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5 Questions with Blaine Bryson on Creating a Makerspace in Your Class


"The concept of a Makerspace is amazing and wonderful, but planning and implementing can be daunting. There are implications that can make the entire process overwhelming and exhausting, but as an educator it is important to remember what your desired outcome is. For me the desired outcome was to give students a unique and worthwhile learning experience."
--Blaine Bryson is a maker teacher at Avon Middle School in Avon Ohio

Q: What's your own process like for planning your Makerspace/Lab for the upcoming school year?


The idea of a Makerspace for our school is new and has developed out of a district wide goal to expand electives for our students. When I first began to plan the class, I pitched it to my administration as a technology course that involved creating a variety of optional learning experiences. From the initial idea of a technology course based on student choice, the course began to take shape based on a few questions that needed answered.

The first question that came up was “what do my students actually want to learn?” Student choice is a major aspect of my educational philosophy and giving students a choice is empowering and engaging for students of all ages. To judge or gauge what students really want to learn, I ask them what career they are interested in pursuing and in general … what sounds cool!

Once the decision of what learning experiences would occur in the Makerspace Lab, the next question that came up was “what materials and devices will be needed for the class?” This is the question that I feel many educators get too hung up on too early when it comes to planning and implementing a Makerspace. I can’t stress enough, think about the learning goals of your students as a whole and go from there.

Finally, and possibly most important for most educators working on developing a Makerspace of any type is “How do we fund this project?” When it comes to funding a new project, and one that is a fairly “new” concept to education, it becomes difficult selling the project to administration and getting funds allocated from the school district. My suggestion to any educator that wants to implement a Makerspace is to reach out to your local donors which could include endowment funds, charity groups and businesses to solicit for donations and sponsorships to get the project started but also funded for the future.


Q: What are some of the key things you're looking to build upon from last year?


The course that I will be teaching this year will look and function much different than the course I taught last year. Due to some variables that were not in my control (student population and space), I have a great idea of what works and does not work with projects and learning experiences related to a Makerspace. An aspect of my class from last year that I felt worked out really well was giving students choice in learning experiences and projects.


With success, there were some aspects of my class from last year that needed to be changed for this year. First off was changing the location of my class from a shared computer lab to a science lab. The evolution of the space from last year to this has been difficult, but I know it will be rewarding as having a singular space with a variety of learning areas will prove valuable. This year’s space includes an area for small group and independent projects, small group instruction, video production, brainstorming, robotics, and 3D Carving all in a room that is about 35 by 25 feet. The space this year was big for me and I made a major push to get the location I needed so that the learning can be redefined and the experience students deserve.


Q: Which projects are you most excited about for the upcoming year?


The course I teach is mostly project based. I think the most exciting projects for me in regards to my students will involve our use of photography and video production with Carvey. My students like photography and video production and I know that they will be enthralled with what we can do with the Carvey. They will love the mix of the two, but the specific project that I’m really excited to get started with is a play off of the Mosaic Tile Project created by Jeff Solin that incorporates Cleveland’s local history, photography/video production, and the Carvey. The short explanation of the project is that students are going to document through photo and video their research of something related to Cleveland’s history and their experiences using Carvey to create their own Mosaic Tile.

As someone in the final stages of planning and the beginning of implementing a full fledge Makerspace Lab, a few things I would stress to any educator considering taking the plunge would be to keep in mind what you want your students to learn and the direction their learning will take. The other advice I want to extend is to think about the space as a whole and what you want it to look like in relation to your students, not necessarily what devices and materials are in the space.

5 Questions on Back-To-School with Jeremy Parker



Jeremy Parker is an Agricultural & Vocational teacher at Oak Hill High School in Alexandria, LA. He focuses on making sure kids have skills they can use for a lifetime of starting businesses and hobbying after they finish high school. As he's putting his lab together for another busy year of teaching and hosting the Oak Hill High FFA club, we asked him what his priorities are when organizing his space, and what programs he's most excited about for the coming year.

Q: What's your process like for planning your makerspace/lab for the upcoming school year?

I teach vocational and technical classes and I had the lab running all summer, so I don’t have to set up the classroom as much as cleanup and prepare for the fall. For us, the biggest considerations as we add more machines is dust collection, noise abatement, and increasing our internet access ports. Right now, we only have one hardwired access point in our lab, so we’ll need to install wifi or tether the computers together to get our shop entirely online.


Q: What are some of the key things you’re looking to build upon from last year?

I’m excited to build out our class on manufacturing processes which will incorporate all aspects of design. We’ll dive into the manufacturing community from research and development to marketing, production and delivery. I am excited to see how this class is affected by our machine additions, particularly the Carvey and X-Carve.


Q: Which projects are you most excited about for the upcoming year?

Our local Oak Hill FFA is very active in fundraising for our shop and particularly our CNC program. We’re going to start a sign shop in the school to try to offset some of the costs of shop upkeep and help the FFA in their efforts to support other programs. I’m most excited to see the ideas and designs that my students and customers come up with. The students will push the envelope in paper and software design, and they’ll learn from tutorials and trial and error… just like we all did when we were little. I’m really excited to see what comes out of those efforts. And I’m sure they’ll all be teaching me soon!


Q: What are your biggest considerations getting ready for the school year?

The biggest considerations I have for the upcoming year as far as the X-Carve and Carvey programs go is to make sure I have a steady supply of locally-sourced materials, and to make sure the program is growing. I want to make sure that we’re always doing our best, that the students are steadily improving, and that all the kids are getting enough time on the machines to be able to struggle while they learn without being pressured. Right now, I’m focusing on how I can get all students involved in the CNC world and what more I can do with the machines in the classroom.  These are questions that come up every August; we teachers fight the same beasts every year.