Sunday, November 1, 2015

Free Resources to Support Your Makerspace

The embracement of the maker movement is being seen in K-12 schools and districts across the world. As a result, makerspaces are being instituted to allow students to tinker, invent, create, and make to learn.  A makerspace can best be defined as a physical place where students can create real-world products/projects using real-world tools in a shared work space. With natural connections and applications to STEAM areas as well as a focus on self-directed, inquiry-based, and hands on learning, it is difficult not to appreciate and admire the positive impact that makerspaces can have on all students. In times when many schools and districts have cut programs such as wood/metal shop and agriculture, makerspaces provide a 21st Century alternative to meet the learning needs of our most at-risk students.  


Image credit: http://www.digitalharbor.org

There is no need to reinvent the wheel here, as there are many resources available. For a curated list of online resources related to makerspaces check out this Pinterest board. To learn more in depth about the concepts associated with making be sure to purchase the book World’s of Making by Laura Fleming and check out her website. It has everything you need to get started, including suggested items to outfit the space. She also has generated a step-by-step flow chart that will assist you in your makerspace planning. 

Initially, planning will cost some money and that is unavoidable. However, once you have established your makerspace and outfitted it with key items and tools there are many free resources available for you to take advantage of.  Below I will briefly describe some of the key makerspace items to purchase and then free resources that will help you and your students maximize the expense.  The items include Raspberry Pi, littleBits, MaKey MaKey, Arduino, and MinecraftEdu. Descriptions have been pulled from the respective website of each product.

Raspberry Pi

This is a low cost, credit card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python.  Teach, learn, and make with Raspberry Pi’s free learning resources.

littleBits

This is a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that empower you to invent anything from your own remote controlled car to a smart home device. The Bits snap together with magnets - no soldering, no wiring, no programming needed. These magnets are great for prototyping and learning. littleBits provides an array of free lessons (beginner, intermediate, advanced) for different grades and subject areas. 

MaKey MaKey

I love MaKey MaKey and so will your students!  It is an invention kit for the 21st century that allows you to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the Internet.  The simple Invention Kit is perfect for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between. Each kit comes with a MaKey MaKey, Alligator Clips, USB Cable. Be sure to check out these free lesson plans 

Arduino

This is an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. An arduino is commonly referred to as a microcontroller that can be used for building digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control the physical world.  This has been the brain of thousands of projects, from everyday objects to complex scientific instruments. HERE is a fantastic tutorial that will assist you and your students create maker projects using arduino.  For even more information visit Arduino Classroom

MinecraftEdu

To put it bluntly, Minecraft is overtaking the world and the game is beloved by students of all ages.  I commonly refer to it as “Legos on steroids.” It is a sandbox independent video game where players dig (mine) and build (craft) different kinds of 3D blocks within a large world of varying terrains and habitats to explore. In schools it is being used to teach all kinds of skills and subjects from math to foreign languages to social justice to fair trade.  Getting a MinecraftEdu license and making it available on computers in the makerspace is a fantastic addition to the area.  The MinecraftEdu Wiki has tons of resources ranging from lesson examples, worksheets/handouts, alignment to curricula and standards, and many other nuggets of awesomeness.

I hope you enjoy these free resources and ideas as your makerspace evolves or if you are beginning the process of creating one. If you have any other free resources please provide them in the comments section below.

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