From Mind into Matter: 5 Ways to cultivate the Mindset of the MakerSpace

From Mind into Matter: 5 Ways to cultivate the Mindset of the MakerSpace

There is a Zen saying, “to know and not do is to not yet know.”  This seems relevant in today’s shifting views about learning, and I recognize my own struggle as an educator in preparing students for the unknown of the future. One of the skills that seem most intangible for me is teaching students to be more discerning in their learning-how to get them to love the journey and not the destination, so they want to ask more questions and dig deeper.

Lately, I’ve been inspired by the book, Invent to Learn. I think it really speaks to this disposition of curiosity as the impetus for extended learning, in which the child’s mind becomes the essential “makerspace”; our classrooms merely become the concrete representation of this immaterial world of their ideas. Experimenting and creating something is an act of discovering that a thought can be made solid.

It acknowledges that the power of making something comes from a question or impulse that the learner has, and is not imposed from the outside. Questions like “How can my car go faster?” or “I like the way this looks, can I make it prettier?” are treated as valid, and in fact, potentially more valid than criteria imposed by anyone else, including a teacher. Learners are empowered to connect with everything they know, feel, and wonder to stretch themselves into learning new things. We seek to liberate learners from their dependency on being taught.

Sylvia Libow Martinez, Invent to Learn.

As I reflect on the quote above, I think about how important it is to catch students in the act of curiosity so that I can implore them to engage in their ideas. In this way, I am no longer the guide but their champion. I wonder if this encouragement can compensate for the attitudes in our societies, in which quick fixes are highly valued. I believe it’s important to have students develop their stamina and see failure as an important element for their inevitable success.

Making things has changed the way they look at the world around them, opening new doors and presenting new opportunities to get deeply involved in processes that require knowledge, skill building, creativity, critical thinking, decision making, risk taking, social interaction, and resourcefulness. They understand that when you do something yourself, the thing that changes most profoundly is you. (Frauenfelder, 2011)

There are several units in our POI (programme of inquiry) that could incorporate many of ideals of the makers mindset. I know in the Early Years, this is easiest to do because students at this age have the permission to play. This seems a bit unfair when you think of it. “Play is called recreation because it makes us new again, it re-creates us and our world.” (Brown & Vaughan, 2010). I think this process of re-creation is ongoing and the foundation of life-long learner. Implanting design-processthis mindset into classrooms could not only empower students, but also teachers. Moving out of our instructional comfort-zones then becomes an act of faith, because we have to be trust that students can learn on their own. As soon as I write that sentence, it seems self-evident–of course students can learn on their own–that is their natural inclination!! But how can we nudge them to taking their discoveries from thoughts into doings? How can we translate the ideas of the minds into real learning.

Here are 5 strategies that might help teachers render the MindSpace of the Learner into a reality:

  1. Be curious about what students are curious about. Not all students will present their curiosities as questions–in fact many young students present their ideas as statements. Write and track them, even if anecdotally.
  2. Use self-evaluation for students to reflect and assess their attitudes towards the design mindset. This could be as formal or informal as you like, such as a discussion with a 1-3 finger self-assessment or a journal entry.
  3. Advertise problems and promote solutions, even if they are silly.
  4. Set up a classroom “creation station” with some”junk” to be repurposed.
  5. Share inspirational stories as exemplars. You can connect with other classrooms either in your school or virtually through a resource like ePals.

I know that I will take my own advice as I strive to make my classroom more engaging and student-centered. I wonder what suggestions others might have about shifting our classrooms into laboratories of the mind. Perhaps you can share below what other ideas or strategies you might have.

Until then, stay in Joy!

 

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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