Building up Making at Lodestar

With Lodestar just starting out at its current site, building up functional and quality maker spaces can prove challenging. We want to create spaces where maker-centered learning shines, in which students can lead activities and teachers can facilitate collaboration, co-inspiration, and co-critique. Additionally, we want to model other facets of maker-centered classrooms, which are outlined below:

Who are the Teachers?

What Does Teaching Look Like? What Does Learning Look Like? What Does the Classroom Look Like?
Students as Teachers Facilitating Student Collaboration All of the Above Tools & Materials
Teachers in the Community Encouraging Co-Inspiration, Co-Critique Storage & Visibility
Online Knowledge Sourcing Redirecting Authority Figuring it Out Specific & Flexible Spaces

Tools and Materials as Teachers

Promoting an Ethics of Knowledge Sharing

These characteristics are all essential for learning in a maker-centered classroom, and they set the tone for students guiding their own learning and solving problems independently (Clapp).

At Lodestar, we want to create three flexible making spaces in which students can easily find and use materials, where tools are accessible (depending on level of supervision required), and supplies are organized. The two Making, Art, and Design classes teach students how to use various tools and media, as well as supplement the expedition classes in creating students’ exposition projects. The Lab making space is designed for students to express their independence in creating projects, implementing the techniques learned in their Making, Art, and Design classes. With this in mind, we embarked on the organizational journey of setting up the two Making, Art, and Design classes and a permanent making space in the K-3 lab. This post outlines our progress thus far, focusing on setting up the 3rd – 7th grade room.

Ms. Ortiz leading a lesson in the K-2 Making, Art, & Design classroom

When I arrived at Lodestar the week before school started, the K-2 Making, Art, and Design room organization was well underway. With other members of the Creativity Lab team, I assisted with unpacking boxes, sorting materials, and making sure that Ms. Ortiz had a system in place for the final stretch of organization. In this space, the remaining tasks center around stocking materials and creating an inventory system.

At the same time, the 3 -7 Making, Art, and Design room was still piled high with boxes. I started to group the boxes by general content, such as tools, woodworking supplies, or coloring utensils, and sorted the materials into clear plastic boxes. Next, I printed out a set of labels (small and large) pre-made for the Lighthouse Creativity Lab, and labeled all the bins, while noting labels that still need to be created. We organized and distributed the bins throughout the classroom as best we could, as well as attempted a functional table layout that encouraged communication and group work. We started with four clusters of tables (enough for about four students each), and after a few days of school, this was changed to three clusters, with a larger seating area in the back of the classroom. We also added two tool tables in the back, where students can access the supplies needed for the day. The inventory system and overall structure of the class are ongoing improvement processes, and we still need to order new supplies and restock old ones.

3-7 Making, Art, & Design Classroom: Organization (Top Left), During (Bottom Left), Labels (Bottom Right), Before (Middle Right), After (Top Right)

Research shows that some of the main outcomes in maker-centered classrooms are students building both agency and character, in the sense that they are empowered to make choices about how to act in the world, while building competence and confidence. Other benefits include cultivating discipline and maker-specific knowledge and skills, as well as developing a sensitivity to the designed objects and systems that surround us (Clapp)

Ms. Ortiz and students in the Lab Making Space

We have already seen some of the characteristics described above in action. For example, students in the lab have near full freedom to create any project that comes to mind (with the restriction of available tools and materials). In the Making, Art, and Design classes, students have already worked through design challenges together. Although these making spaces will be evolving, I believe we are on the right track to encourage independent planning and learning.

We want these spaces to empower students through making, encouraging them to look closely, explore complexity, and find opportunity. We hope to see that in our making spaces, like many defined maker-centered spaces, “curiosity led to questions, and questions led to research, more questions, and finally some understanding, familiarity, and confidence” (Clapp).

Clapp, Edward P., et al. Maker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds. Jossey-Bass, 2016.










About Claire Tiffany-Appleton

Claire Tiffany-Appleton is currently an Americorps VISTA member serving through MakerEd at Lodestar Charter School. She assists in the Making, Art, Design and Lighthouse Creativity Lab Programs. She recently graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics from UC Berkeley, and is excited to start her journey with making!