Starting Your Own MakerSpace? Lessons Learned at STEAMmaker Camp: #selfie post

Science, Tinkering, Engineering, Aesthetics, Mathematics,
all housed inside a creative makerspace.

I learned a lot about hosting a STEAMmaker Camp throughout the planning, building, and facilitating this teacher workshop. This is why I’m dubbing this the “#selfie post.”

To lay out the goal of the event, we honestly created the camp to be for the teachers, adding students as “props” to learn how to manage this type of environment in real time. Sure, the kids benefited too, but I want to help teachers see what it’s like to work inside a makerspace. And another added benefit was that having 2 teachers per team allows the teachers to go back to their schools and have a ready-made partner and seed-team of students ready to launch a STEAMmaker space next year!

You see, I find that hosting teacher-centered workshops only allows me to tell about how to do these types of things. That’s nice. But it’s not real and it’s not authentic. It has the horrifying potential to be a polished version of reality.

So if I’m going to walk my walk about learning by doing…

I like to think I have some good experience with learning by doing:

  • in the early 2000’s I coordinated Odyssey of the Mind teams in our community, helping several to World competition multiple years in a row.
  • starting in 2006, I started a PBL school that doubled 3 times in population as we — the students, staff, and parents — continued to learn and nurture it.
  • since 2011, I’ve been traveling across the US and into other countries, helping other teachers and school leaders figure out how to jump start their own students’ learning engagement and learning by doing environments.STEAMmaker Camp, Ginger Lewman, ESSDACK

But the maker movement in education kicks out a little different spin that I really like, especially as coupled with STE(A)M. So I jumped into the ballgame. And I learned some lessons.

So next time, what will I keep and what will I do differently?

  1. We were shooting for 7 teams of 8 kids and 2 teachers (70 people total). We got 4 teams of 8 kids and 2 teachers (40 people). And I’m thankful for the unintended reduction. While we had plenty of adult supervision for safety, space was at a premium and 7 teams would simply have been too many kids for the space that a makerspace requires. #accidentalwin
  2. We needed more time to confer with the participating teachers to the side of the camp. This time was used to help them understand the specific strategies I was role modeling. Some saw what I was doing; some saw part of what I was doing. Some just got really tired after five 14+ hour days. #change
  3. We ran the camp from 8am – 9pm each day with a 45 minute lunch break and a 2 hour dinner break.Ginger Lewman, PBL, ESSDACK It was a LONG week of LONG days. But I think that to truly immerse the teachers and kids in this environment, we had to do it that way. I wanted us all tired. Learning is fun and tiring. I wanted kids to go home babbling about all they’d learned, then crash out. This is reality in a great school. It also induces some stress in both teachers and students so we can recreate tough scenarios that actually happen in real life. Is that evil to create the breeding ground for strife? I don’t know. But I do know that teachers got to see the kids hit a wall, learn how to respond (both kids and teachers), and persevere to emerge successful at the end. This is real. And I want the teachers to experience it authentically. #win
  4. In doing this again, the perfect scenario would be to put in a day with teachers ahead of time and a day afterward without students for preparation of what they’ll see, what the kids will experience, and what the teachers will experience. #change
  5. We had 7 modules (hate that word) with varying levels of intensity inside each #win
    1. music
    2. wearable technology
    3. textiles
    4. robotics and coding
    5. circuitrySTEAMmaker Camp, Ginger Lewman, ESSDACK
    6. 3D design and printing
  6. I love that our 3D design space drew kids in with the 3D printer. I really love that the challenge was to learn to use the software. We refused to print just to print. They were hooked into persisting through learning the software by the desire to print. #win
  7. I felt that each of the modules was successful with a wide variety of kids, for varying reasons. And I feel confident that we can easily add or switch out any module we’d like, depending upon the event. This is do-able and this is travel-able, which is very important to me. #win
  8. We started the first 3 days with a challenge each day (I’ll be writing more about each challenge later). These weren’t typical makerspace challenges. The purpose was to see kids work in teams, see the teachers react to the kids working on the challenge, and to create an opportunity to make some easy-lob mistakes. That way, we could have a chance to talk about expectations, get to know one another, and make the rest of our time more effective. #win
  9. The challenge should have been mixed-team, though, meaning that kids from all schools would be mixed together, based on what we’d observed of them in the previous 2 challenges. This would serve to continue to solidify new relationships. #change
  10. Every module was set up with a Level 1 challenge; something that was so tasty they just had to make it. Of course there were options to Level 1 challenges to suit many personalities. But they were willing to persist with learning the tough skills in order to make that thing they wanted. #win
  11. I pre-planned each module with a simple table tent of resources and level 1 challenges. It was simple enough to let kids read it before their attention wandered. #win This table tent could have also been put on the wall. #change
  12. The Level 2 challenges were designed to be very open-ended so students had to create structure for themselves. They also were designed so that they naturally (w)could lead to a mashup of the modules — where sewing skills meet circuitry. Where music meets textiles. and so on. #win
  13. Create a set of badges or some visual “holding tank” where participants can show off what they have accomplished/made as they go through the week. One quick glance will tell me who is falling through the cracks and might need a little more personalized attention. #change
  14. I was astounded at the number of people I had helping us put this together. From food coordination, to marketing, to supply shopping, to organizing, to digital production, to cheerleading, I was not alone. I counted 16 people from our offices who contributed in some significant way to help pull this off. I am eternally grateful. #win
  15. I could have used more, intentional, targeted mentors for each module. I don’t know it all. There’s no way I can. I will be asking experts to sit in and be dedicated to specific modules. And with that, I’ll need some time to help them be great mentors by asking thinking questions more than they “teach”.  #change STEAMmaker Camp, Ginger Lewman, ESSDACK
  16. The event cost less to create than I thought it would. I had a $1750 budget (3D printer not included). Some final receipts are still coming in, but I believe I hit right at that goal, buying equipment to stock both consumable materials and non-consumable tools. And even a few extra tools we didn’t use. And now we can continue to invest in more specialized tools, leading to a wider variety of modules. #win
  17. I had an amazing partner who dealt with the paperwork and helped me keep up with the deadlines and time goals (have this finished by…). Tag teaming with Carianne Short really helped share the load of stress so that I could continue with the rest of my job/life while building and marketing the event. #win
  18. I didn’t buy tubs to organize the final materials until the event was over. I needed to see what we had left, as well as keep the consumable materials separate (with a generic supplies list) from the tools. #win

STEAMmaker Camp, Ginger Lewman, ESSDACKI know there are more lessons, but this is a good start. We’ll continue to run varying types of STEAMmaker Camps in the fall, winter, spring, and summer. Each will be designed to help educators figure out how to replicate (or adjust) the system to fit their own communities.

See more pics/videos from STEAMmaker Camp.

Holler at me if you want to talk about how to put your own STEAMmaker Camp together.

A couple other helpful resources:






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Written by GingerLewman

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