Monday, December 19, 2016

Managing the Mess of a Makerspace

In previous posts, Let's Make a Mess and Makerspaces in a Content Area Classroom, I outlined how we transformed our 6th grade ELA classroom into a makerspace. One thing that Caylyn Harden (my intern at the time) and I discussed early in the planning stages is how we could manage all the mess within our learning environment.

With our middle school schedule, we taught multiple classes of ELA. Furthermore, our classroom was originally designed as a resource classroom for a class of no more than 8 students. The physical space of our classroom is small...postage stamp small. Our largest class was 32. I already had dove into research on learning spaces and determined that each student didn't require formal seating...which is a good thing as there wasn't enough room for desks, tables, and chairs for 32 students. In our classroom, we have flexible seating, including several nontraditional seating options like camp chairs, ottomans, stools, floor pillows, a futon, small armchairs and carpet remnants. (we also have many different lighting options.) The students flourish within this space, but we knew that adding all other plus 80+ different project at various stages of completion was a challenge that we needed to meet BEFORE we began. Many would have looked at our small and cozy space and said that adding a makerspace to it was impossible. We didn't want our space limitation to hinder our students' ability to engage in making, so we put our heads together to find some solutions.

Since our floor space was at a premium, we cleaned out a section of cabinets and drawers to house the items that were donated for the students to use to make and create. I know ideally, the students could see all the materials, but this was the only space we had. There wasn't much usable storage space in our room. Then, Caylyn acquired a large storage bin with a lid for each class. These were the largest that they make. We had zip-lock bags for each student to store their work in each day (gallon to 2.5-gallon bags depending on what size they needed). Those bags would go into their class' tub and be closed up, preventing other students from accidentally damaging their work or pieces of their work from getting lost. Then, thanks to the generosity of a fellow teacher who has a large lab classroom, the tubs were stored in her room. If a student had something that needed to dry, he/she would leave it on our small counter space.

Regarding time management, after taking the last 10 minutes of class to clean up their work for the first couple of days, the students got much faster at storing their work away....and help those who needed additional hands to clean up their "making-in-progress."

Was this an ideal situation? No, it wasn't. However, with these we simple practices, students were able to excel with a makerspace in our ELA classroom. The learning wasn't impeded by our lack of space. Did our Makery look like other makerspaces? It did not, but isn't that what's wonderful about teaching and learning? It can be adapted to fit the needs of our learners in our learning spaces....and our makerspace did just that.

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