Considerations in Building an Elementary Makerspace Lab

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Virginia Tech

Globalization and technology have placed a recognizable pressure on both employers and educational institutions. Entry-level employees must be adaptive, innovative, collaborative, and have strong problem-solving and communication skills. To prepare students for the future workforce, schools must revisit existing practices and find new ways to foster innovation as the gap between the new skills students need verses what is being taught in public schools continues to grow (Bybee et al, 2006; Wagner, 2012). One way to increase students' interest and skills in STEM education is by incorporating makerspaces into schools. Makerspaces are physical spaces where people have opportunities to build and construct objects based on their own personal interests. Makerspaces foster the innovative ideas and skills students need upon graduation. This qualitative case study investigates why educational leaders decided to launch a makerspace lab and how school leaders established a model makerspace lab at an elementary school. The purpose of this study was to document and describe the change process connected with the implementation of the makerspace lab, how leaders navigated various obstacles, perceptions of the change process, and lessons learned from educators. The findings show that school leaders experienced a novel concept after visiting an extraordinary model makerspace program which demonstrated a unique approach to developing the innovative capacity of young learners. These experiences created a transformational moment in school leaders that motivated them to be change agents and launch their own makerspace lab. School leaders developed community partnerships with an engineering university, a Fortune 500 company, an education community foundation, and a large school district to make this work possible. Together, these educational and business collaborators created a model elementary makerspace model that is one of the first of its kind on the east coast and currently services students from other schools in the region. The findings further discuss the importance of community partnerships, inviting other schools to participate, having a model program to emulate, having the right people, and how a school initiative became a district opportunity.

makerspace, STEM education, elementary makerspace lab