A makerspace is a space for making. It provides hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they engage in science, engineering, and more. It’s a place where students can enter with an idea and leave with a complete project. Like a miniature boat. Or a musical instrument. Or paper LED circuits. The options truly are endless. 

What is a Maker Mindset?

It’s through this tinkering and creating that students can begin to develop a maker mindset. But what exactly does that mean? We turned to some Teacher-Authors in the TpT community to dig deeper. “Having a ‘maker mindset’ means having a passion for creating, designing, or inventing,” explains Brooke Brown -Teach Outside the Box. “A ‘maker’ can be defined in so many ways… through art, creative design, architecture, engineering, technological innovation, or even entrepreneurship.” 

Cara from Cara’s Creative Playground says it’s about being able to create freely without imagination boundaries while Kathleen from Ms. Artastic talks about a “creative lens” and the important role it plays. She says, “A maker mindset is about allowing yourself to be creative, experiment, and to keep an open-ended solution to a problem; problems through a creative lens can be solved in many ways or through the creative process, each time evolving through testing, trial, and feedback. Through a creative lens, there is no one answer or way to do a problem. There is a target, and the path to get there is through using all subjects or areas of study combined (whether it is when creating an art piece or designing a prototype or project).” 

And Jenelle from Enriching Young Minds and Hearts explains, “A maker mindset is a mindset in which you start with a blank canvas. You draw from your background knowledge, experiences, and resources around you to create from scratch. It involves knowing that making is an ongoing process that involves failing; sometimes over and over. It’s the mindset that it’s okay to fail because we learn from failing.”

3 Benefits of a Maker Mindset

There is so much value in this type of mindset being fostered in students, to serve them both in the classroom and beyond. Here’s what some Teacher-Authors had to share about some of these advantages.

1. It’s empowering.
“It is so important for students to develop a maker mindset so that they feel empowered to take on all that life has to offer them and to challenge them. This mindset allows them to see problems as opportunities to grow and learn. Flexing their maker mindset allows students to practice wonder, curiosity, grit, determination, and exploration. This muscle is important for school-based challenges and obstacles and in real life.” – Dia from An Elementary Edventure

2. It cultivates creativity.
Having a maker mindset allows students to learn: how to be creative, how to let their intuition guide them, and how to solve a problem in an open-ended way (there is no one solution to a problem). With a maker mindset, students can embrace the creative process to allow themselves to learn how to approach a problem from a variety of perspectives and even with a variety or combination of mediums, materials, and tools. Through flexing this muscle, they can see how using their knowledge from a variety of areas such as art, design, engineering, math, science, and language arts can come together to solve real-world problems, design challenges, or be used to create art and communicate through a visual medium. Through using their maker mindset, students can practice flexing this muscle now and learn that creation is a result of being creative, using your imagination, experimenting, failing, and making mistakes.” – Kathleen from Ms. Artastic

3. It shows that mistakes are not just okay, but a good thing.
“A maker mindset is extremely valuable to students now as it allows them to use what they already know to think outside the box to create something new and unique. Because failure is part of the process, students will increase their engagement and confidence. Students can enjoy the process of thinking and making without the pressure of failure. With repeated practice flexing this muscle, students can come to the conclusion that there may be a solution to everything; it might just take a lot of thinking, refining, and failure in the process.” – Jenelle from Enriching Young Minds and Hearts

No Dedicated Makerspace? No Problem

You want your students to flourish as thinkers and innovators. But what if you simply don’t have the space, budget, or time to invest in an entire “makerspace”? That’s okay! It’s less about the space and more about the creative thinking that occurs. It’s about that powerful transformation that happens when students view themselves as makers, problem-solvers, and design thinkers. 

There are lots of ways to provide authentic experiences where your students can inquire, explore, and create — and work on developing a maker mindset. Here are some suggestions from Teacher-Authors.

Tip 1: Bring maker projects into existing lessons.
“You can tie a maker project into what you’re already doing in each curricular area. For example, if you’re reading a fiction story for the week, you can have your students use their maker mindset to create something that will help the characters solve the problem in the story. In math, use the story problems that are provided by your math curriculum as an opportunity to tie in making.” – Jenelle from Enriching Young Minds and Hearts

Tip 2: Create pop-up design challenges.
“One thing you can do to bring a ‘making concept’ into your school day without relying on a physical makerspace is create ‘pop up’ design challenges. I allow students to use recyclable materials to create their projects for both design and for art. First, this teaches sustainability, and second, it allow students to be creative by seeing the material differently in order to reuse it for their specific purpose. Kids have more imagination than us and generally don’t need help figuring out how to repurpose materials. I bring in my recycling from the week and have students bring in some stuff, too. We create with very little and make big things. This can be done in art to supplement art mediums and materials, in design in STEAM challenges, or when creating projects for any project-based learning assignment. Projects can be created individually or collaboratively. As well, students can choose to keep them, or break them back down and recycle all the materials again to again reinforce a sustainable practice. So much to be learned!” – Kathleen from Ms Artastic

Tip 3: Experiment with STEM bins.
“One of my favorite ways to encourage making in limited environments is through my STEM Bins for open-ended tinkering and engineering. STEM Bins are plastic bins, each filled with a different engineering manipulative. Students use STEM Bins and task cards with photos of real world structures, and attempt to build those structures using the items in the bin. They’re perfect for early finishers, hands-on morning work, centers, incentives, a calm-down center, and makerspace exploration.” – Brooke from Brooke Brown – Teach Outside the Box

Tip 4: Incorporate it into homework.
Makerspace questions can be part of student homework. I highly recommend making it a family project. What a great way to include the entire family on the makerspace formula and thinking process. Students always learn first from their parents, so why not use this to the students’ advantage if possible?” – Cara from Cara’s Creative Playground

Tip 5: Cultivate an appreciation for mistakes.
“Early in the school year, I always read the book The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. In that book, the little girl tries to build a perfect thing, but nothing goes as planned. My students and I always discuss the process of making the character goes through before she finally gets it ‘right’. It’s important for students to understand that it is acceptable to make mistakes throughout the creative process.” – Jennifer from Classroom Base Camp

Tip 6: Turn to some technology.
“For my writer makerspace, students are taking published works, breaking them down, creating their own outlines, and building their own ‘models’ of the different genres of writing. The makerspace is virtual.” – Emily from Read It Write It Learn It

Tip 7: Remember that “makerspaces” can be permanent or temporary — and big or small.
“Makerspaces come in all shapes and sizes. It really is all about mindset, a place to gather and collaborate, and all about creating, building, discovering with tools and resources, and utilizing your imagination. The bottom line of where to choose a space is you can set up a makerspace ANYWHERE! Makerspaces can be permanent or temporary. They can be on tables, carts, in crates, in the corner, on the floor, or even outside. Wherever kids gather and want to design, discover, and create. It is that SIMPLE. Whether you already have space, know what area you can adapt, or have yet to find it, Your SPACE is out there.” – Trina from Trina Deboree Teaching and Learning

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Here’s to creating opportunities for your students to challenge themselves, think critically, and flex their creative muscles — whether it’s in an entire room, lab, or area of the classroom — or whether it’s with a single box filled with materials and opportunity.