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Makerspace: Embrace the Joy of Making

by Peggy Reimers
8 colorful blocks with the benefits of makerspace listed in the article and the title "8 Benefits of Makerspace".

While the term “makerspace” may have surfaced in the early 2000s, the essence of making has been ingrained in our lives since time immemorial. Don’t let the new terminology confuse you; making has always existed, both in the real world and within the confines of our educational institutions. Back in my school days, we simply referred to it as shop, home economics, photography, or auto-mechanics. But, in today’s world, what is “makerspace?”

What is a Makerspace?

Lori Gracey, Executive Director of TCEA provides the best answer to this question:

Makerspaces provide a place for students to explore questions, bounce ideas off one another, build something together, fail and try again all in a safe, creative, environment.

Lori Gracey, TCEA Executive Director
A quote by TCEA Executive Director, Lori Gracey, answering the question, "What is makerspace?"

What a Makerspace IS:

  • Hands-on and exploratory
  • Fun 
  • Based on student interests 
  • Hard 
  • Filled with experimentation and possible failure 
  • A change in the way we think and teach

What a Makerspace is NOT:

  • Just playtime 
  • Easy 
  • Limiting 
  • Too structured 
  • About buying “cool stuff” 
  • End products that all look the same (not a cookie-cutter approach)

The History of Makerspace

The origin of makerspaces can be traced back to the early 2000s, with some of the earliest examples emerging in the hacker and DIY (Do-It-Yourself) communities. These spaces were created by individuals who wanted to collaborate, share tools, and work on creative projects together. Over time, the concept of makerspaces spread to schools and libraries. 

Making has always been around. We just gave makerspace different names through the years. I took shop class in middle school where I built a knick-knack shelf. I learned how to plant and harvest food from growing up with a backyard garden. From a neighbor, I learned how to crochet, and 45 years later, I still crochet to this very day. As an adult, I have the opportunity to take classes or learn from the expertise of friends. I’ve always been a maker, and I always get such a charge when I design, create, and build.

What are the benefits to students?

Makerspace has so many benefits for students. Let’s take a look at eight of the top ways makerspace helps boost growth, learning, and more.

  1. Develops Resilience. Students are encouraged to learn from failures and persevere.
  2. Engages Diverse Learning Styles. Different learning preferences and strengths are accommodated.
  3. Empowers Student Agency. Students have control over their learning and projects.
  4. Supports Inclusivity. Students of all backgrounds and abilities are welcome.
  5. Increases Motivation. Students are more motivated to learn when they are active participants.
  6. Builds a Maker Community. Connections and networks among students and educators are fostered.
  7. Instills Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning beyond the traditional classroom is cultivated.
  8. Boosts School Culture. A sense of purpose and excitement are added to the learning environment.

So, now you know the basics of makerspaces! But where does one start? TCEA can help you out with this. If I was pinned down to name one tip to get you started, I would say to start small and check out the following resources from TCEA to get you started. 

Makerspace Resources from TCEA

The cover of the free TCEA makerspace ebook, "Ready, Set, Make!"

This ebook is packed with fantastic resources and information including:

  • Background on the goals and benefits of making and how to maximize student creativity and engagement.
  • Great tips and ideas for curating a meaningful makerspace even if you don’t have a lot of resources, storage space, or access to tech.
  • Printable cards for creating activities in 11 different maker stations.

Cultivating a Maker’s Attitude

This blog explores three characteristics of makers! Find out why a “maker attitude” is important when technology, crafts, and engineering intersect.

Starting a Maker Space

Thinking of starting a maker space but don’t really know where to begin? Check out this blog as our Executive Director, Lori Gracey, shares valuable insights into the process.  

An Incredible Maker Resource for Educators Gone Free

If you are a maker student or educator, learn how to get a premium membership for the amazing Instructables website free!

How to  Start a Maker Club at Your School

Michelle Cooper, one of my all-time favorite librarians, shares her experience with her maker club. She offers some tried-and-true tips for starting your own club and finding the resources to keep it going.

Making the Most with Makerspaces Video

Get advice from makerspace librarian, Shirley Dickey, specifically if you are at the High School Level. Check the archived Lunch & Learn webinar, “Making the Most with Makerspaces.” To access the video you must be a TCEA Member. Follow the link to enter TCEA’s online Community. Find the “Resources and Recording” Group and search for the video title. 

Making is a timeless concept, and it has always found its place in our hearts and minds. Whether you’re creating for sheer enjoyment or with a specific purpose in mind, the feeling of satisfaction derived from crafting something with your own hands or through the power of your imagination is simply joy in its purest form. So, let’s embrace the spirit of making and celebrate the age-old art that continues to bring happiness and fulfillment to our lives.

To sum it all up, if you want to make something, like Nike says, “Just do it.” Don’t doubt yourself! Jump in and start. Remember, there are probably ten, 20, 30+ YouTube videos on whatever you want to make. And if you make something, I would love to hear about it! Send me a video, a photo, an email, or a tweet.

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C September 3, 2023 - 2:19 pm

Side note: There is NO University of Montana-Billings. You may want to correct that info.

Peggy Reimers September 3, 2023 - 3:06 pm

My mistake – corrected!

Jade McClure December 7, 2023 - 12:52 pm

So, Fab Lab and Makerspace – one and the same?

Peggy Reimers December 7, 2023 - 12:57 pm

This is my take:
A Fab Lab (Fabrication Laboratory) is a specific type of makerspace that often includes advanced manufacturing equipment like 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC machines. While all Fab Labs are makerspaces, not all makerspaces have the extensive fabrication capabilities typically found in a Fab Lab.


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