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Makerspaces are breaking into the classroom. What are they, and how can you take advantage of them?
I first became interested in computer programming when I was in 5th grade. This influenced my career path, leading to 10 years working as an electrical engineer and in science and engineering education. After those experiences, I wanted to go back to my community to offer this same type of experience to today’s 5th-grade girls. Creating a classroom makerspace was the perfect solution.
What is a makerspace? Makerspaces are community-operated physical spaces where people (makers) create do-it-yourself projects together. These membership spaces serve as community labs where people learn together and collaborate on projects. Makerspaces often have tools and equipment like 3-D printers, laser cutters, and soldering irons. Additionally, arts and crafts are often integrated into makerspace offerings. Recently, educators have worked to bring these types of environments to schools by creating classroom makerspaces that offer students an opportunity to create and make with advanced technical tools that were once only available in engineering labs. Students also have a chance to work with everyday and recycled materials.
Creating our makerspace
In my community, I wanted to provide girls with access to tools and a creative environment where they could learn new skills and create real products, so I launched the DIY Girls, an after-school program for 5th-grade girls at my former elementary school. When I met with the principal, he offered me a dedicated classroom space, which ended up being my old 5th-grade classroom! With help from volunteers, friends, and teachers, I converted the classroom into a makerspace and recruited girls. We were ready to get started.
At first, we didn’t have any high-tech equipment or even computers. We used the furniture that was already in the classroom to set up stations and workspaces. The school gave us a classroom set of supplies that included scissors, glue sticks, markers, pipe cleaners, and construction paper.
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