Some schools create makerspaces for after-school initiatives. Other schools integrate aspects of makerspaces’ design thinking and experimentation into their curriculum during the instructional day. In other school districts, electives or special classes dedicated to creative exploration within their makerspace environments help to prepare students for fields in science, technology, engineering and math (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/creating-makerspaces-in-schools-mary-beth-hertz).

Most community-based makerspaces offer their tools as well as classes and workshops to community members of all ages that help develop knowledge and skills for designing, prototyping, and creating products. The makerspaces within these community-based environments represent the “democratization of design, engineering, fabrication, and education” (https://spaces.makerspace.com).

Makerspaces appear to be popular for many reasons. Makerspaces provide collaborative opportunities that help participants develop design and manufacturing skills and express creativity while working with tools, materials, and equipment such as woodworking, metalworking, 3D printing, laser-cutting, CNC machines, soldering irons, kilns and more. Makerspaces can also be incubators for startup businesses. For some who attended schools before the 1970s when industrial arts was an essential part of the school curriculum, it is vital to establish makerspaces that allow industrial learning opportunities for younger generations that do not currently have woodshop or metalworking classes in today’s schools. For retirees who downsized their homes and no longer have access to tools and equipment that they once had in their basements or garages, makerspaces become like a “club” or gathering of like-minded makers as they work together to create things. Joining makerspaces give retirees and others an outlet to share their knowledge of making by encouraging them to teach classes or give hands-on workshops.

The discussions among the participants in this VSTE session focused on: Should makerspaces in community-based organizations, schools, and libraries coexist? 

1. In what ways do makerspaces in schools, libraries, and community-based maker organizations share the same mission, goals, and objectives? How are they different?

2. What are some examples of such makerspace partnerships? What types of exchanges of ideas and resources are occurring?   

3. If forming such makerspace partnerships is important to a community, what strategies and desired outcomes should be considered?

After reading this blog and thinking about these questions, we encourage you to give us your thoughts!

Comments

  • 12/10/2018 4:11 PM | Mark Millsap (Administrator)
    As President of Makersmiths, Inc., I find it curious to see schools and libraries including 'makerspaces' within their facilities.

    Having talked with some folks at both schools and libraries as to how these spaces are actually being used, my opinion is they're not makerspaces, but spaces where artifacts are demo'd or tools used to make things. More often than not, they are ancillary to the school or library in which they are located.

    To me, makerspaces are as much about the community of the makers as they are about the activities, tools, and location. As such, without a true community of makers, these other facilities are co-opting the label 'makerspace'.

    I do believe it's a good thing for citizens to discover or re-discover what used to be 'trade' knowledge, albeit with light of modern technologies. But labeling a room(s) within a facility and throwing in a few 3D printers, a laser cutter, maybe a CNC machine, etc. and calling it a 'makerspace' doesn't make it so.

    You could take the space out of the school or library and it would still function as a school or library, but take the community out of a makerspace, and it no longer functions. It would be just a cold, dark space. (assuming it's winter time :-)
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