Maker Education

By: Guest Blog Contribution from Kennesaw State University

Maker-centered learning should be at the forefront of education research and pedagogy in the classroom today. In today’s education landscape, teachers who are burdened by standardized testing are not capable of providing students with opportunities to explore, create and be creative. 

Making and creating are at the core of human experience. Humans have been creating tools, art, and machinery for millennia. Our ancient ancestors developed complex societies, conquered engineering challenges and laid the foundations for modern science, philosophy, art, and literature, through the processes of creating, making, and tinkering. Why would we be satisfied with letting our students’ educational experience be centered upon their regurgitation of knowledge? Maker education is striving to be the catalyst for change in helping teachers transform the current classroom structure to refocus on creating experiences for students to learn by doing. Lee Martin (2015) professor at University of California Davis writes,

The Maker Movement is a new phenomenon, but it is built from familiar places, and its relevance to education has deep roots. It has long been argued that children and youth can learn by playing and building with interesting tools and materials. Making and building can foster learning in a variety of ways that mesh with long-established theories of how learning unfolds. (p 31)

What began as tinkering with robots, coding and woodworking in garages for mostly white, middle class men has transitioned into a dynamic and diverse movement in the education field for all students to learn through designing, tinkering, and iterating. One misconception about creating a makerspace is that it requires purchasing expensive equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and coding robots. The truth is, students can have a rich and engaging making experience by using simple household materials. Using readily available materials to make and create allows more students to access the benefits of maker-centered learning. 

The KSU iTeach MakerBus team has launched a series of videos for students to make and create at home. These projects allow teachers to begin lessons or conversations with students about science and engineering. For example, by using two popsicle sticks, a rubber band and a piece of paper, students can create a catapult to learn about force and different types of levers. A simple kazoo can be created by just taking a piece of wax paper and covering one end of a toilet paper roll with a rubber band. In addition to creating music, students will also learn about the science of sound, vibration and resonance.

 Using a common material like cardboard provides teachers with thousands of project ideas. Students can build structures like bridges or towers and test if they can support weight. Have a cardboard challenge with your students to see what they can build and design. Some of the most versatile materials students can build with are the easiest to find such as cardboard, aluminum foil, paper, straws and much more. 

Maker centered learning provides opportunities for students to learn new skills and vocabulary. When students are challenged to design and build, they will also acquire soft skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity and new ways of thinking about the world around them. Check out the iTeach MakerBus team’s MakerEd at Home series on YouTube and follow us on Twitter. For more information about the MakerBus check out our website at https://iteach.kennesaw.edu/

Martin, L. (2015). The Promise of the Maker Movement for Education. Journal of Pre-College    

Engineering Education Research (J-PEER), 5(1), Article 4. https://doi.org/10.7771/2157-9288.1099

Luke Ziegler is the KSU iTeach MakerBus Engagement Manager. He is passionate about helping students and teachers learn through making and creating. He has experience teaching elementary music, 5th grade, high school social studies, and English language learning. Contact Luke at luke@ksuiteach.org