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Makerspaces are such a great idea, yet Makerspace ideas can be difficult to come up with! The educational benefits are huge and they’re a lot of fun. If you’re lucky enough to have a Makerspace in your school or classroom, you’ll know how effective they are at engaging learners, keeping them on task, and facilitating a deeper understanding of STEM subject areas. But you’ll also know how much work they are – ensuring that your makerspace lesson plans have proper ties to the curriculum, have the appropriate materials for all students, and of course, trying to keep the area organized and tidy! It’s all very time consuming and we know that teachers already have enough on their plate. We’ve put together some of the best lesson plans to get you started with new Makerspace ideas.
A Makerspace is an area where students can get creative. It’s about designing, planning, inventing, and experimenting.
Time in a Makerspace shouldn’t be too structured – students need the freedom to try different things, make mistakes, and explore different options. But teachers usually want to provide some sort of framework around Makerspace activities. Whether you’ve given them an open-ended project or something more specific, use these lesson plans for inspiration for your young makers. Have fun!
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LEGO Simple Machines
A big box of LEGO bricks is a staple of most Makerspaces and with good reason. LEGO is perfect for building and designing and it’s easy to take apart and reuse. The LEGO Education website has lots of lesson plans on offer and you’ll find one to suit your students’ age and ability. I like the Simple Machines Maker Activities but there’s a whole range for you to choose from.
The Simple Machines maker project asks students to design things like a digital accessory (eg. a mobile phone holder), a wearable item (like a cool armband) or a mechanical toy. The lesson plans focus on the design process as well as having students present their work and evaluate it. The lessons may require a few other simple materials like cardboard or rubber bands but I found them to be practical and easy to implement.
This lesson from Babble Dabble Do looks at kinetic and stored energy and is perfect for a Makerspace. Stixplosions doesn’t require a lot of material (just craft sticks, rubber bands, and wooden blocks) and it shouldn’t take long to set up. It’s perfect if you don’t have a lot of time (in fact, students will be able to do most of it themselves) and well suited to elementary school.
Setting up a few levers together sets of a chain reaction of flying blocks that students will love. Once they’ve gone through the process with you once they’ll be able to continue experimenting on their own. The lesson plan is a great Maker resource, with lots of ideas about how they could do that like doubling the sticks or varying the rubber bands. Simple fun but great for experimentation!
I love the idea of making robots from recycled materials. Often, these projects can get expensive, so anything that uses old materials is a winner with me! Science Buddies have a simple lesson on how to turn them into little robots (Building Junkbots – Robots from Recycled Materials) and students of all ages would get right into it. We think their perfect maker projects for middle school.
Science Buddies do suggest buying their kit for this project but I think you could do it using your own STEM and Makerspace resources. The ‘digging deeper’ section of this lesson plan is especially useful. It explains why the robots worked as they did and provide some good options for exploring the topic further. Very well done!
Stuffed Toy Furniture
This is such a good idea for design technology and I think students would really engage with the project (particularly if they were allowed to bring in their own stuffed toy!). Makerspace4teachers.com takes you through their Design Furniture for a Stuffed Animal project including a suggested book to share as an introductory activity and the full brainstorming, planning, and reflection stages.
You could make this project as detailed or as simple as you like. Wrap it up in one session or have students spend more time on it over a multi-day learning experience to create a more complex piece. Lots of problem solving and experimentation to be done with Makerspace idea.
Paper Airplane Challenge
You might need a bit of outside space for this one as your students try their planes outside. kidsactivities.com takes you through a Paper Airplane Science Project with a twist. They suggest taping coins to the planes to see whose plane can carry the most “cargo”. If coins will be a problem in your classroom you could always use counters or some other items. There are visual instructions on how to make a paper airplane and also a video to watch but depending on your students’ skill levels you might choose to just let them come up with their own design!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Makerspace?
A Makerspace is simply a room or even a corner of a classroom where students are free to get creative. It’s a space where students can make their ideas come alive with planning, testing, and exploring. The materials will be different in each Makerspace. Some spaces will be very high tech, others quite low tech (think craft materials), and others a mixture of both.
What sort of activities should I do in a Makerspace?
Activities can be as structured or unstructured as you like! Some classrooms use a Makerspace as part of their lessons while other schools use them as an extra-curricular lunchtime or after school activity. If you’re setting a task for students you can make it quite open-ended or give them a specific challenge to work on.
What are the benefits of a Makerspace?
Creativity is the big winner here. Makerspaces are all about innovation and imagination and letting students go wild with their ideas. Problem-solving is also a big part of it though and collaboration is always encouraged. Kids who gravitate towards hands-on learning will really do well in a Makerspace but all students will be able to develop their skills in the STEM key learning areas.
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