Makerspace Making Impacting in Sioux Falls Schools

What do an old ceiling fan, cardboard cylinders, and brainpower have to do with one another?

They are just some of the inexpensive tools necessary to create a successful Makerspace in classrooms and libraries.

In nearly every elementary and middle school across Sioux Falls, students are exploring engineering principles, photography, sewing and more thanks to a grant from the South Dakota Department of Education.

The grant awarded the District nearly $100,000 to implement Classroom Innovation Projects.  STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) labs are now in operation in nearly 30 schools.

Makerspace activities allow students to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of inexpensive materials and tools. Driven by curiosity, need-to-know learning, tinkering and problem-solving makerspaces encourage authentic learning.

Students learn to think like scientists and engineers, to build stamina and perseverance in problem solving, and develop the imagination and curiosity that feeds our innate human desire to create.

The challenge for schools is to implement makerspaces in a curriculum and schedule that is already overloaded. District leaders found school libraries are the perfect fit for these activities because of the flexibility to become the center for makerspaces, providing time for students to experiment with makerspace activities during library time or in small groups before or after school or during recess.

One Sioux Falls librarian used the makerspace project as action research for her master’s degree program. Her research question was whether participating in makerspace activities would help encourage a growth mindset in students.

A 10-question quiz administered before beginning makerspace activities and again after several months of participating in makerspace activities showed a greater percentage of students with a growth mindset after the makerspace experience.

Prior to implementing makerspaces, 55 percent of students showed a fixed mindset and after makerspaces only 10 percent of students showed a fixed mindset.

Librarians are now looking for ways to expand makerspace activities to support students who are challenging themselves to apply their reading and math skills to become creators and innovators and are building their own problem solving skills and capitalizing on their creativity as they identify inexpensive activities that engage students as well as searching for alternative funding sources.