The Magic of the MakerSpace

By: Pam Borbely, Manager of Art and Design

Makerspaces have been popping up in schools and libraries all over the country, each looking a little different from the next, but all with one common theme: they are a place where self-guidance rules.

A few years back CME began developing their own version of a makerspace, taking into account the ages of our visitors and the way the museum operates. Every so often we make changes, continuing to refine it as space where kids feel empowered to lead their own activities. As of right now, it consists of large work tables and elevated crates that brim with recycled materials that vary week to week depending on the source. This ever-changing assortment inspires some pretty amazing results, and although we encourage them to be taken home, some get left behind in a move that I am convinced is more about showing off than just sheer forgetting.

Coming to work on Monday morning after a weekend full of Museum visitors, I am usually greeted by some vaguely human structure heavily wrapped with masking tape and precariously balanced on uneven cardboard tube legs. Sometimes a swath of fabric is glued to it and inevitably magic markers have been used to define the important parts. After our efforts developing the MakerSpace into a great place for visitors to learn the importance of open-ended making, I am beyond thrilled to see evidence that our investment is paying off. Before my eyes is something created straight from a child’s imagination. It may not look like a “finished” project in the traditional sense, but the work should never be discounted.

Giving children freedom to choose what they want to use and how they want to use it is invaluable for their creative development. With each attempt, they are learning and compiling information in their brains, slowly improving their skill set until they have Mastered the Material! I envision them rummaging through the crates, selecting this and casting away that, as they choose the best pieces that allow them to take what they see in their head and turn it into something tangible.

I have to smile. MakerSpace has worked its magic again. As I fondly look over the latest creation, I regret not having a chance to talk with its creator. As a parent, I know the story behind the build is arguably the best part. When my boys were little, I loved hearing about their thought process because it gave me a peek into their worlds. I learned how their minds worked, what inspired them and what was important to them. Now, as an art educator, I have the chance to interact with a whole new generation of creatives.

The laser beams come out of which set of eyes? And then the robot can do kung-fu kick moves on the bad guys before he transforms into a raptor and flies off?

Some things never change!

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