To succeed in today’s ever-changing world, students need to develop critical thinking skills that help them solve important issues. Simply being able to recite memorized information won’t get them very far. A hands-on education helps them view the world in new ways, figure out how they fit into it, and how to use their own unique talents to find new solutions to real-world problems.
Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) and Makerspaces are a growing movement among schools. In these classrooms, students get to explore the physical world around them, instead of staring at a textbook all day. They get in-depth experience with new technologies such as CNC machines, 3D printers, laser cutters, and vinyl cutters. This exposure not only helps them learn about the machines, but also provides a general knowledge of how to troubleshoot technology problems.
In addition to learning about the latest technology, students also develop the ability to assess a problem, identify a solution, test, revise, and test again until it’s solved. Perseverance, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving skills will all serve students well as they enter adulthood and the workforce.
Designing Your Own Fab Lab or Makerspace
Creating a functional space in your school for students to begin exploring can feel overwhelming at first. There are plenty of options for Makerspace tools, layout, technology, workbenches, and storage. Start small and let your students influence what gets added next.
For your first purchase, consider something highly versatile, such as a laser cutter. There are many ways to use a laser cutter in your school that benefit both students and staff. You might also try choosing a 3D printer for the variety of projects students can complete with one. Other machines to consider include CNC machines and vinyl cutters.
Even without a big budget you can still create a Fab Lab or Makerspace that will engage your students and get them learning in an interactive, hands-on way. Arts and crafts supplies tend to be more affordable for schools, and more approachable for students. Stock up on paint, markers, banner paper, glue sticks, and more essential supplies to build your own Makerspace starter kit.
Of course, keeping all those Makerspace items easily accessible will come down to some great storage and organization. Setting up bins for each student, group, or project that contains all the necessary items helps keep everything together. When you’re moving about the room overseeing student work, demonstrating, and answering questions, a Makerspace cart allows you to always have the supplies you need without having to run back and forth to the storage cabinet.
A Fab Lab or Makerspace is a vital part of a child’s education and a great asset to any school, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project. Start small. See how the kids adapt and use the new technology. Then use their suggestions to inform future Fab Lab/Makerspace purchases.