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Exploring Outdoor Makerspaces to Develop STEM Skills

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As an urgency has emerged to prepare students to be future-ready, makerspaces have been developed as a technique for teachers to use in classrooms to build science, technology, engineering and

As an urgency has emerged to prepare students to be future-ready, makerspaces have been developed as a technique for teachers to use in classrooms to build science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. Makerspaces expose students to innovation and are powerful tools in training students to use science and engineering practices as they invent, discover and tinker. While indoor makerspaces have been studied in multiple settings, little research has been performed to understand the relevance of makerspaces in outdoor settings.

The goal of this study was to aid 20 elementary teachers in developing their understanding of the usefulness and benefits of outdoor makerspaces. A constructivist approach was used in order for participants to overcome pre-conceived barriers about taking students outside for learning. In this qualitative study, participants took part in a hands-on professional development session to learn how to integrate nature into instruction, then used outdoor spaces to engage their own students in three or more outdoor sessions. Teachers reflected before, during and after the intervention to see if the likelihood of engaging students in outdoor learning changed.

The findings of the study showed that spending time outside with students led to a multitude of benefits for both students and teachers. Benefits included increased student engagement, expanded learning for students and teachers, and STEM skill development. These findings, suggest that outdoor makerspaces introduce a new platform for training students and teachers about science and engineering practices while providing authentic science connections, high engagement, and benefits to social and emotional balance.

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Date Created
  • 2020

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The maker movement, the promise of higher education, and the future of work

Description

The 21st century will be the site of numerous changes in education systems in response to a rapidly evolving technological environment where existing skill sets and career structures may cease

The 21st century will be the site of numerous changes in education systems in response to a rapidly evolving technological environment where existing skill sets and career structures may cease to exist or, at the very least, change dramatically. Likewise, the nature of work will also change to become more automated and more technologically intensive across all sectors, from food service to scientific research. Simply having technical expertise or the ability to process and retain facts will in no way guarantee success in higher education or a satisfying career. Instead, the future will value those educated in a way that encourages collaboration with technology, critical thinking, creativity, clear communication skills, and strong lifelong learning strategies. These changes pose a challenge for higher education’s promise of employability and success post-graduation. Addressing how to prepare students for a technologically uncertain future is challenging. One possible model for education to prepare students for the future of work can be found within the Maker Movement. However, it is not fully understood what parts of this movement are most meaningful to implement in education more broadly, and higher education in particular. Through the qualitative analysis of nearly 160 interviews of adult makers, young makers and young makers’ parents, this dissertation unpacks how makers are learning, what they are learning, and how these qualities are applicable to education goals and the future of work in the 21st century. This research demonstrates that makers are learning valuable skills to prepare them for the future of work in the 21st century. Makers are learning communication skills, technical skills in fabrication and design, and developing lifelong learning strategies that will help prepare them for life in an increasingly technologically integrated future. This work discusses what aspects of the Maker Movement are most important for integration into higher education.

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Date Created
  • 2017