Editor Dennis Schatz welcomes you to the seventh issue of Connected Science Learning, focused on STEM learning experiences through making.
Everywhere I visit, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) educators are talking about the success of their Makerspace, or how their plans are coming along to install one in the future. Every science museum seems to have a Maker Place, Tinker Tank, Tinker for Tots, Tinkering Space, or some other creative name for a space where visitors design, build, and test contraptions to do everything from fly through the air or make balls roll around a series of ramps. Even the U.S. Congress has a Maker Caucus.
What impresses me the most about the Maker Movement is that it is not limited to the traditional areas of engineering design associated with STEM—making parachutes, miniature racecars, paper airplanes, and 3D–printed tops. Making also includes what many people consider traditional arts and crafts activities, such as lace- and quilt-making. The Maker Movement appreciates that there are a wide range of experiences that require—and develop—the kind of critical thinking that STEM learning encourages. Quilting requires the spatial and mathematical reasoning that all math teachers would like to see in their students, plus the kind of planning needed to conduct a scientific experiment.
To see the breadth of Maker Movement activities, check out the latest CAISE (Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education) blog about the Maker Movement. It lists 15 current National Science Foundation–funded making and tinkering projects. There are 153 making- and tinkering-related projects on the overall CAISE website if you want to dig deeper into the making and tinkering movement.
This summer issue of Connected Science Learning will feature a number of contributions that take a deep dive into some of the maker experiences in implementation around the country. You will especially want to read:
- Bronwyn Bevan and her colleagues from the Exploratorium Tinkering Studio used a research–practice partnership with the Lighthouse Community Public Schools in Oakland, California, to understand the deeper learning experienced by students engaged in maker activities. From this research, they developed a framework for the learning that occurs from participating in making and tinkering experiences.
- Chip Lindsey and his colleagues at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum highlight how their MAKESHOP started as a local effort at the museum, but then expanded to assist other institutions with setting up their own maker effort. Google was so impressed with the MAKESHOP approach that they funded a crowdfunding approach to support schools partnering with museums, libraries, public education-related institutions, and community-based organizations to develop maker spaces.
I hope you enjoy the contributions in the three-part series of the seventh issue. Stay tuned for the afterschool-themed eighth issue, which will start coming out in October.