makerspace lab

One university’s makerspace smashup

East Central University leading the way with its new makerspace lab.

A new makerspace lab in a college’s education department is helping to facilitate workshops, courses, and in-service events where veteran teachers and preservice teachers alike can learn to set up and run a makerspace.

Case in point: the L-shaped room on the lower level of East Central University‘s Lanoy Education Building in Ada, Okla., is outfitted with the latest technology, and mobile tables, chairs, whiteboards, and cabinets can be configured in minutes to meet any education needs that might arise. After all, flexibility is one hallmark of a great makerspace.

ECU has positioned itself this summer as a leader in preparing preservice teachers for a new approach to teaching and learning. “I’m a big believer in the visual, the hands on,” said ECU President Dr. John Hargrave. “I can just envision when a student at the junior high or grade school level creates something and takes it home to their parents. When the parent says, ‘How was school today?’ they’re not going to hear, ‘Uh, OK.’ The child will say, ‘Oh my gosh, look what I made. Look what I did,’ and start describing these makerspace products. I can just see it impacting the parents and their attitude and their interest in their child’s education.”

Tammy Parks, a veteran teacher who was among the first group to utilize the new Pitsco Maker Space Lab during a summer workshop, confirmed Hargrave’s prediction of makerspaces’ potential effect on students. “There are so many soft skills that are part of a makerspace environment – creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, as well as what’s called habits of mind or the dispositions of a good learner,” Parks said.

As she and other workshop teachers took on the role of students in brainstorming solutions to their open-ended challenge, one of Pitsco’s many products on the nearby shelves, the Invention Explore-A-Pak, opened new avenues for exploration and creativity.

“When they pulled out the Pitsco kit, we started seeing tools that really took our creativity to a different level,” Parks said. “Literally, it evolved within a matter of minutes of seeing additional resources available. I described it as a makerspace smashup because you have multiple resources that on their own are fantastic, but when you put them together, it’s through the roof – endless possibilities for creativity for the kids.”

In addition to the Invention Explore-A-Pak, other Pitsco Maker Space products are suitable for exploring topics such as physical science, engineering, aerospace, structures, and sustainable energy.

Pitsco Education CEO Dr. Harvey Dean said he is excited about the potential effect of the makerspace training ground at ECU. “More and more preservice teachers will experience the application of learning using that third domain, the psychomotor domain. About one-third of the students in a classroom, that’s their dominant learning style,” he noted. “For us to be a part of this is exciting because literally tens of thousands of students will be affected by the teachers who come through here.”

Laura Ascione