A relatively new buzz word swarming around K-12 STEM education lately is "makerspace." The White House has generated much of this buzz through its efforts with the Maker Movement. The word may be new to most STEM educators, but the concept is most definitely not new. Career and technical education (CTE) teachers have taught "maker" skills since CTE's roots in the since past "vocational education" days. Chances are, a CTE teacher's classroom is often by default a makerspace.
The K-12 science education realm recognized this long ago and incorporated "making" in the form of engineering practices within the New Generation Science Standards. Enrollment in academic courses is on the rise and high school graduation rates continue to rise too, but vocational and CTE enrollments decline. Where carpentry and home economics dominated the K-12 space, STEM areas like engineering, robotics and computer science have taken their place, but not without challenges in reaching diverse learners. Makerspaces rooted in STEM can address these challenges and provide students with a hook earlier on, so they persist through STEM degrees.
Creating makerspaces and incorporating engineering practices into existing curriculum can seem difficult and expensive. NGSS connects science and engineering through practices--acts of doing, creating, testing. This requires, at minimum, students putting ideas on paper, which is not expensive. However, to truly embody engineering practices, creating a physical prototype that students can see and touch is getting students set the core of being and engineer. Even more paramount is having students reflect on their own work and improving it. An opportunity to practice a continuous loop of improvement is even better. There are great (and affordable!) activities to facilitate this on DollarStoreSTEM.com.
This continuous loop, better known as the design process, is what connects STEM and CTE to making. The loop instantly creates environments for students to practice higher order thinking. Makerspaces are simply educational environments that support learning through creating, through making. Making may be the solution to the challenges in reaching diverse learners as well as "rising above the gathering storm" of declining employability. The more students "make," the more students value the tenets of STEM and CTE, creating the skilled workforce our nation needs.
This post is dedicated to makers, big and small, making impacts that will last 1,000 years.