Today was my first day in the media center working summer school. I have been focusing great amounts of energy on getting the school maker space up and running. Starting a new endeavor like this leads to many hours of reflection on what the best methods and practices are, but also on why I am doing this. Why would a maker space serve the learning needs of my students? Why would I take the focus off of the books in the room? What does any of this have to do with literacy, which, after all, is what I am paid to promote?
I came to the conclusion that there are several reasons that maker space is worth the effort and some of them are even related to literacy. Literacy related reason number one: Most maker projects require students to follow step-by-step directions, which require reading words and sometimes pictures. Literacy related reason number two: Students need to tell others about what they have made, which involves either oral or written language. We often use IPads to record our explanation, but students still need to compose their thoughts and produce something understandable. Literacy related reason number three: Writing is making. Writing is an act of creation. Especially if choices about format and genre are not too tightly dictated, writers are creating something of their own.
There are some other great reasons that are not directly related to literacy. First, different kids get to be the best at something. When we are only focused on content goals, a few students shine most of the time because the vast majority of this type of work is based on a small set of academic skills. Maker space gives a broader range of students a chance to do what they do best. Also, maker space does not usually have one right answer. Let’s be real, most of the problems that adults need to solve do not have one neat solution. Isn’t it a good idea to let kids understand this, as well? When all is said and done, I think the time spent developing my school’s maker space is time well spent.