Maker Ed, or Maker Education, is a new school of educational thought that focuses on delivering constructivist, project-based learning curriculum and instruction to students. As the Maker Movement begins to make inroads into conventional education, maker education spaces are geared to facilitating hands-on learning experiences that incorporate both low and high tech, and can be as large as full high school workshops with high-tech tools, or as small and low-tech as one corner of an elementary classroom.
Maker Ed is particularly effective when leveraging the balance between exploration and execution. Small projects lend themselves to indefinite tinkering and fiddling, while larger projects need complex, coordinated planning. Often, small projects can organically grow into larger and larger projects. This deliberate process strengthens and enriches a learner’s executive functioning skills.
Effective Maker Ed isn’t just about the tools and technology. Communication and collaboration are two of Maker Ed’s fundamental values. Making allows learners to practice their social communication skills in a variety of ways: Affinity-based, where students organize themselves in real world and/or Internet (or virtual) to learn something connected to a shared endeavor, interest, or passion; role-specific, where the learning is customized dependent upon the specific tasks and function of the project and the training is presented in the context of a specific role ands what it takes to perform that role; or, teacher-assigned, where the educator facilitates more directly assigning each student to a particular task in the project. It’s important for all different groups to be present in student learning spaces so that all students can practice their social skills in multiple settings.
Additionally, making offers unique opportunities to generate flow learning, an optimal psychological state that students experience when engaged in an activity that is appropriately challenging to their individual skill levels while encouraging immersion and concentrated focus on a task. Flow learning allows for deeper learning experiences as well as higher levels of personal and work satisfaction where the teacher is better able to leverage high-interest projects and activities and turn them into learning objectives within a curriculum.
Ultimately, we are talking about collaboration and learning through doing. Maker education provides the space for real-life collaboration, integration across multiple disciplines, and iteration—the opportunity to fail, rework a project and find success.
We at MIDAS are fully committed to supporting the efforts of educators and makers looking to promote a cooperative learning environment where collaboration and education work hand-in-hand encouraging innovation in the most fun and organic ways possible.
New to the Maker Culture and education? Here are a few fun and easy suggestions to get things going with the young – or old – aspiring makers in your life:
Smaller Scale Maker Ed Projects
Do you want to get into Making and Maker Ed but don’t know where to start? No problem! Here are nine class-tested, teacher-approved ideas, which can be built using a few tools for K–8 students.
Towers of Power
Materials: Paper, Scotch tape.
A great starting point for a beginning Maker teacher, this “Towers of Power” activity allows students to build towers out of paper and Scotch tape.
Students can build the tallest tower with an unlimited amount of materials, constrain themselves to limited materials or introduce new materials, such as straws and paper clips.
Once it’s complete, have fun crushing the tower with textbooks! Find out which tower holds up the most weight.
This group activity can help students with teamwork, leadership and planning skills. Best of all, variations on this theme are endless — and the materials can be found in any home or office.
Materials: Mouse traps, wood stirring sticks, erasers, wood blocks, ping-pong balls. hot glue.
Tools: a hot glue gun.
Introducing elements of STEM, this catapult activity is a favourite project to introduce engineering principles, motion and fun. The catapult allows students to chase down the best launching angle and the ratio between power and arm length, as well as discuss projectile motion, gravity, physics laws and a whole host of other things.
Plus, every student likes trying to smash something apart with a teacher’s permission.
Little hands might pinch themselves handling the strong lever, so it’s good practice to disengage the spring for students while they make their catapults.
Design Challenge Projects
Terrific exercises in STEAM! And a great way to get into making is to give you and your students a few hours to explore the Making design process. Design challenges are a great way to get this done.
Set a hard time limit, test the devices, take time to evaluate and reflect.
Bridge to Nowhere
Materials: Wood craft sticks, hot glue, 5-gallon bucket with weights.
Tools: Hot glue gun, diagonal cutters.
Design a bridge to span a foot-long gap and hold as much weight as possible.
An extension could be to build a cantilever — a bridge with only one footing.
Use a set amount of craft sticks or materials in order to encourage creativity in solutions.
Float the Boat
Materials: Tinfoil, craft sticks, bamboo skewers, paper, hot glue, clay, wood scraps, pens and markers.
Tools: Scissors, hot glue guns, craft sticks.
Design a boat that can hold the most cargo, move through the water the fastest, or has the most efficient weight to cargo ratio.
Find the best shape for sails, design the fastest hull and find the balance point.
Materials: Cardboard boxes, packing tape, junk and stuff (the weirder, the better). Think packing materials, fabric scraps, string, rope, plastic bags, etc.
Some serious STEM fun!
Throwing eggs off something high always gets kids motivated.
It’s a great way to discuss momentum and illustrate why you should always wear your seat belt!
Tools: Hot glue gun, scissors, hole punch, awl.
If a teacher offers a student the opportunity to make something joyfully noisy, they usually take it.
Homemade, DIY, maker instruments come in all different sizes and types — from wood drums to coffee can shakers, to wind chimes to xylophones, it just takes a bit of a Google search to find great ideas.
Once you—parent, teacher, facilitator —get your “legs” for developing and encouraging Maker projects, why not expand your skills?
By now you’ve seen what you and what your kids can do. You’ve probably worked out how to efficiently manage the classroom and supplies, and document learning. Kick it up a level consider some more advanced projects incorporating electricity.
Electromagnets illustrate the connection between electricity and magnetism.
In real life, electromagnets are the cornerstone of many common electrical devices, such as door bells, burglar alarms, car doors and electric motors. Students can fiddle with them to create small toys that can pick up ferrous objects.
Tools: Hot plate, or stove, and pots, wire snips or scissors.
Squishy circuits are a fun way to learn and explore the basics of electricity and electrical circuits and they solve one of the biggest conundrums with younger Makers: how to build with real electronic components when the young hands have yet to develop the fine motor skills to connect relatively small parts together via grown up tools?
Play dough! Take a piece of flour and a small collection of electronic parts (which you can find online at a low cost.)
You can get all the deets for this project HERE.
Arduino, Raspberry Pi, MakeyMakey Controller Boards
Anything you can get your hands on: Tinfoil, wires
Tools: Pliers, scissors, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, MakeyMakey
Once the students have made a few electronic circuits, they might ask for something a bit more complicated.
Give them a programmable microcontroller board, which they can use to play a banana piano, design a custom video game controller or create a dance floor that can play different songs with each tile.
Check out these great microcontroller projects HERE!