What is a Makerspace? The Future of Classroom Learning is Collaborative

Kai Frazier
November 8, 2022

In many scenarios, the best way to learn is by doing—and that type of learning is at the center of a makerspace. 

Hands on learning provides unique opportunities that allow learners to apply creativity and strategy to existing concepts or problems. 

But how can educators provide this type of hands-on learning, especially when it comes to concepts that are more abstract? 

We invite you to enter the educational makerspace. 

What is a Makerspace? Here’s an Intro to Makerspaces in Education 

The classroom is no longer limited to textbook learning and traditional school supplies. As students are increasingly tech-savvy, there are more opportunities to introduce different methods of learning 21st century skills

Makerspaces are workspaces where people with common interests can meet, socialize, and collaborate on shared interests. The maker movement in education is based in hands-on learning through building things.

Makerspaces allow students to tinker, problem-solve, or to  "learn through play." Educators can create guided activities that have a purpose, but that are not single-mindedly focused on the end result.   

Typically, makerspaces, also known as hackerspaces, are used to explore interests in STEAM, like:

  • Computers
  • Machining
  • Science
  • Digital art
  • Electronic art

Makerspaces became popularized throughout Germany in the late 1990s with the Chaos Computer Club, Germany’s largest association of hackers. 

At their core, makerspaces are hands-on solutions that encourage students to design, experiment, tinker, and invent concepts. Makerspaces make room for uninhibited creativity and collaboration.   

Makerspaces are a perfect way to integrate tough concepts with hands-on learning. Unlike some technology-based learning that happens in the classroom, makerspaces can be customized to fit any classroom. Makerspaces do not require 5G internet access and VR-enabled devices. They can be as analog or as digital as resources allow. 

For example, while some makerspaces are designed to act as science labs, others can be thoughtfully designed to teach a number of concepts and accommodate a wide range of activities, including (but not limited to!):

  • Paper-based construction
  • Prototyping
  • Sewing
  • Electronics 
  • Robotics
  • Building kinetic machines 
  • Metalworking
  • Arts & Crafts

Makerspaces are a great way to awaken learning in students who excel in hands-on activity. Let’s talk about the maker mindset. 

What is a Maker Mindset? 

A Maker Mindset describes a student with an unabashed dedication to learn without fear and without boundaries.

Makerspaces encourage this mindset by allowing students to dive into doing, rather than finding themselves lost in theory or concept. They teach collaboration as the key part of the journey.  The most powerful educational makerspaces focus on the collaborative aspect of learning. They teach students to both consult and assist one another as they navigate their makerspace. 

Learning in a maker mindset also helps students to develop important life skills, like:

  • Resilience
  • Confidence
  • Self-reflection
  • Creativity

Resilience: Makers learn that failure is only the middle of the story, where they learn what doesn’t work, and try what could work better. 

Confidence: Makers learn how to collaborate with others. This means that one maker knows when how to actively listen to others and when they can take command with their own strengths, 

Self-Reflection: Makers learn their strengths and weaknesses. Even better, they learn that weaknesses aren’t inflexible or set in stone. Students learn how to work with their strengths, when to lean on their classmates’ strengths, and how a collaborative team works together. 

Creativity: Last, but certainly not least, a maker mindset fosters boundless creativity. There are no problems that cannot be solved with a little tinkering and a whole lot of creativity. 

Why Are Makerspaces Important? 4 Huge Benefits of Makerspaces in the Classroom 

Now that we’ve introduced you to makerspaces, let’s explore why they are so important in the modern classroom. There are four main benefits:

  1. Makerspaces introduce expert concepts in non-expert environments
  2. Makerspaces allow educators to scale STEAM education quickly + efficiently
  3. Makerspaces allow parents and educators to introduce project-based learning 
  4. Makerspaces teach cognitive competencies alongside technical and hard skills

Makerspaces Introduce Expert Concepts in Non-Expert Environments 

Many young learners acquire their first limiting beliefs early in their education. Limiting beliefs describe the state of mind or belief about yourself that restricts you in some way. Some common limiting beliefs that happen in early education include statements like: 

  • “I’m not good at math.”
  • “I am bad at reading comprehension.”
  • “I just don’t understand science.”
  • “Building things is too difficult for me.”

When students are introduced to limiting beliefs like these at a young age, it immediately shuts down hundreds of learning paths that should remain open to every student. 

Makerspaces are great tools to ensure that limiting beliefs do not develop in the classroom. 

Makerspaces Allow Educators to Scale STEAM Education 

STEAM learning has two distinct layers. First, STEAM learning allows students to achieve their fullest potential in learning new concepts. Just as importantly, it provides a way to learn important life skills and interpersonal skills to bring into the world beyond the classroom 

Uncoincidentally, these are the two strongest elements of makerspace learning, too. 

The idea of introducing and scaling STEAM education in the classroom can seem daunting, expensive, and impossible to some educators. STEAM learning might conjure images of beakers, electrodes, and complicated machines and other digital tools for the classroom

However, makerspaces are the perfect means to introduce and scale STEAM learning with hands-on activities. Makerspaces, by definition, do not necessarily need to be equipped with the tools and components to build a robot. Instead, makerspaces can be made with paper, scissors, and many of the school supplies already present in many classrooms. 

As students tinker with their physical makerspaces, they also work together to improve their curiosity, innovation, and problem-solving. 

This innate interest makes progression to more advanced topics an easier journey. With highly-engaged, motivated, and curious students, STEAM education opens the world up to students. Suddenly, instead of slogging through written reports on scientific topics, students are pushing for more hand-on activities to tinker with in their own makerspaces. 

Some starter STEAM education makerspace projects can include:

Makerspaces Allow Parents and Educators to Introduce Project-Based Learning 

Project-based learning has been a cornerstone of early education for ages. Project-based learning emphasizes the importance of the project as the center. The participating students construct the knowledge and learnings around the project, [“rather than…”]. 

This system circumvents the classic scenario wherein one student does the bulk of the work while the other students take the ride-along A+ grade. 

Project-based learning can soar when combined with collaborative makerspaces. Makerspaces solve the problems associated with typical project-based learning assignments. 

Common Mistakes in Project-Based Learning:

  • Project Problem: Projects too cumbersome for the group’s skills 
  • Makerspace Solution: Projects are designed for the entire group’s collective and collaborative mind
  • Project Problem: A focus on the outcome of the project, rather than the steps to get there
  • Makerspace Solution: Students are encouraged to explore the process instead of being laser-focused on an end project. 
  • Project Problem: Having one set route to complete the project
  • Makerspace Solution: With an emphasis on process rather than final project, there are a variety of routes for groups to take in order to achieve the final goal. 

With thoughtful makerspace project-based learning, students must work together in real-time to use their problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and other social emotional skills to work together. Furthermore, when the projects are created at a physical makerspace, there is a lesser chance that one student takes over the bulk of the work. 

Makerspace projects encourage students to actively work together and to resist the urge to look only towards completion as the goal. Makerspaces allow students to enjoy the action of making, especially when working as a team. 

Makerspaces Teach Cognitive Competencies Alongside Technical and Hard Skills

One of the most challenging sets of skills to teach in the classroom is not math, nor science. 

It’s those tough-to-define but impossible-to-ignore life skills that set students on the road to success. Rather than a complicated algorithm, it’s a student’s ability to listen to directions. Rather than a textbook knowledge of a physics theory,  it’s a learner’s new and creative solution to an old problem.

Makerspaces, in their focus on the process, encourage students to learn hard skills alongside cognitive competencies. 

Cognitive Competencies That Thrive in Makerspaces:

  • Creative thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Sustained attention
  • Intuition
  • Perception
  • Imagination
  • Creativity

Beyond these cognitive competencies, students learn important life skills like resilience, problem-solving, creativity, confidence, flexibility, and the list goes on.

How Makerspaces Are Used In Classrooms

Makerspaces in classrooms can look drastically different, depending on a variety of factors. Since the primary goal of a makerspace is to foster learning through inquiry and problem-solving, the materials used can be far-ranging. 

Makerspace materials can range from your everyday popsicle sticks and clay to 3D modelers and laser cutters. 

Depending on the ages of the students, their competencies, and the resources available, classroom makerspaces can be very different. Here are a few examples of makerspaces, the materials they might hold, and the lessons that can be taught in these physical, hands-on learning stations. 

Technology-Free Makerspaces 

For a younger classroom or a classroom with limited resources, a technology-free makerspace is a great starting point to introduce STEAM learning to young minds. 

Starting a makerspace is an exciting opportunity for an educator or a parent. The first and most important aspect of a makerspace is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a dedicated space for it. No matter what kind of makerspace you’re building, creating the space for the collaboration to happen is the first key step. 

The next step is in gathering tools and materials for your makerspace.  A makerspace does not need expensive gizmos and gadgets to be great. Your beginner, technology-free makerspace can teach STEAM subjects with materials like:

  • Cardboard
  • Duct tape
  • Clay
  • Legos
  • Yarn 

Research beginner makerspace ideas to get your makerspace rolling—and to start introducing meaningful collaboration within your technology-free makerspace! 

Digital Makerspaces 

Digital makerspaces are open online platforms where students can work together on project-based learning and create within an endless metaverse. 

As robotics, electronics, and software development become a bigger part of schools, digital makerspaces exist to expand learning beyond the capabilities of a traditional classroom.  In digital makerspaces, students can solve problems within a digital environment of their own design.

For example, maker and DIY-focused apps and websites can help budding engineers design, prototype, and build virtually anything. With digital makerspaces, the possibilities are quite literally endless. 

For educators and students looking for more introductory makerspaces without an advanced knowledge of coding, Kai XR’s digital makerspace is the perfect introductory makerspace. 

Some of the basic functionalities offered in our digital makerspace include: 

  • Orbit: Click and drag to move around your scene
  • Fly: In play mode, click a location for your avatar to appear
  • Translate:  Move an object along its x, y, or z axis
  • Rotate: Turn any object 360º degrees
  • Scale: Change the size of any object
  • Asset textures: Change the features of a selected object

Our makerspace classroom  allows students to create their own makerspaces anywhere—from the surface of the moon to the floor of a forest. A student can use this makerspace to plan a future family camping trip by placing tents, campfires, and picnic tables. A student can also use digital makerspace like this to plan their own city, with street lights, small businesses, and roadways. 

With Kai XR Create, students can learn to design in 3D, collaborate remotely, and navigate the metaverse, all in one makerspace that fits into their hands. 

Besides our makerspace, we also offer hundreds of virtual field trips that allow students to explore landscapes, places, and moments in history through VR learning. Some of the virtual field trips offered include: 

  • Our Solar System Virtual Field Trip: Investigate the cosmos during an afternoon in outer space.
  • Rescuing Rhinos Virtual Field Trip: Get an up-close view of one of the world’s most endangered species, and learn about the conservation efforts to protect these massive creatures.
  • The Great Barrier Reef Virtual Field Trip: Dive into the Pacific Ocean to see this colorful, underwater ecosystem.
  • The Washington Monument Virtual Field Trip: Visit the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., and learn about the history behind this iconic site.
  • Aerospace Engineering Virtual Field Trip: Learn about the incredible job of an aerospace engineer as they work to develop the tech that takes humans to space.
  • Starry Night Virtual Field Trip: Step into Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” to see the famous painting from a new perspective.
  • Earthquake Virtual Field Trip: Learn about the incredible power of an earthquake by witnessing how these destructive forces change the Earth’s surface.
  • Cells Virtual Field Trip: Shrink down to a cellular level to investigate the building blocks of all living things.

There are a number of digital makerspaces that are gaining popularity both in and outside of the classroom. 

How to Find a Makerspace Near Me 

Whether you’re looking to create your own makerspace or participate in one nearby, it’s great to see what other makers are working on in their own makerspaces.  

Makerspaces are hubs for enhanced collaboration and creativity. Find some of the best makerspaces, both physical and digital, as inspiration to create your own. The maker's movement is rapidly growing, with no signs of slowing down. Learn more about local makerspaces and how to find makers gathering for children, teens, and adults. 

Makerspaces in Classrooms

While you’re not likely to be allowed entry to any classroom to use their makerspaces, there are many schools that have after school makerspaces

For parents and educators looking to promote makerspaces in their children’s schools, an after school program is a great way to gauge interest and tinker with different makerspace ideas. 

Public Library Makerspaces

If you’re looking for makerspaces that are accessible to anyone, head to your local library

Libraries are an ideal home for makerspaces and makerspace events across the country. Many libraries have community resources like software, crafting supplies, and electronics for makers to commune and create. 

If your library does not have a makerspace, consider speaking with your local librarian about the many benefits of library makerspaces and how it could help your entire community. 

Create Makerspaces at Home 

If you’re looking to create a makerspace in your home, you can customize it from end to end. Home-based makerspaces offer great opportunities for you and your loved ones to spend time together bonding through creative projects. 

There are endless makerspace home activities to try—from fort-building to building your very own sail car. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination and your willingness to explore! 

Introducing Your New Makerspace at Kai XR

Kai XR Create is a drag-and-drop digital makerspace where your students can reach for the stars, touch down on the moon, and build a town that’s out of this world—all from their desks.

Unlike other digital makerspaces, Kai XR Create doesn’t require students to know advanced coding in order to build their own virtual environments and interfaces. It is an easy-to-use platform that enables students to learn the basics of building, exploring, and problem-solving in metaverse makerspaces in an easy-to-use, accessible environment.

Head over to our Makerspace to start creating today.

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There’s so much for you and your students to explore. All you need to do is start. Try out Kai XR on your smart device, tablet, VR headset, or laptop. We’ll be your guide!

In memory of my sunshine, Ky(ra) G. Frazier. Love you to the moon and back.