I often have opportunity to visit schools all over our country. One trend that I have noticed over the past few years is that they all seem to have a designated makerspace for tinkering. This trend is wonderful to see for us here at SIG as makerspaces provide a terrific outlet for the needs and skills of gifted, talented, and creative students.
The concept of a makerspace can mean different things to different people and can range from a place that contains highly sophisticated and expensive equipment (3-d printers, laser cutters, tools) to a gathering of simple, low-tech, and available materials (LEGOS, arts and crafts materials, wood scraps).
The common thread of all makerspaces is that they provide a physical place where people can gather together to make things, think creatively, and explore, using a variety of materials and supplies.
Makerspaces are valuable places for gifted students for several reasons.
- They allow gifted and creative students to pursue things they are curious about. This goal is critical for g/t/c students as they need time to pursue thoughts and concepts that interest them.
- They allow students to think imaginatively. Creativity, a skill so vital to problem solving, thrives in an atmosphere of idea manipulation, finding missing elements, and playful thinking, all of which can be developed in a makerspace.
- They provide independence. The removal of structure and direction allows the gifted mind to discover, self-direct, and be independent in thought, traits that should be developed as we encourage g/t/c students to take ownership of their learning and see new possibilities.
- They also provide a place where g/t/c students can work collaboratively with their intellectual peers. We know that gifted students need time every day to function within a group of students of similar ability. Scheduling time in a makerspace environment where students face challenging ideas can accomplish that goal.
All makerspaces are unique to the items they contain as well as to the people who use them. While we usually think of makerspaces as being in schools or various kinds of workplaces, we can also think of makerspaces at home and even at programs like Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG). Many of the courses at SIG create their own unique makerspaces as they accommodate the content of the courses as well as the characteristics of our students. In Pop Into Balloon Science (ages 5-6), young students work with a variety of materials such as tissue paper, balloons, toy cars, straws, recycled materials, and much more as they think like scientists and explore the nature of external forces such as air, water, and gas. Through these investigations students learn about the importance of making predictions and testing creative solutions. Gifted students use customized makerspaces in Civil Engineering: Builders at Work (ages 7-8) to create hand-made bridges, tunnels, and other creative structures to test the capacity and strength of different materials against the principles of physics and mathematics such as force, pressure, truss, and weight. Can you have makerspaces with robotics? Absolutely! In the course Sphero™ Robotics (ages 11-12), students design and build different mazes and obstacles to test new codes, sequences of commands, patterns, and algorithms with Sphero™ robots. Makerspaces are enjoyed not only within STEM courses but are valuable experiences in the arts. In Animated Storytelling: Stage, Snap, and Repeat! (ages 9-12), gifted students use their creativity to play and invent characters, props, and sets to bring inanimate objects to life using technology and their imaginative minds. And, of course, in their rec time and free time, they are welcome to play, explore, and create using whatever materials are available to them.
You can also create a makerspace for tinkering in your home for your own gifted child. Keep these things in mind.
- Gifted, talented and creative students need a rich environment of resources for their fertile minds to thrive. Provide varied and challenging informational materials as well as unique and unusual materials to provoke thought.
- Encourage learning from mistakes and errors. Gifted students need practice in accepting the powerful learning tools created when things go wrong. Help them feel comfortable with errors and blunders and be sure to emphasize lessons learned in the process.
- Make the space unique to the students. Whether the students’ interests are technological, artistic, or nature-oriented, be sure the place, materials, and activities reflect those interests. Gifted students need time to pursue areas of passion to them. Makerspaces can provide time and opportunity for that exploration.
- Be sure to invite g/t/c peers to collaborate with your student in the makerspace. Peers are important for sharing a sense of shared direction and purpose, can provide needed social interaction, and are important for questioning and critiquing as everyone involved progresses through their thinking processes.
So, find a way to provide your gifted students time in a makerspace type of situation whether at school or at home, so that they can benefit from the many advantages of working, tinkering and creating in the self-directed environment of a makerspace.
All the best,
Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)