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.