Inspiring Students To Learn Through Making. Here’s How.

Invent To Learn

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In the STEAM movement, we seek to engage students in a love of learning about science, technology, art, and math.  In previous posts, we have discussed the risks to our local and national development if we continue to graduate students who don’t value science, math, engineering, and being creative.   How do we inspire students to become innovators and creators rather than passive consumers?

Our team at Mercer Engineering Research Center has started to brainstorm community programs to engage and inspire middle and high school students in middle Georgia.  With this vision in mind, we feel that middle Georgia community needs a maker space.     A maker space seeks to inspire creativity and curiosity by empowering us to work on creative projects of personal interest.  In our plan, the Maker spaces will be supported by experienced technologists, engineers, scientists and artists who desire to see growth in our community.

The Makers movement builds upon learning theory of Seymour Papert and Jean Piaget.  According to Papert, “Some of the most crucial steps in mental growth are based not simply on acquiring new skills, but on acquiring new administrative ways to use what one already knows.”    In contrast to the instructionism paradigm of learning, Papert and other constructionists believe that deeper learning occurs when students are presented with new knowledge and are encouraged to immediately make something that helps them apply the ideas.   Through the act of making, students construct mental pathways linking new ideas back to experiences they already have in a playful way.

Our team has enjoyed studying the following resources to help us plan our future Maker space efforts:

  • “Invent To Learn:  Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom” by Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager.  Vick Davis (@coolcatteacher) has a wonderful summary of this book here.  I can’t recommend this book enough.   I love the discussion of learning theory .   It also argues that computer programming, digital fabrication, and hardware tinkering can help keep students engaged and grow them in design thinking.   It promotes situations where students can learn new knowledge and immediately apply it in playful ways.
  • : The “Makerspace Playbook” guides those who are hoping to start a Makerspace at their school or in their community.  I was amazed by the balance of this free e-book.   In addition to discussing the technical aspects of running the maker space, it reviews safety, teaching styles, and community building models.
  • Maker Camp – Free Virtual Summer Camp for Teens:   The Maker Camp teaching sessions have provided practical inspiration and project ideas.  The following video showcases projects from Maker Camp 2013.  Check out more Maker Camp videos on YouTube.  We want to bring this creativity, curiosity, and energy to our community in Middle, GA all year long!


To help focus our planning efforts, please consider taking the following three question survey.   In future blog entries, I will provide a summary of responses to our readers.   Thank you for your time and support.


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