Being an educator is exhausting and something it can be difficult to come up with new, exciting ideas that make students passionate about learning. Luckily for you, we share our secrets at the MakerBus and we’ve made a top three list of “hacks” that will help create unforgettable maker projects in your classroom or library each and every time.
These ideas work on pretty much any project and work with virtually any budget and have allowed us to engage children, youth, and adults in unforgettable maker education projects.
#1 If it’s small, make it BIG. If it’s BIG, make it small
Playing with the size of maker projects is a great way to make them unforgettable. Take the classic challenge of building a tower using only spaghetti, string, tape, and a marshmallow (if you’ve never try this challenge, check out the video below) as an example.
By itself this challenge is a fantastic way to encourage team building and creative thinking. While fun, building a tower that’s only 6-12 inches lacks a *wow* factor.
What if we made this same project BIG?
Our riff on the spaghetti/marshmallow tower is to give students 8 bamboo rods, 12 zipties, 10 feet of rope, and a pool noodle. Their goal is to build the tallest free standing structure that can support the weight of the pool noodle at the top. The changes the project from building 10 inch towers to building 10+ foot towers.
This technique works on all sorts of maker projects. Student bored of origami? What if you made origami creations out of sheets of newspaper? Are you not excited about making more spaghetti bridges? Why not grad some unwanted construction materials and see if your students can build an actual bridge? Scaling up your maker projects can create some huge educational engagement.
Or, you can go the opposite way and make your maker projects tiny. Tiny maker projects are a fantastic way to work on younger learner’s fine motor skills. Teens and adults love tiny projects because they’ve got a huge cute factor. Making tiny origami or tiny felted animals is adorable.
Whether you go BIG or small playing around with size is a great maker education hack!
#2 Make millions of it
Do you what’s cooler than one throwie? A thousand throwies. The more of something you make, the cooler it becomes. This is where school and library makerspaces have a huge advantage over traditional makerspaces – schools and libraries have huge built-in audiences. If a school of 1000 students wants to build 10,000 throwies, they just need each student to make 10 throwies. If a traditional makerspace with 50 members wants to make 10,000 throwies, you better break out the pizza and coffee because you’re going to be there all night.
If you’re a school or a library makerspace, use your numbers to your advantage and make a tonne of something. If you’re worried about where you’re going to find the budget to make a tonne of something, put out a call to your community. Ask community members to drop off unwanted building materials like cardboard, broken electronics, or craft supplies.
When the MakerBus wanted to build a life-sized school bus out of cardboard for the Detroit Maker Faire, out team drove around to restaurants all night asking for their unwanted cardboard. Don’t do what we did – let you community fill your makerspace with supplies.
#3 Don’t play fair
This is one of my favourite tactics. You can make a maker project more engaging by playing around with the rules. If you ask someone to measure a distance using a tape measure, it’s a fairly easy task. If you ask someone to measure a distance without using a tape measure, it suddenly become a creative thinking challenge.
Try reviewing your normal maker projects and removing one key tool or instruction. Challenge students to build a Lego structure without the instructions. Try giving two students slightly different instructions and see if they can work together to figure out the right path.
If you toy with students’ expectations, they will engage more deeply in a project. Challenge them, push them, remind them that creative solutions can overcome any obstacle.
What are your favourite maker hacks? Share them with us in the comments and we’ll test them out!
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