How Makerspaces Promote Collaboration and Creativity

Throughout North America, hundreds of makerspaces are popping up all over the place. They’re found in schools, libraries, community centres, and more, and are a great place for kids to develop their creativity and collaboration skills.

Are you confused about what makerspaces are or what purposes they serve? Read on to learn everything you need to know, from the benefits makerspaces offer to how you can start creating one in your community today.

What Is a Makerspace?

Makerspaces are collaborative workspaces for students, adults, and entrepreneurs. They’re often found in schools, libraries, and other public and private facilities.

Makerspaces often feature a variety of equipment used for creative projects, from 3D printers and CNC machines to sewing machines and soldering irons. They don’t always require high-tech tools, though. People of all ages can also get a lot done with simple tools like art supplies and Legos.

Access to a makerspace helps learners to develop STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) skills. They also have a chance to work on their creativity, collaborate on various projects, and learn to think critically. Makerspaces can also foster entrepreneurship and act as incubators for startup companies. 

Makerspaces: A Brief History

Makerspaces have become popular over the last few years, but they’ve been around for a long time. In fact, the earliest record of a makerspace dates back to 1873 when a sewing and quilting club was founded in Gowanda, New York.

In more recent history, the 1960s introduced the concept of hackerspaces. Hackerspaces are community-operated, nonprofit spaces that allow people with shared interests (including machining, science, and art) to get together, socialize, and work together.

In the 2010s, educators and business owners started placing a greater emphasis on subjects like science, technology, engineering, and math. To create a place for people (especially students) to develop these skills, makerspaces started showing up, and they’re now being built all over the world.

Benefits of Makerspaces

Whether you’re building makerspaces in schools or makerspaces in libraries, these spaces offer a wide range of benefits to students, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between. The following are some of the greatest benefits makerspaces provide:

Increased Collaboration

In general, makerspaces are geared toward collaborative learning and team efforts.

In school-based makerspaces, the goal is for students to work together, create plans, assign jobs, and establish their own rules and guidelines to achieve success. Students have to communicate throughout all stages of the process to ensure they get a high-quality finished product.

The same general rules apply for adults using makerspaces, too. They might be working on something with higher stakes (i.e., a product for a startup company versus a school project), but participants still need to work together, make a plan, and communicate to execute it.

More Innovation and Creativity

Student and Instructor in a makerspace environment

From kindergarten students to seasoned business owners, everyone can benefit from a little more innovation and creativity in their lives. Makerspaces encourage these things and help people of all ages to feel more comfortable thinking outside of the box and trying new things.

Regardless of their age, people need time to be creative and experiment without necessarily knowing what the outcome will be. They need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and do something different, even if it doesn’t work out the first time, and makerspaces provide a place for them to learn this essential lesson.

Room for Experimentation and Revision

Speaking of making mistakes, makerspaces also provide opportunities for people of all ages to experiment and make revisions. Revision is a key component of any creative process — hardly anybody gets it right the first time they try.

When people have a clearly designated place where they can go, tinker, experiment, and make adjustments to their projects, it’s easier for them to feel better about revising and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones. They can also become more confident in their analytical skills and their ability to pick things apart to find the missing link.

More Receptiveness to Feedback

Feedback and clear communication are essential parts of any makerspace. When people work together in makerspaces to carry out various projects, they need to talk to each other, provide feedback, and make adjustments based on what others have to say.

Some people are not naturally good at accepting feedback. They may struggle to accept constructive criticism or find themselves getting defensive.

The more time people spend collaborating in makerspaces, the easier it is for them to become more receptive to feedback from their peers. This is an important skill for people of all ages to develop, and the sooner they start working on it, the better.

Increased Resiliency and Self-Esteem

On a similar note, people who work together in makerspaces often have an easier time building their resiliency and have higher self-esteem.

Resiliency comes through receiving and acting on feedback, as well as running into challenges when working on a project and finding a way around them. The more someone has a chance to solve problems, create new things, and learn to work with others, the more likely they are to feel better about themselves and their abilities, too.

Improved Behaviour and Learning Outcomes

Improved behaviour for better learning

When it comes to students, access to makerspaces can lead to improvements in behaviour and better learning outcomes across the board.

Not all students learn well sitting at a desk and taking notes while listening to a lecture. For kinaesthetic learners, in particular, this kind of setup is a recipe for disaster.

Makerspaces introduce a different way to learn. They allow students to improve their skills by doing, not just by listening or reading. Many students find that they retain information more easily when they process it in a more tactile manner.

In some cases, students’ behaviour improves, too. Because they have an outlet for their energy, it’s easier for them to sit still and focus when the situation calls for it.

Better Critical Thinking Skills

Strong critical thinking skills are essential for people of all ages, but especially students who will one day enter the workforce and need to know how to solve problems.

It’s not enough to just hear information in a lecture and then memorize it for a test. Students also need to know how to take the information they receive in the classroom and apply it to real-life situations and problems.

Makerspaces support this type of learning because they encourage students to dig deeper and look at issues from different perspectives. They encourage students to be hands-on and come up with real solutions, rather than simply talking and theorizing about things.

Tips for Starting a Makerspace

Are you interested in starting a makerspace in your community? If so, here are some tips that can help:

Keep Up with Trends

If you’re not sure what you want your makerspace to look like or what kinds of equipment you want it to include, do some research to see what other makerspaces look like.

For example, you can look up makerspaces at schools or libraries in your area and arrange to take a tour. You can also search online to see what people in other parts of the world are doing to set up their makerspaces.

Choose the Right Location

Makerspaces can be established just about anywhere. You don’t need a separate room or tons of space to set up a good makerspace. As long as there’s room for a table and some chairs, you should be able to get started without any major issues.

If possible, your makerspace should be in a permanent location so you don’t have to worry about moving equipment back and forth each day. If this isn’t possible, though, setting things up in a cafeteria or empty classroom after school is better than nothing at all.

Gather Tools and Materials

You don’t need tons of fancy equipment to have a good makerspace. If you’re not sure what to invest in, though, think about who will be using your space and what they will be doing there.

If it’ll primarily be used by young students, simple tools like Legos and craft supplies will likely be just fine. If you’re setting up a makerspace in a community centre that will be used by adults, more high-tech gear like a 3D printer or sewing machine might be more beneficial.

Set Guidelines

Makerspaces generally don’t have a lot of rules or guidelines associated with them. However, you may need to lay down a few ground rules to encourage positive collaboration and allow for maximum creativity.

For example, the University of Minnesota in the United States has a code of conduct for its makerspace that includes the following guidelines:

  • Respect others who are using the space
  • Report accidents, broken equipment, and spills right away
  • Work safely (wear protective glasses when needed, use the equipment correctly, etc.)
  • Respect intellectual property (do not make copies of other people’s work)

Enjoy the Advantages of Makerspaces Today

Are you interested in starting a STEAM makerspace at your school or local library? If so, follow the steps outlined above so you can create a collaborative and productive environment for learners of all ages.