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Thinking Outside the Walls: Our Journey to Developing an Outdoor Makerspace

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Saturday, December 5, 12:30–1:30 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Richard Taylor  
Jennifer Hall  

After experiencing success with our school's Makerspace, we set out on a mission to expand outdoors. Get a view of what our Outdoor Makerspace looks like, what it means to students, and the steps it took to get there. Gain insight on how to create your own school's Outdoor Makerspace.

Audience: Teachers, Principals/head teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: None needed
Topic: Maker activities & programs
Grade level: PK-5
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.
Creative Communicator
  • Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Participants will learn new ways to integrate technology through the use of an Outdoor Makerspace. They will know how to expand open-ended learning opportunities into a STEAM-focused outdoor learning environment that encourages collaboration and allows for development through the engineering design process.

Participants will be able to learn about the steps taken to expand Makerspace outdoors and see the impact that this had on the students. They will see how an idea to get students more time outside turned into a space where students explore, examine, and develop new ideas. They will see how groups in our military community contributed to the success of our Outdoor Makerspace through donations, purchases of equipment, and volunteering. They will take away new ideas proven to work with students in a K-4 school with a successful Outdoor Makerspace. They will see how teachers with varying levels of technology skills promote technology integration in outdoor learning.

Participants will be introduced to specific skills such as the use of task cards in an Outdoor Makerspace. Participants will also learn the role of teacher scaffolding to encourage student learning while allowing student choice to guide exploration. Thematic units that can be successfully integrated in an Outdoor Classroom will be readily available for participants to incorporate in their own Outdoor Classroom for students to explore further.

Participants will see how educational challenges such as limited outdoor time, excessively active students, and larger class sizes can benefit from the use of an Outdoor Classroom. Ideas to help gain support of teachers and administration in developing an Outdoor Makerspace will be shared.

Participants will see how the project-based learning model was used to develop tasks and real-world applications in the Outdoor Makerspace. Students are engaged in projects that are personally meaningful through critical thinking, organic collaboration, and creativity. Students are able to take design risks and explore the natural world through technology that is not available to them indoors. Participants will see how this learning model in the Outdoor Makerspace generates a magical energy and excitement among the students.

Participants will see how data obtained from parent surveys and teacher collaborations helped guide and direct future growth of our Outdoor Makerspace. By looking at student reflections and anecdotal records from teachers, participants will see evidence of student learning and growth through the integration of outdoor open-ended learning experiences. From feedback from visiting coaches looking to integrate an Outdoor Makerspace at their own school, participants will see how others in the STEAM field hope to replicate similar learning opportunities for their students.

Supporting research

Our Outdoor Makerspace project is research-based and supported by abundant studies in the following categories: Makerspace as an effective learning environment, the need for student time outside, learning from the environment, collaborative groups, project based learning, and real world applications. We are providing citations to multiple research papers and books that support our project in these categories.


Hsu, YC., Baldwin, S. & Ching, YH. Learning through making and maker education. TechTrends (2017) 61: 589.

Dougherty, D. (2013). The maker mindset. In M. Honey & D. E. Kanter (Eds.), Design, make, play: Growing the next generation of STEM innovators (pp. 7–11). New York: Routledge.

Boise State University (2016). Making & achieving go hand in hand. EdTech Connection Blog. Retrieved from

Student Time Outside:

Burdette HL, Whitaker RC. Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children: Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159(1):46–50.

White, Jan. Playing and Learning Outdoors: Making provision for high quality experiences in the outdoor environment with children 3–7. Routledge, 2013.

Learning From the Environment:

Trisha Maynard & Jane Waters (2007) Learning in the outdoor environment: a missed opportunity?, Early Years, 27:3, 255-265.

Tina M. Waliczek and Jayne M. Zajicek (1999) School Gardening: Improving Environmental Attitudes of Children Through Hands-On Learning. Journal of Environmental Horticulture: December 1999, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 180-184.

Collaborative Groups:

Adams, Dennis, and Mary Hamm. Cooperative Learning: Critical Thinking and Collaboration Across the Curriculum.. Charles C. Thomas, Publishers, 2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62794-9265.

Stan, Ina Teodora. Group Interaction in the'Outdoor Classroom': the Process of Learning in Outdoor Education. Diss. Bucks New University, 2008.

Project Based Learning:

Stephanie Bell (2010) Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century: Skills for the Future, The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 83:2, 39-43.

Christopher J. Kruger, Stephen C. Scogin, Regan E. Jekkals. (2019) The STREAM Program: Project-Based Learning in an Outdoor Context. Kappa Delta Pi Record 55:2, pages 85-88.

Real World Applications:

David Fortus, Joseph Krajcik, Ralph Charles Dershimer, Ronald W. Marx & Rachel Mamlok‐Naaman (2005) Design‐based science and real‐world problem‐solving, International Journal of Science Education, 27:7, 855-879.

Clapp, E.P., Ross, J., Ryan, J.O., Tishman, S. (2016). Maker-centered learning: Empowering young people to shape their worlds. John Wiley& Sons. Creative Problem Solving: Students' skills in tackling real-life problems (2014).

More [+]


Richard Taylor, Humphreys Central Elementary/DoDEA
Jennifer Hall, Southeast Americas/DoDEA

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