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Summit 2022
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at ISTELive 21
Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

Making a Makerspace: Where Do You Start?

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Wednesday, June 26, 8:00–10:00 am
Location: Posters: Level 4, Terrace Ballroom Lobby, Table 19

Sharee Pfaff  
Makerspaces are a popular trend in schools around the country but where do you begin? Learn the basics of starting a makerspace. Also get an introduction to the design thinking process, which is changing the ways students interact with their local communities.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Principals/head teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Maker activities and programs
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
Related exhibitors: Wonder Workshop , Strawbees

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

This presentation is intended to provide educators with some basic ideas of how to set up and run a school-based Makerspace. Due to the lack of a standardized Maker curriculum, opening up a new Makerspace can seem a daunting task, but there are simple steps any school can take in order to make a space beneficial to students. By the end of the presentation, participants will walk away with a better understanding of which materials are best for a new space as well as some specific suggestions of games and activities that encourage innovation and perseverance for students at all grade levels.

Objective 1: What do we need?
Some of the first decisions in creating a Makerspace are the location and the materials. The biggest lesson here is that the space and the materials do not make a successful Makerspace; it’s what happens inside that space that makes the difference. To ensure that students have a variety of opportunities, the following products are recommended: The Extraordinaires (a game that teaches the Design Thinking Process), Dash and Dot robots by Wonder Workshop (basic block coding on an iPad), Keva planks (engineering and design), IKOS toys (engineering and design), Strawbees (engineering and design), and Disruptus (a game of innovation). Beyond these products, every good Makerspace simply needs “stuff.” “Stuff” means cardboard, tape, glue, string, tools, crayons, blocks, tubes, balls, fabric, wire, balloons, paper, pipe cleaners, pom poms, the list is endless! Many cities have programs where local teachers can get discounted materials, but schools also can take donations from other sources. Students are not picky. They just want to make!

Objective 2: What do we teach?
In a Makerspace, you will teach communication, collaboration, creativity, innovation, respect, perseverance, grit, and kindness. You teach these life skills though simple games and long-term projects. Several games will be introduced such as Sneak a Peek and quick design challenges that give students the chance to create quick prototypes that fit a need. Since there is not a boxed curriculum for a Makerspace, several online resources will be recommended to help planning lessons. Sample lessons from an active Makerspace will also be provided. (For example: A design challenge where students must create a new form of transportation for a person who is blind by only using playdoh, an index card, a bell, 2 paper clips, and small wooden shapes.) By incorporating the Design Thinking Process into a Maker program, your students will learn the value of empathy in defining a need for a specific person or group of people. The ability to empathize with another person’s perspective certainly holds benefits beyond the classroom. One project that works well is to have an older student interview a younger student, identify a need for that young student, create a prototype, receive feedback, and make modifications all with another person’s needs in mind.

Objective 3: How do we know if it works?
You will know your Makerspace is successful when:
- A TK student’s tower of Keva planks suddenly falls, but she shrugs her shoulders and begins again.
- A fifth grade teacher tells you that her students are now offering new and innovative solutions to problems that come up in class.
- During a challenging math lesson in class, a first grade student announces, “Remember what we learn in Makerspace: Don’t give up!”
- The Spanish teacher watches students make their own creations for storing vocabulary cards, all without being told what to do.
- Parents tell you that their child is solving problems at home and is becoming more independent.
- A seventh grade student spends days on a prototype only to have it break, yet he is still able to acknowledge the parts that worked well.
- A Kindergarten student reminds everyone that the space is not called “Maker-Give-Up.”

Success in a Makerspace is not measured by how well a student is able to make something. It is measured by how well they are able to navigate life.

Supporting research

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, Ph.D.

Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind by Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda

The D School at Stanford University

Jackie Gerstein Blog

John Spencer Blog (Deep dive into Design Thinking)


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Sharee Pfaff, Mariners Christian School

Sharee Pfaff has been an educator for over 20 years in both public and private elementary schools. She currently serves as the Maker Education Facilitator at Mariners Christian School in Costa Mesa, California. In this exciting new position, she has the opportunity to teach TK - 8th grade students in the school's Makerspace. Her program focuses on integrating knowledge of general Making skills with the Design Thinking Process.

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