Makerspace for Service Learning: Using Design Thinking to Impact the World

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Since my last time having a makerspace in my classroom, I’ve done some reflecting and planning and tweaking. One of my goals was to integrate the makerspace as a summative assessment in a traditional unit. I had that chance this week.

I teach at an International Baccalaureate school, and as part of that curriculum we encourage our students to engage in service learning. My grade level and content area was assigned a unit dealing with responding to bullying. The unit itself (which I didn’t help create) was pretty blah. There were stories to read from textbooks and just a project at the end which pretty much was a poster. I decided to spice it up with the makerspace. (I also used technology to make the stories much better, but I write about that in another post.)

So, I decided that a makerspace as our summative assessment/service learning creation would be awesome. Instead of just a poster as a choice, I engaged my students in design thinking where the end goal was to create something that would make maximum impact in our school community in regards to responding to and preventing bullying.

I started with explaining the design thinking process to them, and then we got started. Using a Google Presentation, we went through the first 3 stages of the process. They then wrote quick proposals for their creation idea. I approved proposals individually, and then they could start.

We’ve now just finished the creation and iteration stages. We only had 2 days in which to create, get feedback, and iterate. I wish we would have had more time. Students did have to make prototypes or rough drafts and receive feedback from other classmates. I also emphasized to students throughout the process that their job was to make sure every decision they made, including materials and design and even where they posted their products, were to be made following the problem they were trying to solve. Whenever students asked me what to do, I just responded with another question: “What would make maximum impact on your audience to solve your problem?”

We will be reflecting on the whole process tomorrow. I hope that, during this reflection, they will be able to think of better ways to design their solution and perhaps even some students will do this on their own. I wish we had more time to then actually iterate their ideas in class. However, as a public school, we must carry on and keep going in order to “finish” with all the assigned units we must get through. : (

Overall, this was such a great 3 days of class. Students created awesome things like:

  • anti-bullying bookmarks to hand out in the library
  • anti-bullying flags to hang up around school
  • 3-D posters to hang up in the commons
  • Jewelry to hand out to students who are standing up to bullying

I really think that this was a great way for students to learn more autonomy as well. So many times my students want step-by-step directions and feel so uncomfortable with almost any type of autonomy. Answering all their questions with a question and giving them almost complete freedom was such an amazing way for them to learn to be in control of their own learning. It was also a great way to teach the skills of how to target an audience.

Lastly, I really feel that the vast majority of my students enjoyed feeling like they were making an impact in their school community. Middle School can be such a bummer sometimes, and make kids feel so powerless. I think that this service learning project helped them empathize with others and feel like they have some real impact on the world.

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Author: karinhogen

I teach middle school language arts and run an Edtech company, DocentEDU, on the side. Every day is an adventure in my classroom with technology!

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