Discover The Learning Power of a Makerspace Classroom

Kai Frazier
October 4, 2022

Have you ever made a volcano out of paper-mâché at school? Or turned on a light bulb with two wires and a potato? If you have, you've probably participated in a makerspace classroom activity. 

Makerspaces are inspired by the fact that young minds can explore new ideas and learn through hands-on projects and experiences. They've been around since arts and crafts corners at libraries became popular in the late 1800s and have continued to evolve into various settings and use cases over time.

Today's generation has grown up with technology and methodology transforming how we learn and think. One of these changes is the growth of makerspace classrooms in schools across America. Of course, makerspaces have always played a role in the classroom. Still, technological advancements and a new focus on innovation and collaboration have brought makerspaces to the forefront of education. 

This new school of thought has resulted in makerspaces and VR learning platforms, like Kai XR, popping up around the country. Researchers have begun to recognize the critical role makerspaces can play in engaging students in valuable science and engineering practices such as designing and solving problems. Educators are beginning to take note. We believe VR and makerspaces are the future of education.

If the idea of a makerspace classroom has sparked your interest, keep reading! We want to help you get set up.

In this article, we'll explore: 

  • What makerspaces are
  • Benefits of makerspaces
  • Elements of good makerspaces 
  • Kai XR Create

Let's jump in!

What is a Makerspace? 

Makerspace.com defines makerspace as "a collaborative work space inside a school, library, or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring, and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools." 

Making is an essential part of learning, and a makerspace allows students to explore their interests in their own way. In addition, a makerspace offers students a chance to draw on the creativity of others. It's a place where students can share and use their talents and skills to create, invent, collaborate and make things – all while having fun! At least, that's how we define it.

So, what qualifies as a makerspace?

Any collaborative learning environment where students learn by doing. By crafting and creating, kids develop skills that can be used across disciplines and throughout their lives. Makerspaces provide opportunities for students to explore their interests, discover new passions, and develop problem-solving skills. Educators can use makerspaces to teach academic content while developing crucial 21st century learning skills like collaboration, creativity, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

Makerspaces can be found in schools, libraries, museums, community centers, and even at home. 

Essentially, it's a learning lab that allows students to learn by doing. In a makerspace environment, students can access tools, materials, and technologies they may not typically have in their classrooms or homes. Students can use these resources to create innovative products or prototypes they can take home or share with friends and family members.

The following examples illustrate some of the many ways schools have used makerspaces to encourage student learning. 

Computer Science & Engineering Lab

The idea behind makerspaces is simple: give students the resources they need to explore, create and learn new things. A makerspace can be any classroom that encourages student curiosity through hands-on learning experiences. Computer science and engineering labs are the perfect examples of a technology-based makerspace. The classroom is usually filled with various types of technology—including 3D printers, robotics kits, and coding supplies—but it doesn't have to be limited by these materials alone.

Let's look at a real-life computer science and engineering lab example. 

A computer science program at Virginia Tech has created an advanced robotics course that teaches students how to design and build autonomous robots using Arduino microcontrollers and open-source software like ROS (Robot Operating System). The course requires students to develop their own ideas for projects before starting work on them in the lab, so they know exactly what they want to build before beginning construction. Then, the lab provides all the tools necessary for the students to execute their plans for the project. 

Engineering & Innovation Makerspaces 

Engineers and innovators need a lot of space and tools to tinker with different projects. That's why they're the perfect use-case for a makerspace! These days, finding a major university without an engineering-focused makerspace on campus is challenging. 

In this kind of makerspace, students are equipped with various tools to help them create products and prototypes. Take a look at the Rutgers Makerspace in New Jersey as an example. Any faculty, staff, or student of Rutgers University can access the Rutgers Makerspace for various DIY projects.

Some examples of equipment in an engineering makerspace include: 

  • 3D printers
  • laser cutters
  • CNC milling machines
  • woodshop tools
  • textiles

With the proper skill set and an entrepreneurial spirit, the world is your oyster in an engineering and innovation makerspace! 

Creative Makerspace

STEM-related fields of study aren't the only ones that benefit from the concept of a makerspace. Creatives can also take part in makerspace activities at an art studio. Whether they want to build a sculpture entirely from LEGOs or need ample space for a fiber art project, students can thrive creatively in an arts-centered makerspace. 

One great example of a makerspace incorporating the arts is Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL. In this makerspace, students can use the standard tools one might expect in a makerspace: Snap Circuits, littleBits, and Spheros. Additionally, the space features a LEGO Wall, k'nex, a whiteboard wall, and plenty of arts and crafts materials. All students are welcome to come, create, and collaborate, no matter their interests. 

Artistic thinking thrives in creative makerspaces! 

Now that we have a better understanding of what a makerspace could look like, let's talk more about the benefits of a classroom makerspace. 

The Benefits of Makerspaces in the Classroom  

According to the 2018 Speak Up survey by Project Tomorrow, 31% of schools already have a makerspace of some sort, and 23% plan to implement one. That's because parents, administrators, and community members see makerspaces as valuable preparation for college and career readiness. 

The same survey identified the top five benefits of makerspaces for student learning: 

  1. Developing creativity skills
  2. Developing critical thinking and problem solving
  3. Applying knowledge to practical problems
  4. Collaborating with other students
  5. Gaining confidence in their abilities

21st century skills like those listed above are needed to succeed in today's world. These kinds of skills set students up to improve their competencies in the following areas: 

  • Global awareness
  • Financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy
  • Civic literacy
  • Health literacy
  • Environmental literacy

Makerspaces get students excited about learning because they make learning fun. In addition, it's a powerful way to keep students directly engaged rather than daydreaming during a lecture. With real-life scenarios where students can witness the consequences of their decisions in real-time, kids will be more likely to focus on the lesson and absorb the information. 

In a makerspace, students can go from learners to innovators. 

Makerspace Topics for Every Subject 

Generally speaking, most makerspaces are centered around science and engineering. However, makerspaces can relate to a wide variety of topics for every area of an educator's curriculum. 

Let's take a look at lesson ideas for four core subject areas: 

  1. Language arts 
  2. History
  3. Physics/engineering 
  4. Social studies 

Language arts is centered around storytelling, so why not challenge your students to create a virtual world or a play that tells a story about their lives? Whether virtual or physical, students can create the setting for their story to focus on developing descriptive details. 

Traditionally, history is associated with remembering dates, influential figures, and events. It's generally less interactive than other subjects. However, you can infuse a little excitement and engagement into this subject with a makerspace! Have your students build a model of ancient Rome or 3D print historic buildings. This can help them demonstrate their understanding of essential elements of culture and society during that time while allowing them to lean into their creativity. 

Regarding science, topics related to physics and engineering are a great place to emphasize with a makerspace. Whether you challenge students to make a remote control car out of cardboard, glue, and an Arduino board; or have them construct a roller coaster leveraging the concept of centrifugal force, hands-on learning through trial and error is a great way to solidify science lessons. 

Social studies is another topic typically taught through textbooks, lectures, or documentaries. How can you incorporate a hands-on element? Try challenging your students to make a physical or virtual diorama that illustrates their understanding of critical social studies concepts. 

The best thing about makerspaces is that they also infuse creativity into lessons for the teacher! So let's take a look at makerspace classroom ideas so you can get started!

Analog Makerspaces 

There are two kinds of makerspace classroom designs: analog and digital. 

An analog—or low-tech—makerspace means the projects and tools are tactile. Students use tangible materials to build something. For example, using foam tubing, popsicle sticks, and a Matchbox car to create a roller coaster ramp. 

Benefits of an analog makerspace include: 

  • More sensory stimulation: students can see, hear, feel, and (maybe even) smell their projects. 
  • Affordable to set up: Many essential tools needed in a makerspace are household items or affordable parts you can get from the store. 

When creating an analog makerspace in your classroom, you'll want to consider what kind of lessons you'd like to teach, how much space you have, and what tools you'll need. Here's a list of a few items you'll want to consider including in your makerspace: 

  1. Movable furniture to allow for different types of projects
  2. A cart to organize tools
  3. Collaborative tools like a whiteboard for planning a project
  4. Craft supplies like scissors, tape, cardboard, magnets, etc.
  5. Legos 
  6. 3D printer 

Get creative based on your budget. The intent of your makerspace and how much money you have to work with will inform your decisions regarding building your makerspace. Remember, you can add to it over time! 

Digital Makerspaces 

In contrast to analog makerspaces, digital makerspaces take learning online. It's a collaboration space hosted entirely on a computer, where students can engage in technology-forward projects like building a metaverse environment or learning to code. As a result, Digital makerspaces are becoming one of the top tech tools for teachers

While a digital makerspace can support a curriculum for any subject, it is especially great for developing information, communication, and technology (ICT) skills. 

Benefits of a digital makerspace include: 

  • Ability to leverage virtual reality to become fully immersed in a project 
  • Ability to explore possibilities beyond the capabilities of the physical classroom

When thinking about setting up a digital makerspace, there are a few routes you can take:

  • Leverage technologies like robotics parts to mix the digital and physical worlds
  • Use the metaverse to create virtual spaces where students can create
  • Set up code bases to help students see how different coding languages can manipulate their experiences

The best part about a digital makerspace is there's no clean-up! 

Introducing Kai XR Create 

Kai XR has gained recognition as a leading virtual reality field trip platform. Still, as we have seen the metaverse grow in popularity and capabilities, the opportunity to create a digital makerspace was hard to ignore!

Introducing: Kai XR Create!

We created a place where students can dream big and build a virtual space that showcases their creativity in the metaverse. With Kai XR Create, students can camp in a virtual forest, touch down on the moon, or build a city, all before lunch. Our new educator-friendly drag & drop metaverse makerspace makes 21st century skills easy to teach and fun to learn. 

Kai XR Create provides the space and tools students need to create their dream world in six different settings: 

  1. Empty space
  2. Forest scene
  3. Building blocks
  4. Snowy scene
  5. Outer Space
  6. City scene

(We're offering access to our Kai XR Create Beta Test for free until end of September 2022) 

Kai XR Create allows students to create their virtual worlds in the metaverse. This new immersive experience helps students develop their spatial intelligence and digital skills in a gamified way. Students can drag and drop different elements in these worlds to create their own reality in the metaverse. There's no advanced coding knowledge required, so it's great for students ages 14 and under! 

Here are a few examples of ways students can interact with the platform: 

  • Rotate - Turn any object 360 degrees
  • Scale - Change the size of any object
  • 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
  • Asset textures - Change the features of a selected object 

At Kai XR, we're passionate about accessibility. That's why we designed Kai XR Create to be used on tablets, smartphones, and regular laptops like a Chromebook—which many other makerspaces cannot operate on.

More About Kai XR

Kai XR was created by a group of educators, dreamers, and technologists dedicated to building the future of education to inspire the next generation of innovators. To support our mission to bridge the gap between technology and access while empowering students to build the future they want to see, we created an experiential learning platform where children can tinker, test, and toy with new experiences.

We recognize the benefits of virtual field trips. We pair 360° immersive experiences with critical thinking prompts to help them develop 21st century learning skills. Through experiential learning, students develop the skills to ask better questions, make better decisions, and draw conclusions about the world around them. Through exposure to cultures around the world, they also develop the ability to understand, respect, and work well with others from diverse backgrounds. 

Some of our favorite virtual field trips include: 

  • Traveling to Australia to dive in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Explore the Dreams of Artist Salvador Dali 
  • Exploring Sustainable Energy at a Wind Farm
  • Bringing People Together with Music from Major Lazer 

Kai XR is perfect for schools, libraries, STEM/STEAM centers, after-school programs, summer camps & more! Schedule your demo to get started! 

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