Over the past couple of years, we’ve talked a lot about the benefits of integrating the arts into core subjects like math and science. We’ve also explored how educational curricula, like STEAM, are important in nurturing problem-solving skills and knowledge retention. This time we took a look at the advantages of integrating art and makerspaces.
What are makerspaces?
Makerspace labs are physical spaces where students can engage in hands-on, creative projects. Students are encouraged to design, develop and construct, while immersing themselves in all subjects, including science, math, tinkering and engineering, in addition to history, geography etc.
A good makerspace should allow students to incorporate a range of materials, topics and skills. For example, a computer lab alone does not make up a complete makerspace. Adding other arenas, such as art materials, welding, woodshop, textiles, clayworks motivates students to invent, explore and discover innovative ways of creating. Makerspaces can be designed for preschoolers or adults alike, with large or small budgets. Materials can range from craft goods, like construction paper, cardboard, wooden blocks, felt and glue to robotics, digital design tools, kinetic machines, textile and woodworking. Your classes’ makerspaces should be designed to fulfill your students’ potentials.
How can I integrate art into my classes’ makerspace?
Integrating art is much easier than you think. Provide your students with art materials, such as crayons, markers, paints, pastels or clays. If your students are building physical models, have them decorate them. For example, if your class is creating wooden models of the solar system, let the students choose to paint them in abstract or realist form. If your class is making robots, or kinetic machines, have them first create their design digitally to 3D print or create from other materials later.
A fairly obvious, but often overlooked truth is that artists are indeed makers. The right tools and support will allow your students to tap into their curiosity, creativity and wonder, engage — and best of all — have fun while doing it!
Here’s a couple of fun makerspace ideas to get you started
Wind turbine design challenge
Here’s a fun makerspace challenge that your class can enter for a chance to win $50! Together, your class can research wind turbines and how they work. Then, as a class, or in groups, students should invent, design and construct a working prototype of their turbine. The entries will be judged based on the creativity, quality and performance of the turbine.
A great way to integrate arts and creativity into this challenge is shown through the Arts & Bots Project. Sue Mellon’s class used poetry to animate their robotic creations. Will your turbines be reading Poe?
Make your own interactive book
Makey Makey lets your students design their own interactive books. Your students can brainstorm a story for whichever topics you are covering in class (history, literature etc). Your students can program their stories, using a digital tool like Scratch.
Then, using construction paper, your students can physically write and decorate their books. You’ll need to include a conductor in your book with a material, such as graphite or aluminum tape, to play trigger Scratch. Finally, connect your book to Makey Makey to make your story come alive!
Upcycle coffee bag abacus
Many teachers might even be too young to have had an abacus in their classes growing up. However, it doesn’t mean that they can’t revive the classic way of counting. Teachers can get empty coffee bags from their local coffee shops to make upcycle beads with. Students can use wooden skewers (as the columns of the abacus) to stack their beads on. Skewers can be glued to small, rectangular wooden planks, or any other materials you have in your makerspace of a similar shape and size.
Does your class have any creative makerspace project that you want to share with other schools around the world? Showcase them on a dedicated makerspace gallery on Creatubbles.