School Makerspace: The New Home Of 21st Century Learning

Kai Frazier
November 8, 2022

Makerspaces in schools are helping transform education — from elementary school classrooms to high school curriculum. They’re one of the top tech tools for the classroom because of their hands-on nature and skills development. A makerspace is a workshop or digital space where students can come together to create and build things, typically focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). These spaces allow students to work collaboratively and make their own project choices. 

Through makerspaces, students gain critical 21st-century skills while preparing for life after graduation. They learn to think critically, collaborate, problem-solve and communicate their ideas effectively. These skills are becoming increasingly important in today's workforce, where employers want employees who are innovative thinkers who can communicate well and work effectively in teams.

Kai XR was created by a group of educators, dreamers, and technologists that saw an opportunity to integrate virtual reality into classrooms. Our mission is about bridging the gap between technology and access by empowering students to build the future they want to see. Kai XR Create, our drag-and-drop digital makerspace classroom, was designed to do just that! But before we highlight how Kai XR Create can help your classroom, we want you to understand better the impact of makerspace education and the steps educators can take to bring a makerspace to their school! 

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • The impact of makerspace education  
  • How makerspaces develop employable skills and close the technology gap
  • The pros and cons of each makerspace type
  • Makerspace resources
  • Makerspace lesson plans

Let’s dig in! 

The Impact of Makerspace Education: 

Starting a makerspace in your school can be daunting. It is a large project that requires a lot of organization and community support. The first step to starting your makerspace is understanding what a makerspace is and why giving your students this opportunity is vital.

In schools, makerspaces are classrooms, labs, or library areas that have been transformed into spaces where students can create, invent, and learn. They are collaborative learning environments that foster creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Makerspaces have been shown to increase student engagement and achievement by providing students with hands-on learning experiences that they cannot get in a traditional classroom setting.

Engaging in makerspace activities inspires a “maker mindset” in students. One researcher at Purdue University frames the “maker mindset” through four elements:

  1. Playful
  2. Asset- and Growth-Oriented
  3. Failure-Positive
  4. Collaborative 

Play, fun, and interest are great ways to motivate students to stay engaged and improve lesson retention. It also establishes a growth mindset, where students are encouraged to believe they can learn to do anything – even if they don’t get it right on the first attempt. The maker mindset also teaches students how to take failures in stride. Unlike most learning settings, the makerspace is failure-positive by considering failure as another part of the creative process. By learning to overcome any obstacles that keep them from succeeding, they improve their knowledge and experience. 

Through the maker mindset, students can develop employable skills and gain exposure to technologies that will be used in their future careers. 

Makerspaces Develop Employable Skills

Did you know that 65% of current second graders will work in jobs that don’t exist today? Makerspaces are one way of developing critical employable skills that can flex to any job the future holds. 

In 2022, LinkedIn announced the top skills to future-proof your career. The list included soft skills like leadership, communication, problem-solving, and time management. They also highlighted hard skills, such as customer service, engineering, finance, and sales. Makerspace activities can help students build soft skills and practice subjects that help prepare them for developing hard skills. 

In a work climate of rapid change, young people will have to learn how to adapt and create. They'll need leadership skills and the ability to work in teams. In addition, design thinking skills are especially important for students facing 21st-century challenges like environmental health and security. Makerspaces can help develop all these skills. 

The interactive nature of makerspaces can integrate social-emotional learning in the classroom while developing 21st-century learning skills. They can leverage their self-awareness and responsible decision-making to think critically about the challenge. When working with a team, they can use their communication skills to collaborate and understand others’ perspectives. Together, they will come to an agreed-upon solution and implement it! 

Students who use tools like 3D printers, CNC machines, Raspberry Pis, or coding languages develop career and technical education (CTE) skills! Developing CTE skills means gaining competencies for success in a particular field or occupation. Experience using CAD Software and CNC Machines can translate to a career in mechanical engineering. Coding a game could lead to a career in a video game or web development career. 

When combined with competencies in core subjects, 21st-century, social-emotional learning, and CTE skills in education, students are set up for success after high school, no matter their path. 

Makerspaces Close the Technology Gap 

In a world where technology is so prevalent, it's hard to imagine what it's like to be without it. And yet, some students do not have access to technology at home.

In 2018, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released a report on the nation’s Technical and Engineering Literacy. The report noted that only 46% of eighth-grade students performed at or above the NAEP’s proficient level, which includes proficiency measured in the following areas: 

  • Technology and society
  • Design and systems
  • Information and communication technology

Everybody knows that there is a technology gap between those who have access to computers and the internet, and those who don’t. Some schools don't have the budget for expensive new gadgets every year or another Chromebook for each child.

Makerspaces close the technology gap in schools by providing a centralized space and opportunities for students to learn how to use technology effectively by creating something instead of simply consuming content. Students who do not have access to technology at home can use makerspaces as an opportunity to explore new technologies that they might not otherwise be able to access at home.

A makerspace can help close the technology gap between schools with access to resources and those without. When students have access to technology tools like 3D printers or laser cutters, they can learn new skills at their own pace and explore more advanced topics than they would otherwise be able to do on computers alone. They can also use these tools as part of group projects and presentations for class assignments.

Kai XR is one of many educational platforms bridging the digital divide and positioning students for success in a rapidly evolving market. We aim to connect 1 million kids with 360˚, AR, VR, and XR technologies by 2030. Our interactive learning platform is perfect for educational programs and schools. We empower kids to dream big and explore the world with a digital makerspace and a library of virtual field trips! 

How to Create a School Makerspace 

It’s clear that makerspaces can play an essential role in preparing students for the workforce and understanding how to use technology. So how can you get one in your school? There are endless options, and we’ll talk you through them. 

One way to assure your students can access an effective makerspace is by considering the key components of makerspace learning

  • Self-directed learning - Students can work independently on a project and learn from their successes and mistakes. 
  • Creativity - Students must leverage innovation and design thinking to arrive at the result. 
  • Exploring new ideas - Through failures and wins, students have the opportunity to think outside of the box. 
  • Learning from failure - No invention was built correctly on the first attempt. Learning from failures is the best way to inspire innovation and motivation. 
  • Learning to focus - With various types of stimuli in a makerspace, students learn to focus on the task at hand. 
  • Communication and collaboration - Students can collaborate in a group makerspace project to share ideas, make compromises, and express themselves. 

Make sure the space gives students the freedom to work together to solve problems with their tools. This is the primary goal of any makerspace, no matter the format. Keep this in mind as you read the following advice on:

  1. Choosing a makerspace
  2. Leveraging the right resources
  3. Creating lesson plans

By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready to bring a makerspace to your school! 

Choose a Makerspace Environment

The first step in creating a successful makerspace is to create an environment where students feel free to make mistakes and experiment with their ideas. When choosing an ideal makerspace environment, educators should consider the pros and cons of the following types: 

A successful materials makerspace has open spaces with plenty of tools and materials for students to use as they see fit. Some common makerspace materials include construction paper, cardboard, scissors, glue, textiles, and clay. A material makerspace is designed to be entirely hands-on and tactile. 

Pros of a material makerspace: 

  • Students have complete control over their output
  • They gain CTE skills for hands-on trades 
  • Perfect for younger students 

Cons of a material makerspace:

  • Doesn’t incorporate technology 
  • Projects require clean up 
  • Students who learn remotely cannot participate  

Digital makerspaces are a digital environment where students can work together or independently to build, interact with, and solve problems. Some digital makerspaces may require basic coding skills, while others offer a drag-and-drop format. 

Pros of a digital makerspace: 

  • Students can explore virtual environments they would not otherwise experience (ex., A frozen tundra or outer space) 
  • Students can collaborate from remote locations 
  • They help students develop technology skills

Cons of a digital makerspace: 

  • Scenarios may be limited by what tool you use
  • Not everyone has access to the right technology 

A hybrid makerspace incorporates the best of both worlds! A hybrid makerspace will pair materials with technology to enhance the experience. For example, a hybrid makerspace may use a 3D printer to create a material object designed with CAD software. Robotics is another excellent example of how a hybrid approach can incorporate technology with physical tools. 

Pros of a hybrid makerspace:

  • Students can develop both tactile and digital skills
  • Students can collaborate on designing the output of materials

Cons of a hybrid makerspace: 

  • Higher costs to install equipment
  • Remote learners can only partially engage

Educators should consider all three options before choosing the right option for their school. Think about your school’s budget and the needs of your students. The answer will become clear! 

Find Resources That Can Help

Selecting tools for your makerspace might seem simple at first glance. However, many factors go into making this decision. 

First, you'll need to consider what kinds of projects your students will work on inside the space, and then choose tools based on those needs. For example, if all students create projects using 3D printers, you'll want a 3D printer and a CAD program.

You may want to consider the following tech tools if you’re building a hybrid or digital makerspace: 

  • 3D Printers
  • CNC Machines
  • Virtual reality headset 
  • Computers
  • Arduino micro-controller
  • Raspberry Pi microprocessor
  • Robotics kits
  • Kai XR Create

When it comes to a materials makerspace, you’ll want to consider what type of materials students will need to work with. Should the makerspace focus on textile arts, or will it be more industrial? Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Sewing machine
  • Embroidery machine
  • Glue gun
  • Wire cutter
  • Laser cutter
  • Power drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Wrenches
  • Soldering iron

In addition to compiling the right tools for your makerspace, you’ll also want to consider some online resources that can help you supplement your lessons. From online tutorials or lesson plans to metaverse makerspaces, the internet is a rich resource for makerspace instructors. 

Here are a few of our favorite online resources: 

While the endless possibilities may feel overwhelming, once your school dives into creating its makerspace, all you need to do is listen to the needs of your students. Provide them with the tools they’ll need to succeed in life, and the rest will fall into place! 

Create Makerspace Lessons Plans: Elementary School & Middle School

Creating makerspace lesson plans for your classroom is easier than you think. The makerspace will be an extension of lessons you already teach, so some lessons might need a little tweaking to prepare them for the space.

Makerspaces are great for learners of all ages, but lesson plans should be age appropriate. This section will discuss what lesson plans should emphasize for elementary, middle, and high school students. We’ll also include specific examples of lessons you can use in your classroom right now! 

Elementary School Lesson Plans

It’s not too early to bring the makerspace to elementary school. Elementary is one of the best times to cultivate the maker mindset. Of course, making has been a popular pastime for kids through generations, so the maker movement hasn't changed. Learning through play is what kids are best at! 

Crafting is the perfect makerspace activity for early elementary school students. It’s likely you’re already engaging your class with makerspace activities. Using materials like scissors, construction paper, string, and other crafting materials, you can help students unlock their imagination while solving a problem.

Here’s a quick lesson idea from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls: Using materials like jumbo craft sticks, wooden cubes, and plastic cups, challenge students to: 

  1. Build a structure with one cube as a base. How tall can you make it without falling over? 
  2. Use any size base to build the tallest structure possible. 
  3. Make a structure that requires balancing the different materials.
  4. What can you build with one cup as the base? 

This lesson helps students develop an engineering mindset. By seeing how adding each block or cup changes the structure and balance, they begin to understand how different parts must work together to make a functioning whole. They’ll also learn to embrace trial and error, collaborate with classmates, and celebrate success! 

Elementary school is also a great time to introduce technology to students. Virtual reality is the perfect way to give them a safe environment to explore the world of technology. Kai XR has over 100+ field trips that can be viewed on any device, including mobile phones, VR headsets, tablets, or TV. We’ve also created a digital makerspace classroom, Kai XR Create! With our drag-and-drop digital makerspace, students of any grade level can build their dream world. Students will learn how to design in 3D, collaborate remotely, and navigate the metaverse, all in one platform! 

Middle School Lesson Plans

What should be in a makerspace for middle school students? The same essential tools will still help, but you may want to consider more intermediate lessons and projects for your middle schoolers. Middle school is the perfect time to deepen 21st-century skills for students, like collaboration, innovation, digital fluency, and problem-solving. 

Let’s dig into some makerspace ideas for middle school

Junkbots is an excellent lesson from Science Buddies, where students make robots from recycled materials and a simple circuit. It’s the perfect intermediate activity for middle school students. They will understand the difference between open, closed, and short circuits and apply the engineering design process to test and improve the robot. 

Are your students into the great outdoors? With Kai XR Create, students can build their custom campsite in our makerspace forest scene. They’ll control everything from the trees around them to the necessities they need for a successful camp out! This helps students develop planning and problem-solving skills. 

High School Lesson Plans

Want to ensure that your high school students graduate with the 21st-century and CTE skills they'll need in college and the workforce? Look no further than the makerspace. A high school makerspace can help students lean into the scientific method, learn complex computer skills like coding, and more. 

The ability to design with CAD software is an excellent CTE skill to develop whether students go into engineering, metalworking, or another manufacturing career.

Challenge students to design something simple like a cookie cutter to be printed by a 3D printer or cut from metal with a laser cutter. This will help high school students apply their knowledge of geometry and technology in the makerspace activity. 

Introducing Kai XR’s Makerspace

Since 2018, we have been advocates of using virtual reality, augmented reality, and extended reality technologies to inspire the next generation of innovators. Our virtual field trips enable students to virtually step away from the classroom and into a new, fully immersive experience. 

Through our virtual field field trips, students can explore topics such as UC Berkeley's gene-editing CRISPR, the benefits of wind farms, or how astronauts train for a mission. 

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 

When we noticed that digital makerspaces could develop similar skills we were already teaching in our virtual experiences, we saw an opportunity to develop Kai XR Create!

Here, educators, students, and parents can access a variety of digital tools to supplement their learning. Users can use drag-and-drop technology to create in spaces like a lush forest, a snowy tundra, outer space, and a busy city. 

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 

Our platform provides students with inclusive, high-quality content in a virtual space that encourages engagement and collaboration. And we're adding new features all the time! So take your classroom to the next level with Kai XR. 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.