Essential Question EDET 677–Week 7: What are the rules for your makerspace?


Aleta May

Week 7 Initial Blog Post for EDET677

Essential Question–Week 7: What are the rules for your makerspace?  Articulate to stakeholders, including principals, superintendents and parents, the manner in which a tinkering space would further the district’s vision.

We do have multiple stakeholders in makerspaces. I wonder if some community members could trade volunteer time with students for designated makerspace time? Typically, community participation time must be supervised an employee of the school who is willing to volunteer their time. This willingness varies with who is currently employed at the school. There is funding for migrant education that involves project time for families, often centered around literature and arts, or as I have seen before, cooking. We have had trouble getting someone who meets the qualifications, but there is money in a migrant education budget for paying someone to come in on a regular schedule before or after school to lead. Maybe if projects start out to be something that leader is naturally interested in, we would have a start for typing community in with the school for a shared makerspace. Perhaps we can draw in volunteers when the space expands to areas of interest that meet real needs in the community.

When deciding what policies should be developed for a makerspace; commonly thought of as a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) space; Cooper (2013) says we need to ask the right questions and keep a flexible design.

Summarized below from an article by Cooper (2013)—are considerations that need to be made when designing a making space:

What range of ‘subjects’ will be taught in the space? What types of activities and projects could be done there?”

Which tools are most needed? Will digital fabrication tools such as CNC routers, laser cutters or 3D printers be included? Which materials will be used?”

Who are the kids that will be using the space? Will others use the space as well? Who is staffing and managing the space?”

When will the space be used?”

Where in the school or on the campus would be ideal? What considerations are important?”

How will it be built? Is a new or separate structure needed, and if so what type? What is the budget? Will the design and construction team be a combination of contractor and volunteers, all-volunteer or fully contracted?”

Since my mind takes me to a look at makerspaces for grade levels K-12, for different purposes and within a school that is desperately in need of expansion, I am visualizing multiple makerspaces. The person(s) managing these will likely need to manage the return of items to designated areas. Popular items may be in multiple spaces over time.

Environmental Atmosphere

Intellectual design space—a growth mindset that promotes a belief that, students can make and create; with both computer and resources around them; individually and together. The growth mindset simply means that students are encouraged to try, not to be concerned with perfection, yet to develop a mentality of trying again, a different way, and being willing to consult peers or experts for ideas and ways of trying a new direction. “Creation is the heart of creativity and is only meaningful when grounded in action – it’s not a feeling, a mindset, or an outcome (Martinez & Stager, p. 80)”

When students walk into my ideal makerspace area, the room will be organized, inviting, and have areas that invite from a variety of interests. Seymour Paper strikes the balance well: “The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 157).

The areas will be set up to invite both young students and older students. A major area of focus will be incorporating technology into each project at some level. For younger students, they may use MaKey Makey Kickstarter There will be Arduino-based projects for middle school students and up. Some middle school students may start with other types of circuitry projects if they are overly frustrated with Arduino projects (Martinez & Stager).

Where should a makerspace reside?

First, please take a tour of several video clip examples that were uploaded during the global day of design: At this site, there is an experiment using empty paper towel rolls, a whiteboard with a plan drawn out on separate sheets of paper and placed into a cycle process visual connected by arrows, and yet many others that include electronics; my favorite being a design by students to signal for help without keeping their hand raised:

The great outdoors is yet another place for making. In Spencer & Juliani, (2016), a great way of reasoning as to why students will not stay on the same projects; particularily as they get older and more diverse in interests, skills, abilities, mindset, etc.; was to ask, “Why have the same training when everyone is on different levels?” (p. 29). The Industrial Arts teacher who was quoted started developing a new class titled “Creative Design and Engineering” (p. 29). Because of this, I can visualize many tools and materials, organized into areas like electronics, but with a sewing machine (with heavy duty needles for metallic conductive threads) nearby for designing fabrication with LED lights.

Accessible to the fabric and sewing area, there would be a 3D copier corner that may require “borrowing” certain types of metal thread, from the electronics section, for binding together clothing pieces created on the 3D machine that used a plastic type of filament. Overlapping these areas will be materials used to create classy curtains, and a fabric steamer to watch the effects of steam as wrinkles are released—then ask, “Why does this work?” Next to this area is a “LilyPad Arduino, an electronic textile construction it” (Telhan, Kafai, & Litts, 2016, p. 232) that activates through sensors and human touch and can be used on felt fabric. Students could experiment by connecting circuits “by incorporating conductive patches into the sleeve’s end” (p.228) for a fun way to study how electricity conducts through different types of metal threads/tapes.

Arduino & sewing.jpeg

I wonder if we can make a fish net for subsistence fishing using a 3D machine, and a weaving stick? What type filament would best be used to camouflage the netting, or attract certain types of fish. What are the ethics to potentially having a better catch than planned for?

Another section would be set up with a variety of regular school supplies that are in easy reach. Items include scissors, a variety of tapes, markers of different types, colored and drawing pencils and sketch paper; brass fasteners, clips, clamps, staplers, and glue. Paints that include oils, watercolors, tempra, and a small spray-paint compressor for larger temporary displays. The point here is to include sections that inspire the artistic senses as students use their imaginations to represent their thinking that is usually tied to a classroom project, standard, or other goal.

Another area, likely upstairs, would be set up for repairing or remixing old bicycles around the village. There would be a water area for finding air leaks and figuring out why certain tire patch adhesives work better than others. Wood materials for building replicas of the boardwalk in tundra that depicts, shifting from the effects of temperature.


A science section would include an area for making models of the earth (including electronic population LED light representations), water samples from the river, clay for showing layers, and items for creating astronomy representations. With Arduino boards and computers, the options are endless.


Designing STEAM areas in our school may need to take place in 3 major areas, and possibly a portable cart that can be moved from class to class for shared appliances like a 3D printer.

In an article by Cooper (2013), makerspaces nee to “be designed to accommodate a wide range of activities, tools and materials. Diversity and cross-pollination of activities are critical to the design . . .” (p. 1).

I especially appreciate the word cross-pollination and that the activities might include:

  • Cardboard construction
  • Prototyping
  • Electronics
  • Robotics (like Arduino and Lego Robotics)
  • Digital fabrication
  • Building bicycles and kinec sensor machines (that may include Kinect for XBOX 360)
  • Textiles and sewing

The areas I have available to me are my room (12’ X 20’) and an area in the library outside my room that has a major transition passageway (a makeshift hall) that runs through it. There is a classroom in the library area that has a portable wall, so this area of the library will need to be a makerspace that invites activity that is well managed and keeps the voice level at a moderate level. Here is a pictorial example of how we could make use of the library space for elementary (where the library is located):

library robotics makerspace.jpg

There needs to be an upstairs space (assuming proper ventilation is part of the plan) for louder projects that involve saws, and hammers. It may look something like this picture from Cooper’s Edutopia article (2013):

There is a shop outside that used to be used for a science class, but it was determined that the air was not ventilated well enough for a student learning space. I believe this could be fixed without much time or expense. This would make a great space for taking apart and repairing motors such as from 4-wheelers and snow machines. Knowing that much of current day mechanics involve computerized programs and electronic testing, this is a great place for applying physical science principles in real hands on repair.  This brings me to safety policies.


 I agree with (Hublinka, 2013), “ It’s a fine line, though, between informing kids about the potential dangers and scaring them from every using any interesting tools!” This does not minimize the need to teach students how to use proper safety gear (like goggles, ear protection, breathing masks, etc.). Neither does this quote and ideology dismiss the need to learn how to properly lift, what to check for (such as making sure a tool’s safety shield is in place), or how to be safe when using or why to use certain areas or extension cords when utilizing electrical equipment of any type. Safety posters displayed for each area as it pertains to where the equipment is usually used or retrieved and stored should be brief, but pertinent; and include visuals for English Language Learners as well as new readers. Video clip links for how to use the equipment safely should also be bookmarked on computers and posted on the safety posters. I particularly like how this variety of accessing tool use safety covers these options: “So you want to use a tool?” For high school students who may be using more dangerous tools, I found a detailed brochure that uses the same icons for each tool, but with instructions adjusted for each.

Another important point made by Hublinka (2013) is that there is a need for a common set of rules. I clicked on the safety poster site here to see safety and rules narrowed down to four major categories with very to the point points under each:

Of course, no makerspace is complete without a well-marked and accessible first-aid kit. I believe one for smaller cuts or scrapes needs to be additional to one that is geared to more serious injuries. Thin gloves need to be available for prevention of the spread of blood borne pathogens. Kits like this need to be in makerspaces, and should be close by to each classroom. This is a point that cannot just be assumed. Also, a fire extinguisher needs to be within quick reach.

Clean up procedures posted and frequently referred to keeps the makerspace area organized and safe. In the Hublinka (2013) article, I see the chant on page 1; “Protect. Double-check. Aim away. Clamp it. Focus. Never play.” This is a good idea for avoiding accidents for younger students, but I think it needs to be accompanied by a chart with changeable pictorial examples. This way, the chant and chart can be visual and kept interesting as students review. There are other ways to have students describe what this means as applied to the tools they are using. The idea is to keep repetitive chants or reminders applicable and not just a meaningless phrase over time. Also, I would have to change the wording of “never play”—to something like “tools are for serious play.”

Assessment Atmosphere is Important

Policies should include the atmosphere of expectations through assessment.  While educators will want connectivity to standards and a “do your very best” mindset, rubrics used to measure students should not stifle creativity.

The assessment of projects needs to be carefully thought out. Students’ creative nature needs to be encouraged, and a rubric that is inflexible will suppress rather than release and encourage inner creativity! As educators, we need to encourage students to try new things. Facilitating an atmosphere of willingness for students to try something new is “contrary to contrary to conventional wisdom; it’s not an inborn talent that you are either born with or not” (Martinez & Stager, p. 80).

Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab

 Statements extracted, from Dr. Seymour Papert’s big ideas that support the atmosphere in the design of my makerspace:

  1. “We learn best of all when we use what we learn to make something we really want.”
  2. If you can use technology to make things, you can make a lot more interesting things.
  3. “…fun and enjoying doesn’t mean ‘easy.’ The best fun is hard fun.”
  4. “Many students get the idea that ‘the only way to learn is by being taught.’ . . . You have to take charge of your own learning.”
  5. “To do anything important you have to learn to manage time for yourself. This is the hardest lesson for many of our students.”
  6. “The only way to get it right is to look carefully at what happened when it went wrong.”
  7. “The best lesson we can give our students is to let them see us struggle to learn.”
  8. “. . . learning about computers is essential . . . BUT the most important purpose is using them NOW to learn about everything else” (Stager, 2006 in Martinez & Stager, 2013).


Cooper, J. (September 30, 2013). Designing a school makerspace.  Edutopia. J. Cooper, Designer, maker and gardening teacher in Oakland, CA.  Cooper picture of construction makerspace retrieved on 7-4-16 at:

Dallas makerspace rules. Retrieved June 27, 2016.

Girl sewing with Arduino picture:

Hublinka, S. B. (September 2, 2013). Safety in school makerspaces. Retrieved June 27, 2016:

Library makerspace robotics picture:

Makerspace picture:


SLO MakerSpace rules and general safety: Build, learn, hack (December 26, 2013). Retrieved June 27, 2016.

Spencer, J & Juliani, A. J. (2016). Launch: Using design thinking to boost and bring out the maker in every student. San Diego, CA: Published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.,


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