Making it in elementary
It seems as though every couple of years a popular fad from outside academia leaches into the walls of education looking for a permanent home. Most recently, the DIY movement has tried to carve out a niche in the school halls branded as Makerspaces.
There is usually something of value offered in these new approaches and other elements that must be discarded to accommodate the differences between classrooms and the “real world.”
Makerspaces in the real world are a response to our visceral desire to tinker, craft, build, and create. It is of great value to recognize that desire in students and use its motivational power.
Makerspaces in the real world are also unrestricted by agenda or purpose or timelines. Classrooms are not. However, what making and the maker idea offers education is a built-in source of student agency. When the kids make something–anything–there is a sense of ownership inherent in that process.
The distinction that needs to come with that idea for teachers is that writing a narrative essay on a small moment you had over the weekend is not a ‘make’ in the same way that a Bob Ross painting-by-number is not art. On the other hand, asking a student to find a way to deliver a short, true story–and maybe a kid does it in the form of an essay–about their weekend is.
That change means teachers will have to provide options–audio books, graphic novels, video monologues, or blog posts–to the kids and help them work through writing that will necessarily precede the other parts.
That change will also mean the student has to make choices, learn individually, and still meet a clear standard.
That change does not mean teachers have to master all those options. It means they get to help their students explore them, try them, and learn from them.