I can still remember my first arts and crafts class. Tucked between a seemingly endless math class and English class, arts and crafts was different. There, I could put away the heavy textbooks and pull out paper, craft sticks, glue, clay or whatever and just let my imagination free. These days, arts and crafts classes are all but lost to budget constraints and the ever increasing drive for more academic classes. However, there is one movement that is bringing “creativity” back to the classroom: the “Maker” movement.
The “Maker” movement encourages adults and students of all ages to make and invent - and not just with glitter and glue. This movement focuses increasingly on making with technology. Classrooms embracing the Maker movement may use 3D printers, pens that can draw working circuits, tiny computers that can fit into candy tins and more. These "Maker” classrooms are active classrooms where students are engaged with hands-on projects, often working on multiple projects simultaneously. Maker projects are often more about “do-it-with-others” instead of “do-it-yourself”. Collaboration and sharing between students is flexible and teachers are free to fluidly move from mentor role to colleague role.
Do you want to take your “Maker” classroom one step further? Consider a field trip to a Maker Faire. The Maker Faire was started by the founders of Make magazine in 2006. This modern fair is an incredible celebration of makers and a showcase of innovative ideas in technology. There are three main Maker Faires each year and hundreds of Mini Maker Faires in small towns and communities across the US. Imagine a combination of an old-school science fair with modern technology. This is a place where students can view the creations of other makers and get ideas about inventions or projects of their own.
So how do you incorporate more “Maker” techniques into your own active classroom? There are many guides and technologies to explore. “Make” magazine and “MagPi” magazine are great sources of cheap, easy projects with complete step-by-step instructions and material lists. Supplies for your projects may vary from simple bottle caps and batteries to technology like circuit pens, 3D printers and computers smaller than a deck of cards. And the cost for some of these items may surprise you! One popular device, called a Raspberry Pi is a real working computer that is so small it can fit into a candy tin. The best part? For the smallest version, the Pi Zero, the cost is only $5 - about the same cost as a box of crayons! A circuit pen can cost less than $20 and 3D printers that used to cost thousands of dollars, can now be found for under $150.
So what are you waiting for? Energize your classroom with the “Maker” movement today and spark a love for innovation and technology in your students! Want to know more? Stay tuned this month for our blog features on the Raspberry Pi, 3D printers and circuit pens!