Maker labs give students the opportunity to merge skills and concepts across the curriculum to tackle problems and craft projects that embody their learning. The process starts with the teacher: what skills, understandings, and attitudes are the goals of the unit of study? Next, we backwards-plan from those goals.
How can we bring the maker lab's resources to bear so that students make creations that achieve the teacher's goals?
How can we make sure students have the opportunity to feel ownership and joy in what they are doing?
What appropriate challenges can we provide to foster the quality of resilience and discovery?
How do we connect the specific problems and paths of a project to broader problem-solving and design mindsets?
What are the elements of the rubric that will help the students understand expectations and also help the teacher evaluate progress?
Scenario: students are studying Christopher Columbus' voyage in 1492. In addition to many opportunities for essays, reports, tests, and presentations, various maker lab projects suggest themselves. Subjects of art, English, history, math, and science are brought to bear in meaningful ways here.
3D Printing a Coin
Students research the "doble excelente" coin, minted for Ferdinand and Isabella. How much was it worth in today's dollars? What could you buy with it? What is the meaning of the symbolism on the coin? Etc.
Students then design and 3D print their own coins. Who will the royalty be? What will the coat of arms symbolize? What will the value be? Etc.
Sail Rigging Model and Video
Students research the physics of how a sail works, then they investigate the history of sail design from the ancient Sumerians all the way to the latest Americas Cup entry. They then create a simple model boat with a working sail. Using a wading pool and an electric fan (on a gfci outlet!), they rig their boat for different wind conditions. They make a brief video to explain and demonstrate the physics involved.
Knot Tying Display, Interview, and Video
Students research some of the most important knots sailors use. What makes each knot better suited for certain purposes? Students practice knot-making and attach objects to various structures on campus. Next, they take a field trip to a harbor where they interview an experienced sailor and see the knots they are studying in use. Finally, they make a video presenting their research, knot-tying, and interview.
Map of the Bahamas' History with Audio and Visual
Columbus first landed in the Bahamas, which began a rich but often tragic history of people becoming enslaved or else seeking freedom. Students research the history, then create a map. The map has arrows, pictures, and text to help the viewer understand the history, and when the viewer presses buttons embedded in the map, voice recordings of the students explaining the history in more detail play.
Fashion and Web Design
Students study the clothing fashions that Isabella, Ferdinand, and royals in Spain and other countries would have worn. How did these fashions differ from what came before and after? What were their attitudes about clothes? What did ordinary people wear?
Then, students research what goes into today's fashion. What are the cycles of the different seasons? Who designs haute couture and how does that influence the clothes people actually wear? What is the process clothing designers go through? Who ends up actually making the clothing most Americans wear, and where does the cloth come from?
Finally, they produce a website that has their research on historical and current fashion, plus the drawings and descriptions of their own spring line of clothing.