The Little Makerspace that Could

Student in maker space using two 3-D printer penThe Maker Movement has been gaining momentum over the past 14 years with the publication of MAKE magazine in 2005 and the first Maker Faire sponsored by John Dougherty. The book titled Invent to Learn, 2nd Ed.  (2019) has become what is known as the Maker’s Movement Bible. Written by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, the book goes into detail about how teachers and students can let loose their creativity in a myriad of ways if they are provided with space and materials to do so. 

There have always been “makers” who used their hands, brains, and hearts to invent and produce the things that people use for work and play. Classrooms have long been known as places where students could be caught making things on any given day. Why the hype about maker spaces, then?

Perhaps it has to do with the disconnect that appears to have occurred due to the technology revolution that has moved learning through exploring with material objects to learning from screens. On our small campus in Northeast Ohio, we have seen a constant move toward emptying the library of books and journals in favor of digital texts. Getting a hard copy of a textbook from publishing companies is becoming more of a challenge as well. Students on all levels rely more on Google than library stacks to conduct their research. It may be that the pendulum, as it always does, is beginning to swing the other way, and humans are craving the need to get back to hands-on learning that can leave printing ink on your hands, and clay under your finger nails.

In 2017, the Division of Professional Education at Notre Dame College in South Euclid Ohio began to seek grants to create a maker space for teacher candidates to produce projects for field and student teaching experiences. Other educator preparation programs in our area have such facilities, and we believed that our teacher candidates deserved to have access to materials and equipment as well. 

The grant that we were hoping for did not materialize, but we did not give up hope. In November 2018, a beloved member of our faculty who had been a tireless advocate for the idea of a maker space passed away. Feeling the need to create a lasting legacy for her dedication to early childhood education and the creation of a maker space, friends and family members donated over $5,000 for us to purchase the needed equipment and materials. The college administration generously allotted two adjoining classrooms so that we could create a teacher demonstration classroom with flexible seating and a large classroom library stocked with books from our faculty members’ personal children’s and YA book collections with the maker space right next door.

That initial donation allowed us to purchase two bookcases, a 3-D printer, two 3-D printer pens, a die cutter, a laminator, a paper cutter, and materials for creating bulletin boards and other classroom projects for all grade levels. We recently added a Makey Makey for creating keyboards out of nearly everything imaginable. There are bins of beads and blocks, stacks of construction paper and card stock in rainbow colors, jars of clay and Play-Doh, finger paints, crayons, and markers. Users can choose from pads of stick-on words and phrases to decorate bookmarks and create book covers. Giant paper rolls are good for projects and games that call for murals or life-sized paper cut-outs. Game pieces for board games are easily created with the 3-D printer pens or the large 3-D printer. Interactive notebooks and vocabulary scrapbooks take on new dimensions with foldables and handmade objects. 

What began as a space to create materials for field experiences and student teaching classrooms is slowly changing to include class projects for education classes and “makerspace therapy” sessions for students and faculty to take some time to relax and mingle with other makers. 

Now, other divisions on campus are taking an interest in the movement and asking to collaborate with makerspace projects. For example, the 3-D printer will be used by a psychology major who is researching neuromodulation and prosthetics and creating working models for developing countries.  Our teacher preparation candidates can learn from this by planning similar social action projects for our partner P-12 schools.

Sue Corbin is chair, Division of Professional Education at Notre Dame College.


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Sue Corbin

Notre Dame College