a place in which people with shared interests can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.
Spaces for making, tinkering, and exploring passions and interests are nothing new to an early childhood classroom. Makerspaces have been a hot topic in education and a large part of bringing this concept into your classroom is the mindset teachers and children have around growth and exploration. By shifting the way challenge and failure is viewed, you can incorporate the maker mindset into every area of your classroom.
Interested in learning more about what makes a makerspace? Check out this blog by maker expert John Spencer!
Embracing a Growth Mindset
Growth mindset refers to the idea that a person’s knowledge and intelligence can grow and change when exposed to new or challenging experiences. This mindset embraces trying new things, and with that comes failure. An important part of embodying the growth mindset is meeting failure with persistence and patience. This is often easier said than done and takes practice. Re-framing the thinking about failure can help children use these experiences as learning moments.
- You’ve tried something new! Hooray!
- You have more knowledge about how something does (or does not) work or function
- You can reflect on what has happened and use that to make a new plan or action
- A great way to start to incorporate this culture of embracing failure is to model it for the children in your class.
When something doesn’t go the way you had planned or offers a surprising result, narrate your feelings and thoughts for the children to hear. Here is an example: “Wow, that didn’t go how I expected it to. Now I understand ________ and can make a new plan to try again.”
- Model taking creative risks (like creating a makerspace in your classroom!)
Re-organizing your space to support the maker mindset can have an impact on how children can interact and use the space. Here are some factors to keep in mind:
Curiosity: The classroom environment should support wonder and investigation. There should be space for children to explore openly and interact with materials that interest them.
Possibility: The classroom environment can illicit possibility by offering open-ended materials that allow children to assign meaning and purpose. This gives children a challenge to design ways to use materials that support their ideas.
Accessibility: To be able to spark curiosity and possibility, children need to be able to access materials and have hands-on experiences to better understand how materials can be used in their ideas and designs.
Offering spaces for children to connect and collaborate with one another is an integral part of fostering the maker mindset. Children are natural collaborators. Promoting brainstorming and building off one another’s ideas will support children in practicing teamwork and will push their ideas further than if they were designed in isolation.
Setting clear expectations and agreements about how the space will be used and taken care of will keep everyone on the same page.
- Use of materials: Children are capable of using materials in respectful and intentional ways. Helping children create expectations and agreements about how the materials will be used and cared for, and then following through on upholding those expectations is valuable for the teacher and the child. This will take time and practice to form these habits and lots of modeling will help children have a visual of how to interact with the space.
- Saving the process: Often, the creative process does not feel complete for a child even when it is time to transition to the next part of the day. We can honor this by creating a system to save works in progress. Trays, a designated shelf, or save tags are all great options to signal to the child and others that the creations in that area will be revisited.
Creating a culture that embraces the maker mindset also includes incorporating reflection into everyday conversations and processes. In an early childhood classroom, this can look like a more familiar framework of Think, Pair, Share. Encourage children to utilize this framework before, during, and after the creative process to work through challenges and redesign.
Reflection is a powerful tool and can help children take time to pause and zoom out to the larger picture when they feel stuck and challenged by a task or design. Pair reflection is also helpful because it lends another perspective and voice to the conversation.
Embracing a maker mindset in your classroom can empower your children to take risks and welcome challenge in a more positive way. Fostering the skills needed to successfully collaborate and reflect enable children to work through the creative process and problem solve autonomously.
Jordan Kaseeska is the Education Specialist at Kodo Kids. She received her undergraduate degree from Colombia College Chicago in Early Childhood Education and went on to earn her masters degree from University of Colorado- at Denver in Education and Human Development with a focus in Early Literacy. She has used her passion for constructionist style teaching in public and private early childhood and elementary classrooms.