Here's How Student 'Learning Lab Leaders' Make a Difference in Our Makerspace

I am always so impressed by the talents of our students. Our young people have so much to offer and share with the world around them. When we tap into that aptitude within our schools, we build the leaders of tomorrow, but more importantly, we foster our student’s talents so that they may contribute to the school culture today.

This school year, our Makerspace Teacher Team embraced a great idea—bring student leaders into our makerspace so that they can help others, model making, and help build this space into what they want it to be for our school. The vision was simple. The makerspace’s role is to foster creativity and thinking in our school, and our students have so much to offer to build it into what they want it to be. We wanted our students to be an integral part of our makespace—not just through making, but also in leading it.

Application Process

As a teacher team, we created an application for students to complete in order to be a part of the makerspace leaders group. Interested students wanting to become our first “Learning Lab Leaders” completed the application, highlighting their interest areas and ways they would contribute to the space. This year, we determined we would focus our leadership group on our 4th and 5th-grade students, the oldest students in our school.

After applications were turned in, the teacher team reviewed the applications and selected 34 Learning Lab Leaders. We found so many more than we had ever dreamed! It was a great “problem” to have many leaders in our school! Students were selected based on a variety of factors, all sharing their unique expertise and ideas for the space. It was not just about the best and the brightest in the school. We wanted students who had ideas and demonstrated leadership within the space already during the school year. We broke our makerspace into different “zones” and responsibilities, and students were put into groups based on their interests.

The First Meeting

After letters went out to our new Learning Lab Leaders, we pulled everyone together for our first “meeting.” Here, we shared our celebrations and expectations for our new leaders, and they shared their ideas about how we can make the most of the space.

Our first order of business was to collaborate in our specialized area groups and determine a schedule for “Maker Mornings,” where students come to make and build each day. I shared a collaborate Google Doc with the team, and they built their own schedule. It was so exciting to watch! The team joined our Learning Lab Leaders Google Classroom as well, and the sharing began!

Maker Mornings

Our Learning Lab Team has since been sharing their talents and ideas during our Maker Mornings. Our schedule built during our first meeting is still running strong. Our leaders come in each morning to make and also help others with ideas of what to make, then clean up when it is time to go to class.

Most impressive are how our student leaders have taken ownership of the space, opening and closing our makerspace each morning, finding new ways to model making. Led by our Learning Lab Leaders, some fabulous projects have happened “by accident” during our Maker Mornings. Most recently, a few students decided to make little creatures from the Pom-Pom supply, naming them “Fuzzys”. These little creatures had personalities, so of course, the leaders determined they needed homes. This idea spread each morning, growing more and more, and today, there is a growing community of Fuzzys, from a business area, homes, and vehicles.

Our student leaders modeled making, not just making something random from cool supplies, but actually finding purpose in what they were making. It has been an exciting transformation to watch, and more importantly, our young makers in the school have been alongside the entire time, seeing what making is all about.

Restock Mondays

The Makerspace Teacher Team wanted the Learning Lab Leaders to help maintain the space as well as be leaders in making. So, we established “Restock Mondays,” where any of the leaders can come in during recess to tidy up the consumable materials and restock them as needed. This has proven to be a huge help, as there is no one staff member “in charge” of maintaining the space. Our student leaders have complete ownership over maintaining the space, and take great pride in doing so.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom has been a vital part of the communication with the teachers and the student leaders. We post announcements and post ideas to the student leaders, and they comment and add posts with new ideas for the group. A couple of our student leaders have shared videos and websites for cool projects, as well as ways we can make our space even better for making.

Maker Club

Another added feature for our student leaders has been the After School Maker Club. Each week, anyone from the student leader group may stay after school for an hour, and we have making challenges and other maker projects to try. This gives us, as the teachers of the building, a time to try out different projects and challenges, get new ideas flowing, while challenging our top makers in our school with awesome projects. So far, we have had a tower challenge, made paper circuit projects, created and battled bristle bots, and continued to build the Fuzzy community. This is a special bonding time for the Learning Lab Leaders too, giving them time to share their talents with each other.

A Look into the Future

In looking back at our first year with student leaders for our makerspace, it was a huge success. We were not sure what to expect, but it has proven to reap rewards for our makerspace, the students, and our entire school. Our student leaders never cease to amaze, and their leadership is truly something to learn from.


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, woodleywonderworks.

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