Learning in a Makerspace

A Makerspace is both a physical and virtual space which provides a community with a place to play, build, invent, experiment, design and create prototypes. New tools and technology such as 3D printers, laser cutters and engravers, microprocessors, robotics, and software programs are more affordable and available to schools and can be offered so passions and interests can be fostered and learning is fun and relevant.

The Maker Movement which was made popular by Dale Dougherty, the founder of MAKE: magazine: and creator of Maker Faire, has been embraced by many educationalists. It supports the constructionist approach of learning where

“……learning can happen most effectively when people are active in making tangible objects in the real world”

—Seymour Papert.

As a firm believer of the Confucius quote “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”, the Maker Movement was instantly a hit with me. I have noticed over recent years how our students are consumers and not ‘creators’ or ‘fixers’ and are losing those problem-solving skills. I immediately saw this as a means of giving students a place and space to become inventors, tinkerers, builders and to be innovative with experiential play.

Two years ago, I created such a space in our Junior School Library.

I am a teacher-librarian at St Aidan’s Girls’ School, in Brisbane. It was the natural fit to have a Makerspace where technology and information were readily available. New tools and skills were introduced through ‘guided learning’ library lessons which were stimulated from literature. The journey and development of St Aidan’s Library Makerspace is documented on my blog TinkeringChild.com

In a Makerspace students’ can build perseverance, they can fail without failure being feared and can learn from failure to better their creations. It’s a place where students can be curious to try new things and develop research and investigative skills. It’s a place where problem-solving skills happen and are encouraged. It’s a place where freedom to think outside the box is supported. Students become focused and engaged by their ownership of an idea which can lead to questions and conversations with others to develop a better understanding.

The concept started in our Makerspace with low-tech projects that engendered the maker spirit, such as using copper tape to make circuits and light-up greetings cards and using toothbrush heads with a coin battery and a small vibration motor to make bristlebots.

The most inspiring story

It’s the ultimate in ‘making’ is Caine’s Arcade, a story of a 9 year-old-boy, whose passion for arcades meant he spent his summer holidays using cardboard to make an arcade. The activity demonstrates creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurialism… all ideologies of the maker movement.

Last year the Children’s Book Council of Australia shortlisted book One Step At a Time by Jane Jolly was shared with students. It tells the story of a baby elephant, Mali, whose leg was injured when she accidently steps on a land mine and her journey to recovery. This inspired a few to use Tinkercad 3D digital designing software to create a 3D printed leg for Mali the injured elephant. Such tools are the future and need to be accessible. Students also designed Christmas gift tags for presents to be given to members of the school board.

Our Digital Technologies Curriculum

Coding and robotics are very popular and integrated into our Makerspace with students writing code to manipulate drones, droids, and robots to complete missions and tasks. The Digital Technologies curriculum has been endorsed and is now mandatory for schools. Our maker space enables our community to address many concepts through design and making,

“Code is the twenty-first-century literacy, and the need for people to speak the ABCs of programming is imminent.  Our world is increasingly run by software, and we need more diversity in the people who are building it.” 

—Linda Liukas

Our students begin with ‘unplugged’ activities moving onto programming robots like Bee-Bot, Pro-Bot, and Dash. Coding Apps on iPads and computer coding games have helped to develop computational thinking skills. As students’ progress, they have fun coding programs for other robots like BB8 and LEGO WeDo, NXT Mindstorms and EV3’s.

The future is about understanding how technology works and being able to create with it, moving from consumption to creation and turning knowledge into action.

Our school Makerspace provides students with a place to develop existing skills and introduce new skills in a fun and challenging environment addressing STEAMS (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and Social). Digital technology, tools, and equipment are being developed and improved rapidly, and it is important to keep our learners current and ready for the future. With the many pressures and extra-curricular demands on students, a very crowded curriculum and excessive assessment and testing the maker space can be used at any time during the day by students and teachers to put FUN back into learning!

“To support the unique learning needs of each child and to create the conditions in which21st-centuryy learning can best happen, we must be prepared to seek out and create new learning structures, tools and relationships”

(Trilling & Fadel, 2009).

Recommended reading materials and more in-depth ideas and details are available at TinkeringChild.com


“We carry information with us everywhere we go and we also have the ability to share that information and enhance our own environments through creative tinkering and thinking.”

(Martinez & Stager, 2013).

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, fabola.

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