In september 2015 the Duke of Connaught, a k-8 school in the Toronto District School Board, officially launched it’s new MakerSpace! We say ‘new’ because the reality is that schools, kids, and teachers have been making things for ages, but somewhere along the line we took the focus off of making and put it somewhere else.
What’s is a maker space?
One of the greatest aspects of the maker movement is how open, inclusive, and supportive it can be. Maker communities are popping up in communities everywhere, including schools right here in the TDSB! So, what is a maker space then? Seemingly there is no single definition to work from. Depending on the particular community it is trying to serve, a maker space can play host to wide range maker skills that can include:
Toronto has a number of vibrant makerspace communities that offer kids and adults access to tools, knowledge, and as important, a physical space to explore how things work and ask questions without any fear of judgement. For me, as an elementary teacher, this flexible model for divergent thinking, collaboration, and connection with people who harness diverse sets of knowledge, represented a great shift in how I viewed my “classroom”. It was after visiting Toronto’s Mini-Maker Faire in November, 2013, that I knew I wanted to incorporate ‘making’ into my teaching, and this site is the story of how we are building makers here at the Duke of Connaught.
What makes a maker?
The definition of who is and who isn’t a maker seems to be a topic of debate these days. Are you a maker if you are messing around with ingredients in your kitchen? Do you have to know about circuits and Arduino boards to be a maker? If I can model and print my own inventions on a 3D printer, is that making? If I am cabinet maker that can knows how to pick the perfect piece of wood and turn into something beautiful, does that count? So far, my experience with the maker communities that I have visited with, seem to operate on a very wide definition of what makes a maker. As I try to discover my place in all this I find myself quite happy to say that, I only know a little -- but it’s enough to get started.
How many opportunities have you counted yourself out of because you were nervous that you wouldn’t be good at it or that you didn’t know enough or that you had to be an expert to do that? Enter the maker movement! Don’t know enough about something? Someone out there does. If there is one thing I think you need to embrace to get started with the maker movement - it’s a mindset. A mindset that allows things to be in-process, unfinished, and un-made. It’s a way of thinking that does away with the creative blockades that can come from too strong of a desire for perfection.
As a recovering perfectionist in my career as graphic designer I can tell you that I spent far too many hours hovering over a pixel or two, only to discover that the client almost never noticed the details I lost the most sleep over. Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets about my time in that industry, I am just starting to see creativity in a different light. Perfection is an illusion along the way to creativity.
I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Start With What’s There
Waiting for perfect conditions to get started isn’t likely to get you on the track to making a maker space, especially if you teach in a public school board. More likely, you are going to have to start with what’s already available to you and build up.
When I decided I wanted to pursue this direction I was already teaching media and technology in a computer lab. The space itself was big, but unfortunately carpeted, so right off the bat I knew certain types of making, like woodwork, were going to be a challenging in this space. My response was simply to alter the space I had using materials I already had access to, initially this included materials like:
This off the bat gave students a way to physically prototype and bring their ideas to life. My other huge resource available in the room already was some aged but still working desktop computers. Though slow in terms of processing speed they were actually just fine to explore a range of maker-friendly software, including:
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me by email: Mr.Gilbert
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The Duke of Connaught Junior Senior Public School
70 Woodfield Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Click here to visit Duke's official website