Thinking About Starting a Makerspace? Think Again!

Thinking About Starting a Makerspace? Think Again!

Ok, so the title of the post may have led you to think that I believe makerspaces aren’t a good thing. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. For the past 10 years, I’ve been working in — or designing professional learning for supporting — PBL/maker programs, so I have absolutely drank the kool-aid. I just want us to think deeper than the shiny, sparkly surface. So let’s think again! STEAMmaker Camp, Ginger Lewman, ESSDACK

Nearly every day I’m approached with questions about how to start a makerspace. I have written posts on this before, but today I had the opportunity to really dig in deep with  Katie Perez, a colleague of mine, with a team of visiting teachers. They came in from 3.5 hours away to visit our ESSDACK Makerspace and then to pick our brains all about maker education. It was a wonderful conversation and it’s apparent that this team was quite a distance down the road of planning. Always a joy!

In preparation for their visit, Katie and I compiled a list of questions we believe that educators want to consider as they begin building their own makerspaces.

By no means is this a comprehensive list. But it’s a deeper start than where I see most people begin. And the truth is we might need to begin before we have all the answers. So start here, but keep this list handy as you go deeper into your process. Review these questions. See if your initial thoughts still hold true. Consider that you may actually answer a question one way while another school down the road answers the opposite way — and that you might BOTH be correct.You see, we’re not building one space 5,000 times. We’re building the space that our kids, teachers, and community need. And it’s ok to be different from someone else’s space. 

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 10.15.02 AM

If, as you’re reading this, you think we’ve missed some questions or concepts, please add your thoughts into the comments. We can all grow together!


Questions to consider when starting a makerspace:


  • Why do you want a makerspace? What’s the purpose?This is in a school? What learning do you intend to have students doing?
  • How do we intentionally foster independence, risk-taking, and perseverance in ALL our students’ learning and behavior?Extreme Sidewalk Chalk 3D STEAMmaker
  • Who’s going to run it?
  • When will it be open?
  • Who will use it? Who’s your targeted audience? Who else could/would benefit?
  • How will it be sustained and updated?
  • Do you have a specific design process you want kids to follow?
  • What is your goal in your first year? Second year? Third year? Beyond?
  • Zero to maker
  • Maker to maker
  • Maker to market


  • What space do you have? Is it able to get dirty? Ruined? Loud?
  • What storage will you need?
  • How do you keep the storage streamlined and simple?
  • What is it about your space that will make it different than your other spaces? What will quickly signal the students that this is different and that they are expected to be different here?
  • What variety of spaces can you create that promote thinking? Collaboration? Prototyping? Conversation? Building? Presenting? Displaying?
  • What lighting is best for that particular place? Choose intentionally. Thoughtfully
  • How does the space become another vital element to foster exploration in its own right?


  • How will it enhance classroom curriculum? Or does it need to…because it might not. Consider both points of view before settling on your vision/mission.
  • Which comes first in your planning?
    • Activities & Challenges
    • Learning — academics and skills
    • Materials — hardware, software, furniture, consumables, tools
  • What skills do you want your learners to develop? Why?
  • What activities are you considering? Why?
  • What materials (both top-of-the-line and broken-shoestring-budget) are you looking for? Why? Be cautious. MANY of the buzzed-up tools are expensive one-timers. How does that tool lead to something bigger?
  • How do we intentionally foster independence, risk-taking, and perseverance in ALL our students’ learning and behavior?
  • What will you do for the kids who are AMAZING at making?
  • What will you do for the kids who think they’re TERRIBLE?
  • What’s the role of the classroom teacher? The makerspace coordinator? The Superintendent? The para?
  • What’s the role of the PTA?
  • What’s the role of the business down the street? (are we just asking for another hand out?) How do we ensure the partnership is mutually beneficial?
  • How will you keep it from being just a crafting space? Or do you need to?


  • Who are your guest experts?
  • How will *all* the teachers take ownership?
  • How will *all* the parents take ownership?IMG_1528
  • Most importantly, how will all the learners take ownership? And how/why do we let them?
  • How do we intentionally foster independence, risk-taking, and perseverance in ALL our students’ learning and behavior?
  • How will you continue to learn and develop your own space? What community will you get in a hurry and develop so you can continue to learn and grow yourselves?


  • How will you get the stories out about your space?
  • Who will tell those stories? Are they media trained?

Last but not least:

  • Do you have a first aid station?
    • Safety equipment?
    • Skills practice sections?
  • How will students take a role in room tidiness to ensure safety?
  • What tools will they get to use? What modifications to tools would make them appropriate for those who need modification?
  • Can they ever graduate up? Why/not?

Looking for more help getting your space set up? Check out our STEAMmaker Camp website for help getting your staff and students ready. And contact me if you have additional questions. 


Ginger Katie STEAMmaker 2.JPG

Katie Perez and Ginger Lewman hanging out in the ESSDACK Makerspace.





Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by GingerLewman

  1. Do we really want to start maker spaces, or do we start a maker mindset? Kind of rhetorical.

    • I can see that. But I want to highlight the subtle differences between a space full of stuff and the approach to learning that a maker mindset engenders. I can have a maker mindset in a classroom, right? It’s less about the stuff and the fancy space and more about what we’re *doing*, right?

Copyright © 2016