Creating spaces for creative minds

In 2018 Education Secretary Damien Hinds challenged the technology industry to ‘launch an education revolution’. Whilst technology is playing a major role in supporting and inspiring learners of today and tomorrow, we must not lose sight of the need to provide children with the means to enjoy the ‘hands on’, collaborative learning experience provided by the Maker Space philosophy.

A growing maker movement

The origins of the maker movement can be traced back several years to the USA. Following years of decline and increasing unemployment in traditional industrial sectors, many public buildings, including libraries, started to repurpose spaces in a bid to provide a new style of educational space. These became known as Maker Spaces. Traditionally geared towards reskilling in STEM, Maker Spaces have embraced a wider spectrum of skills included in the arts. They create a collaborative work space for making, learning, exploring and sharing where anyone can learn new skills or share existing ones in a non-judgmental way. Maker Spaces cover high tech to no tech and everything in between and are now extremely popular with children, adults and entrepreneurs.

The maker movement is about teaching and learning that is focused on student centered inquiry. This is not the project done at the end of a unit of learning, but the actual vehicle and purpose of the learning. Makerspaces come in all shapes and sizes, but they all serve as a gathering point for tools, projects, mentors, and expertise.  They can be personalised to any project that involves group collaboration - from wood-working to art projects, library reference points to science experiments.

Gratnells MakerSpace in education

The Gratnells MakerSpace trolley offers many features and benefits conducive to group working.  Inspired by industrial applications, the back panel features apertures in various sizes and positions, offering maximum flexibility.

A sturdy roll holder is ideas for tapes, wires and ribbons and cable tidy holes on each side of the unit promote a safety first attitude.The side panels also offer the flexibility to mix and match between mini storage bins and hooks to suit STEM/STEAM activities.
              
The unit can accommodate a mix of shallow and deep Gratnells trays to match content and activity and can be colour coded to indicate, with a range of over 30 standard tray colours.  The inserts can be used to separate smaller items for easy selection and all trays are fitted with stop safe runners, for added safety.
             
The Gratnells MakerSpace trolley encourages collaborative working in the classroom, for improved learning outcomes and promotes a tidy environment by encouraging replacement of unused items.
In the school environment, Gratnells believes the goal of a MakerSpace is to empower students to see themselves as inventors, builders and creators, allowing for the learning of new skills through trial and error by experiencing failure, exploring alternatives and problem-solving to improve on ideas and most importantly by promoting collaborative learning.

In STEM subjects, investigation and experimentation are an important part of learning, building confidence and inquisitiveness. Practical experience is already proven to have greater learning outcomes and better retention amongst students than structured teaching and lecture models, bringing the theoretical to life.
Gratnells MakerSpace trolleys provide a focal point for collaborative working and also a resource centre for the management and control, as well as storage, of technical resources. They allow practical activities to be carried out anywhere, even in regular classrooms, and are not confined to specialist technology workshops.

MakerSpace studios offer a broad range of opportunities for the widest range of students, with all benefiting from the opportunity to explore new activities and express their manual dexterity at many different levels of competence.
Activities are particularly beneficial for those choosing a more practical career path and support a move into apprenticeships, as well as supporting higher level research and development and highly academic and technical careers. These can be typified by a range of activities and skill sets from the practical and construction based, to the academic and theoretical, suiting a mix of students. Students get to work in a mixed skill group, each with a positive contribution and activities can be stretched and developed to reach greater heights pushing the students to explore new limits.

Outside the traditional classroom, STEM learning can be encountered in a myriad of educational spaces in heritage and cultural sites, museums and visitor attractions around the UK. From activities with the Learning and Communities Officer at the Museum of Army Flying to STEM events run in conjunction with the University of Middlesex at Thorpe Park, it feels like STEM learning is entering a new phase. This is something borne out by the buzz around the MakerSpace trolley wherever Gratnells shows it, whether for education officers at the Museums + Heritage Show or science technicians at the various ASE events organised around the country.

Just a few months after its launch, Gratnells MakerSpace trolley was awarded a prestigious industry award. The Worlddidac Awards are held every two years and are run by the global trade association for the educational resources industry, Worlddidac, to recognise innovation in educational products and solutions. Candidates for the award must pass an independent evaluation by a national teacher’s panel and present the features and benefits of their product before a jury of international experts in Bern, Switzerland. Announcing the award, Worlddidac found the MakerSpace trolley “to be a particularly praiseworthy educational solution, which can be highly recommended for use in schools”.

Gratnells MakerSpace in Action

The award-wining MakerSpace trolley is already being used as a central resource station for collaborative working at one of Europe’s leading educational charities.

The Eden Project in Cornwall, England connects people and the living world, exploring the path towards a better future. Massive Biomes house stunning plants, exhibitions and stories serve as a backdrop to the striking contemporary gardens.

Home to ecosystems from the Mediterranean and the largest indoor tropical rainforest in the world, Eden Project is equally recognised for its world-class exhibition programme. As an educational charity, Eden Project has a firm focus on developing and delivering STEM and STEAM learning outcomes through their exhibition and education programmes, receiving support from the Association of Science and Discovery Centres.

Gratnells MakerSpace trolley has become a central feature in the LAB education space at the Eden Project, where it is used as a resource to support various STEM and STEAM activities, encouraging a hands-on approach to getting involved in the Invisible Worlds exhibition. It is used in the Science, Art and Engineering workshops, helping to turn space into a 360˚ workspace and classroom and allowing students and staff to work in harmony on their journey of discovery.

The removable trays of the MakerSpace trolley are also used to create tray-based activities around the Invisible Worlds’ narrative – a major new permanent feature that introduces the interconnectedness between life and the Earth’s environments at all scales and explores how life is shaped by and shapes this invisible ‘Life Support System’.

When providing feedback on the usefulness of the MakerSpace trolley, Chris Bisson said, “The trolley has been a fantastic resource for us. We run all sorts of activities in the LAB and we can load up the trolley before sessions begin so those participating can easily select the materials they require and move equipment from one place to another quickly and safely.

It’s clear that practical experiences can inspire and engage students to a higher level. Without enquiry and investigation, we would not get to explore boundaries and students would not learn to discover, invent and innovate.”

In Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Maker Space for Your School, Laura Fleming writes “To define a school Maker Space by its purpose and simplest of terms, it is a place where young people have an opportunity to explore their own interests; learn to use tools and materials, both physical and virtual; and develop creative projects.”

Gratnells MakerSpace, and its role in STEM teaching and learning is here to stay, and is one part of Gratnells mission to support creative education, collaborative projects and a commitment to STEM and STEAM based learning.