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How to create impactful makerspaces

Experts share strategies on room design, curriculum development and identifying funding sources
Experts share strategies on room design, curriculum development and identifying funding sources
Experts share strategies on room design, curriculum development and identifying funding sources

Makerspaces reinforce STEM skills and enable more authentic learning. While there are a variety of ways to design and build makerspaces, there are some key strategies administrators can employ to ensure their program is successful.

Designing rooms that facilitate access and choice

Tiffany Lucey, Supervisor of Educational Technology, Toms River Regional Schools (N.J.)
Schools with a small budget can start with a maker-cart. This way, the space is mobile and multiple classes can participate. Another thing to consider is a dedicated corner—just provide tools that are out and available to students to allow them to work independently.

At Toms River Regional Schools, a traditional woodshop transformed into a makerspace with 21st century tools and settings. This was made incredibly easy by working with the Office Depot design team. They started with our vision and what we were trying to accomplish, and then they raised the potential for student learning and success.

When you think about learning materials, often they’re behind the desk, they’re stashed away, they’re in a closet. But in a makerspace, they’re out and available to everyone. You can start with a nice low budget—some glue guns, googly eyes and pom-poms. Then of course you get into the higher-tech stuff, things like 3D printers, CNC routers or vinyl cutters.

Students should be able to grab what they need and get to work. This is a dream space. This is a space where students can and will make decisions, find success, or learn to fail and keep on trying.

Developing relevant curriculum

Salvatore Menzo, Superintendent, Wallingford Public Schools (Conn.)
The basis for the curriculum at Wallingford Public Schools is a three-phase process. The first part focuses on defining and identifying the problem, because students often rush to the solution. The second phase focuses on brainstorming and developing a prototype. The third focuses on the creating—that’s when the space becomes a vital opportunity for the students. This is the part of the process where we start seeing students have those self-actualization skills such as perseverance.

Defining a funding approach

Paula Love, President, RFPMatch.com
What is the strategy to pursue funding for your makerspace? It’s like search-and-rescue. We seek out funds. We do deep analysis to make sure they fit or match your need. If you’re going to invest the time in applying for grants, you want to be very clear first that there is funding available, and second that your needs are aligned with the grant criteria and priorities. We want you to consider fertile paths to funding.

If you remember the three-part strategy for funding—search, analyze and match—you will be in great shape. Keep searching, keep analyzing, keep matching, and you’re going to find the funds for your makerspace.

For more information, watch “Keys to Creating Makerspaces,” a District Administration web seminar, sponsored by Office Depot, at www.districtadministration.com/ws092816

This case study appears in DA's January 2017 Special Report Makerspaces