A visit to the international School of Billund: How do makerspaces fit into schools?
Svava Pétursdóttir is a Lecturer/Assistant Professor in School of Education, University of Iceland. She is a participant in the MakEY project and had the pleasure of spending a month in Aarhus visiting schools and makerspaces. Her research interests are in the field of ICT in education, teacher professional development and science education.
As a teacher coming from formal education, my thinking around the makerspaces has mostly been on how makerspaces might “fit” into formal education. In our literature review we found very few concrete examples of makerspaces within the formal structures of schools.
We visited the International School of Billund, during my secondment in Århus. There they have furnished a space called the Creator Space. The space is located in the middle of the school and is open to all students to use with their teachers. The room is not bookable, as often is the case with spaces meant for common use in schools, such as computer labs. The room has a vast array of resources, tools for craft work, markers, pom poms, popsicle sticks, yarn, wire, paper, carton, also a vinyl cutter, laser cutter, 3D printer and cluster of computers. Adjacent to the room are two woodworking rooms, a textile room and two art rooms. On the walls are inspirational posters with creators from popular culture and real persons.
We saw the room in use where children were working on the theme journeys. Their task was to build a boat for the explorer Leifur Eiríksson. The boat was to hold eight Lego Dublo characters and float. We saw some inventive boats being made, blueprints had been made and some boats looked almost finished though not at all seaworthy. Some research on boat building might have helped with the design and making, as the space did have resources to make watertight boats. But the children’s creativity and ideas were given free reign to explore materials and designs in building the boats.
This was the best example I have seen so far on how makerspaces may fit into formal schooling, Here was a task firmly tied to learning goals but also flexible enough to allow for some serious making and tinkering. This example shows how makerspaces could be integrated into school practice.
Many schools and even whole school systems, as the case is in Finland, are diverging from traditional separate schools systems towards more project-based work. In the International school of Billund a considerable time of the school week is dedicated to a unit of Inquiry such as journeys where there is a possibility to work in an integrated manner with independent study and making.
One of the schools, Hólabrekkuskóli, which we will be following in the Makey project, has been moving toward such an arrangement (Anna María Þorkelsdóttir, 2017). For five hours every Wednesday children work on themes decided by the teachers. Children choose what they do, what research they do and what artifacts they create, crafts or digital. Hólabrekkuskóli is furnishing and equipping their own makerspace which will be used in this work.
It is clear in both these examples that making, creating and allowing for student voice goes hand in hand. On the walls and displays in these schools you see results made from such diverse materials as twigs or paper, 3D printed structures, stories of drama and presentations where children have both learned content from curricula, learned new skills and stretched their minds in designing and creating.
It will be interesting to follow these schools and see future developments in incorporating more design and creativity into the education of children. These physical makerspaces provide opportunities as well as a shift in organisation of the school day.
Nordic approaches to early years education
George Marusteru, Hatch Atelier, Romania
During my secondment to Aarhus, I had the chance to visit quite a few organizations and learn more about Nordic approaches to early years education.
This is a volunteer organisation that teaches children about technology, programming, robotics, etc. I was significantly impressed by how quickly they have managed to scale, starting less than five years ago and now having more than 50 chapters throughout Denmark. I suspect that their organisational model is in part the reason for their success, as parents are encouraged to volunteer themselves, thus creating a more continuous and engaged learning experience.
It’s also worth noting that the organization has met high success in partnering with both industry and educational actors and has achieved high recognition within both tech and educational sectors in Denmark.
Katrinbjergskolen& Aarhus Universitet
Through discussions and visits to Katrinbjergskolen (a local school) and Aarhus Universitet I learned more about Nordic approaches to education and pedagogy, finding it in sharp contrast to the educational system I was familiar with in my home country. The Romanian educational system by comparison is far more theoretical, with less interest being placed on practical experiences and non-core curriculum activities.
It is worth noting that I could feel a general future-oriented approach to education (a high degree of interest in what “future schools/labs/activities” will look like) throughout my discussions with teachers and pedagogues.
To be perfectly honest, I have never seen a library like Dokk1. The guided visit to Dokk1 helped me understand the “kulturhaus” approach which libraries (national level approach) in Denmark operate under. To be specific, Dokk1 caters to all manner of public events and initiatives, it has a public service area, it has gaming zones, audio books, videos, play areas for children. One surprising fact was that there is only one small “quiet” room and actual books may account for less than 10% of available content. This visit has readjusted my expectations of what a modern library should look like.
Open Space Aarhus
The visits to OpenSpace Aarhus (a local makerspace) has confirmed the issues of financing and lack of visibility towards potential partnerships between non-affiliated makerspaces and formal educational institutions.
Anna María Þorkelsdóttir (2017) Nám á nýjum nótum í Hólabrekkuskóla. Skólaþræðir, Tímarit samtaka áhugafólks um skólaþróun. Birt: 30/05/2017 http://skolathraedir.is/2017/05/30/nam-a-nyjum-notum-i-holabrekkuskola/