A makerspace is a resource-rich, thoughtfully designed, hands-on environment where ingenious makers bring creative ideas to life.
A makerspace can be a dedicated room, a corner of a classroom, or even a mobile cart. Makerspaces are found in schools, libraries, museums, community centers—anywhere people can gather.
A given makerspace may change location or appearance from day to day, depending on who is using it and what projects are underway.
David Peins, an innovative teacher who took his young students to a Maker Faire to show off their creations., made this observation:
“You see engineers talking to young kids here.
And the engineers are the ones asking the questions.” 
What Do Students Do in a Makerspace
Many maker projects focus on engineering and coding. Students also like to apply their making skills to art, architecture, science, textiles, theater, storytelling, music, history, and many other topics.
Does “Learning by Doing” Actually Happen?
Yes! Today’s students need to be “design thinkers” who can define, design, and implement new solutions. Design thinking supports “Constructivist learning,” an age-old approach to education that is finally getting the recognition it deserves.
Constructivist learners create their own knowledge by interacting with the real world and making lasting mental connections. This is exactly what goes on in a successful makerspace!
Makers make gains in other essential life skills, such as collaboration, perseverance, and critical thinking. Young makers, both female and male, are more likely to describe themselves as independent, hardworking, solution oriented, and social (ref  p. 4).
Young Makers Need a Place at the Table
In a survey of 58 educational makerspaces conducted by MIT, two thirds were used primarily for high school grades. The remaining ones had a mix of elementary and middle school student users. (ref  p. 1). A Harris Poll sponsored by Intel found that making is very popular with tweens (ref  p. 4). This means we need to give younger students more opportunities to get engaged in making!
Girls are Gaining Ground
In many makerspaces, the number of girls served is almost equal to the number of boys. Accord to the Intel survey, girls and boys in the U.S. are equally likely to be “tech makers.” At the time of the survey, one in four had made things with technology during the past year, and seven in 10 wanted to learn to make something with electronics.
Simple Tools Get the Job Done
Most school administrators and parents are excited about getting a 3D printer for their fledgling makerspaces. Those machines ARE cool… but my advice is to go slow on that expenditure, especially if you are serving younger students.
Ideally, makerspaces designed for younger students should be overflowing with simple and colorful materials that are flexible and easy to shape or cut, while also being sturdy enough for use in prototypes. The most essential materials for youth-oriented makerspaces are the “joiners”—things like double-stick foam, masking tape, magnetic tape, chenille stems, plastic screws, and glue dots. These fasteners attach quickly but can easily be repositioned to test promising design improvements.
Ready to Try It? Take a Deep Breath…
Put aside the excitement and hype around makerspaces long enough to listen to the wisdom of experienced makers. Before launching your makerspace, have you identified a place to put it? Do you have a reliable source of replacement materials lined up? Have you got a list of starter projects that are grade-appropriate and aligned with your curriculum?
Then Go for It!
Start by clearing out a huge room and investing in a giant pile of expensive equipment (just kidding).
Actually, you probably want to “start small” with one simple project. For example, young students love making paper airplanes and test-flying them through a pair of hula hoops.
After that, you can move up to a basic makerspace cart—this will give you access to more supplies, plus “room to grow” as you gain experience. Some makerspace carts come with “task cards” containing project ideas.
When you are ready for a cart, hand2mind could be a good choice. Both hand2mind Makerspace Carts include basic materials like cardboard, foil, and clay. They also contain many of the “joiners” I mentioned earlier. Plus, they feature standards-aligned activity cards for grades
No matter what direction you choose, your young makers will be thrilled to have an opportunity to bring their ideas to life!
Greg Brown is an Education Consultant, Curriculum Developer, and Teacher Coach. He began his career as an engineer at a Silicon Valley R&D center, where he led a worldwide technical training program.
Greg left industry to help start The Tech Museum, an educational resource dedicated to inspiring young innovators. As a vice president at the museum, he conceived and launched The Tech Challenge, a project-based learning program designed to engage young people who may not see a future for themselves in science or engineering. The Tech Challenge attracts thousands of students each year.
Greg continued inspiring teachers and learners as the Director of Education Initiatives at Resource Area For Teaching. His work included expanding the RAFT library of hands-on kits and lesson plans to cover virtually every topic in Common Core Math and the Next Generation Science Standards.
Recently, Greg co-wrote a middle school science curriculum which has been approved for adoption by the State of California. He also launched a series of teacher workshops on creativity and design thinking.
Throughout his career, Greg has delivered hundreds of teacher training programs at schools and non-profits, as well as state and national education conferences.
Greg holds BS and MS degrees in General Engineering and Product Design from Stanford University.