It’s a really exciting time in the world of DIY and design. The technology available to us has helped form the Maker Movement as it is today, and it couldn’t be a better time to add some “maker time” into your classroom activities. One of the many great things about STEM education is how it emphasizes other educational trends like Design Thinking, creative problem solving, and “making”. The world would be a fun place if we could make all class time “maker time” but unfortunately we need to keep a balance of structured lessons too. I’ve worked with so many teachers who have incorporated short bursts of “maker time” or even hack-a-thons into their regular classroom structure – and it was fantastic! These are some ways I’ve incorporated “maker time” into my day-to-day class routine – and some strategies that I’ve seen work well in other classrooms:
- Incorporate Design Thinking or Engineering concepts into hands-on activities: Design Thinking and Engineering have always gone hand-in-hand in my teaching practice. I love how the Design and Engineering Processes can add a bit of structure to otherwise free and creative hands-on activities. Whether my class is building a bridge; creating a new way to help an endangered species; or finding a new way to design public space always know there’s an opportunity to add a tool or piece from those processes. For more information and resources on Design Thinking and Engineering Education practices read these helpful articles from our blog.
- Hold mini design challenges with your class: I’ve worked with some great educators who have used short design challenges or hack-a-thons to add a hands-on activity to a math, social studies or science lesson. Design challenges can be use to help students visualize specific problems. I’ve seen teachers provide props for students to count out groups, visualize word problems, space out perimeters and areas, and even build out patterns. Science teachers have used design challenges to incorporate into physics, engineering, environmental, and chemistry lessons, and the projects go beyond the classic “egg drop”, volcano, and airplane activities. The resources provided in the articles listed above will help you create a design challenge that would meet your class’s specific requirements and you can find inspiration for ideas here.
- Encourage creative problem solving: I was interviewing third grade students for research and these students blew me away by telling me how they work through conflicts with friends on the playground or at home with siblings. For example, a pair of students wanted to play tag and the other wanted to play foursquare. They decided to put both of the games together and make a new game. I know this may not sound ground-breaking but this class was used to working in groups, brainstorming, building prototypes, and applauding failures and breakthroughs of their peers. This class was constantly encouraged to work together to creatively work through problems. They practiced and built these skills throughout math and science lessons – and brainstormed together to form the rules of their classroom. I know they aren’t quite making, but they are thinking like a maker.
- Hold a Maker Fair: I worked in this one school where they held an annual Maker Fair and each class would do their own project. A fellow of mine holds a Maker Fair for her class at the end of each year as a culminating project and it’s amazing what her students can come up with. At the end of a simple and complex machines unit she even had her class build cars out of mousetraps and a choice of various materials.
- Encourage students to try the Design Units in our Discovery and Technology sections: Our Content Team personally curated each skill, lesson, and unit from the best resources available on the internet. The Technology units are designed for beginners to learn the basics of technology and design, however our Design Discovery unit allow students to experience how their world is designed around them through games and hands on lessons and interactive experiences. While students learn while having fun, they can earn points as they pass through each level. We’ve had teachers and even libraries hold competitions where students follow the Design and Technology units to learn, practice, and create their own “Maker projects”.
If you want to get your kids or students engaged with STEM education in a fun and effective way, please visit STEM Village to learn more and start a free trial today.
This article was written by Erin Carmody, an experienced educator, consultant, and Content Manager at STEM Village. Erin has been an educator for 8 years in the U.S. (Chaparral Elementary and Woodland Hills Private School) and Canada where Erin acted as an educational consultant and program developer for ACTUA Canada and I-Think Initiative and Design Works at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Erin created and managed programs for many schools and organizations including Branksome Hall, Branksome Hall Asia, John Polanyi Collegiate Institute, University of Toronto Schools, The Leacock Foundation, TRFCA, Hackergal, STEM Village, and Ledbury Park Elementary.