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A year of making and suggested projects

A series of event suggestions for your makerspace.
A wicker model of a person with a maker sign
© The University of Sheffield
It can be helpful to think about what a year of making might look like in your setting.
This is likely to be quite different for schools including making into their curriculum and settings such as libraries or museums who are offering a more informal or ad hoc approach.
Let’s look at this in more detail; feel free to move to the section most relevant to you.

Informal – One off sessions (Family events, open days etc)

These might occur as events linked to particular themes in various settings, for example a maker-based activity linked to a museum exhibition. Throughout the year, pinpoint key events, exhibitions or celebrations you might like to run maker activities alongside and choose activities that reflect these themes.
There are lots of linked STEM/STEAM and maker themed days that you can also get involved in. Check out Fun Palaces, British Science Week and International Women in Engineering Day for some inspiration.

Schools & libraries

World Book Day – The Magic of Harry Potter
1. Making light-up wands with sticks, battery packs and LEDs.
2. Invisibility cloaks using green fabric and a greenscreen app.
3. Golden snitch bath bomb making
4. Design and make a magical beast using scrap materials – this could be extended to include basic electronics such as motors, servos and LEDs to add light and movement.

Skill-building sessions

You could offer your community some one-off ‘getting started’ sessions. These could include an introduction to the following: + Learning to code + How to use a sewing machine + Getting started with soldering + An introduction to E-textiles + Simple 3D printing
Many of these can be found online, so don’t feel that you need to teach all of these yourself. You could provide a learning venue and an opportunity for participants to partake together, offering peer to peer support, motivation and inspiration.

Informal – regular clubs (After school, Scouts, library code clubs etc)

Having the same participants attending a weekly club offers the opportunity to build skills and maker projects into your sessions throughout the year, allowing deeper learning opportunities.
Make a plan of what maker skills you want to cover. Small skill builder activities are a helpful, fun way of building up knowledge and skill in different areas. Once children have been introduced to new skills, allow them time to develop these further by setting mini challenges.
Children will identify where the gaps in their skills lie and other maker skills they want to develop, which can help guide a child led journing of learning. Try to offer a balance of instructional skill builder activities and free making time or child led tinkering opportunities.

Formal – Integration into existing learning (Schools)

Many schools are now seeing the importance of cultivating 21st century skills and mindsets in young people to prepare them for the digital age or “Industry 4.0”. Introducing making into the curriculum doesn’t have to involve adding lots more to teachers’ current workload, but more about making tweeks to the way things are taught to encourage thinking like a maker and developing a Maker{Mindset}.
Consider how children in the Early Years are exposed to glue to use in their projects. In most cases, children are provided by the teacher with either a glue stick or PVA/white glue, depending on the materials being used. How often do children choose the type of glue for themselves? By giving children the opportunity to ‘tinker’ with glue and explore the functionality of each type and which works best for attaching different materials, we empower children with understanding that allows them to make the choice independently for their next project.
The aim is to support children to become independent makers and problem solvers, confident in a range of mixed mediums. If we compare this to a familiar subject like cooking, we are aiming to develop creative chefs rather than cautious recipe followers.
To do this, children need exposure to a range of learning opportunities, including:
1. Exploration (informal, non-instructional)
2. Skill builder sessions (teacher led)
3. Tinker time to develop and extend particular skills & knowledge
4. Child led projects (interdisciplinary problem solving)

Exploration

This is child-led time to play, explore and become familiar with materials and processes. In cooking, this would be playing and experimenting with ingredients and utensils to better understand how they work. This provides opportunities to ‘get to know’ materials, tech, software and tools. To explore how things work and interact with other things. It should be informal and non-instructional. Ask open ended questions if children need support exploring areas, such as, what happens if…, how many ways can you …,

Quick skill builder sessions

These are teacher sessions aimed at instructional learning during lessons to gain skills and knowledge. It is important to say here, that in maker education, it is not necessary for teachers to become ‘experts’ in every maker based area. Your role really, is to be a facilitator of learning.
For example, you may want to teach your class how to create simple 3D digital models they can use in 3D printing. Utilise existing learning platforms, in this case, TinkerCAD is a great program, to support learning 3D design skills. Many programs such as this have built-in tutorials to get you started with the basics. Use these in lessons by letting the children work through them. It will soon become apparent which children excel at this and allow them to support the other children (and you) in completing the steps. An instructional approach to making projects that you have used in past design technology lessons may fit well here.

Tinker time

Once you have done some quick skill builder sessions, you can set a brief for the children to design something themselves. This might be the kind of class design technology project you have done in the past, or something new. Try to avoid giving a list of instructions – the aim is not to get 30 identical looking projects.
In line with our cooking theme, this may be a cookie cutter. Allow them to tinker and try things out. Ask them to think about the designs they would like to make and how they might do this. These sessions often highlight gaps in skills and knowledge, so signpost where children can develop their skills further independently or start a notice board where children can post which skill builder sessions would be helpful to do next.
Aim to provide a range of the above sessions for different maker skills and materials throughout the school year.

Child-led projects

Once children have gained maker skills and knowledge using the above techniques, it is important that they have the opportunity to put these to good use by combining skills and collaborating with others to solve problems. A great approach to this is to have an end of year Maker Faire where children work in groups on a ‘Big Make’ and a chance to exhibit and communicate their ideas with others. One approach to this would be to choose a theme or a problem (these could be local or global issues) and ask groups to come up with something that might help.
We are developing a comprehensive curriculum for making in Primary Schools, including a guide on what skills and development to cover at which stage. Keep up to date with our Maker{Schools} programme.
© The University of Sheffield
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