When I received a copy of Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School by Laura Fleming I was skeptical of this unassuming book, especially when I saw it next to its big-shouldered neighbors in the package. At only sixty-some pages, it seemed hardly a book. I was wrong.
The old adage that big things come in small packages holds true for this inspiring and personal account of creating a makerspace for students in the author’s high school. Whether you are a long time proponent of the maker movement or just curious about possibly setting up your own makerspace, Laura Fleming’s concise book is perfect. The quick-read nature of Fleming’s guide to establishing a makerspace of your own is just what teachers need. (Imagine my excitement when I read that it is part of the Corwin Connected Educators Series, which seeks to create concise works catering to the busy nature of teachers’ lives.)
If “making” and “makerspace” are unfamiliar terms, don’t worry, you are not alone. As author Laura Fleming explains, making, in short, is a movement of people worldwide who are devoted to creating things and designing solutions for the real world. In the educational environment, creating a makerspace is a way to empower students and develop engaging places to learn. Fleming clearly lays out the how’s and why’s of creating a makerspace in every school. Students learn in different ways and there is much to be gained from hands-on experience. Educational experiences that cut across all socio-economic levels, ability levels, learning challenges, and learning styles should be lauded and explored. Fleming details how creating a makerspace touches on all of those key ideas.
Kids naturally like to tinker and setting up a makerspace is an excellent way to allow students to have time to explore their own creativity. In fact, Fleming shares that the creation of such a space should include students’ own creative ideas on how to use the space. Fleming points out that it is also a way for students to go deeper with a concept they are learning in class. Fleming explains the educational benefits of a school makerspace, which includes the obvious connection to state and federal educational standards, most particularly the Common Core. She also does not shy away from explaining the pitfalls. This is messy work and sometimes it looks like students are not involved in important, standards-based education. But they are!
Most importantly, Fleming describes how hands-on learning opportunities in a makerspace can be tied directly to the 21st Century skills we so desperately need today’s students to master. Nearly every interaction in a makerspace is chock-full of collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and, most importantly, creativity. Those concepts in and of themselves should inspire all of us to set up even the smallest makerspace in our classrooms or schools. There are no magic solutions to creating engaging learning environments for students, but in reading Fleming’s book, it seems that a makerspace could be pretty magical!