A makerspace is a creative work space for designing, making, learning and exploring STEAM based concepts through a variety of media and tools. This space is flexible to have an informal or formal learning approach, but involves exploration of tools, material play, and revision of design to create something with purpose. Learners may develop a variety of crafts, including procedures of woodworking, fiber art, paper and recycled material building, digital resources, electronics and more. Facilitation of projects involve inquiry-based learning, and learners are involved in questioning, reflecting, and contextualizing their work. Makerspaces provide learners with freedom and promote agency to create in an environment that supports their ideas, and encourages iteration for optimal learning outcomes.
Recycled material sculpture is a staple activity for the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Learners are welcomed with an introduction of the activity that is occurring. Usually out on the table is a container of cardboard, scissors (both for cutting paper and cardboard), a few rolls of tape, a container of small miscellaneous supplies like straws and pipe cleaners, yarn and string, an awl for poking holes, and examples of learner or facilitator art. You will also see a rolling device with a few beams tucked in the corner that supports a dozen rolls of tape or so. There is also a large, 3-tiered container full of recycled materials. These materials range from old boxes and plastic storage to forgotten toys, recycled bottles, and small CDs. These materials are donated to the museum fairly often. Lastly, you will find a couple low-temp hot glue guns for use. Orienting children who have never used a hot glue gun before is very important. Once oriented, children are welcome to use them for binding.
I largely gravitate toward facilitating digital arts due to my background in interactive media studies. I love using Adobe products such as Illustrator and Photoshop to create graphics and edit photographs. I also love making movies with IMovie, and using 3D design programs like Maya, and Zbrush. Many of these may seem impossible to facilitate with younger students, but the basic concepts behind these programs can be introduced through simpler programs, or even using a non-digital approach. You shouldn't be intimidated by technology and neither should your students!
You can do a lot with just paper! I learned many tricks by simply experimenting with paper to create flowers. There are hundreds of techniques, these are just a few. I encourage you to relearn some simple projects such as how to make a "cootie catcher" or even a few paper airplanes.
Fiber is a staple activity in the Pittsburgh Children's Museum Makeshop. From weaving to wet felting, there are infinite possibilities with fiber. When a fiber activity is present in the Makeshop, a 3-tiered bin of fabric is often available for visitors to use. Also available are fabric scissors, pins and needles, embroidery floss, thread, chalk for drawing, poly-fil or fabric scraps for stuffing, embroidery hoops, and practice sewing boards. In this post you can see the basics of sewing, embroidery, weaving and knitting. You can easily advance any of these projects for older students by encouraging a more detailed design, a multitude of colors, or a harder technique.