Early Education Maker Spaces

Amanda Strawhacker & Miki Vizner

Tufts University DevTech

Research Group, PhD & Research Group


In one area of Amanda and Miki’s
early education maker space,
children are exploring colors, shapes
and sizes. In another, a construction
set of wooden blocks shows the
children how to collaboratively
build structures. In another, there
is a calm reading space where
objects that inspire wonder rest.

Amanda and Miki, part of the
DevTech research group at Tufts
University, research ways to create a
maker space for young children. At
the heart of their research is the idea
of play. “One of the ways we’ve been
looking at this space is the lens of
play,” says Miki. They look at how that
allows learning, especially in early
education, to flourish. Their goal is
to open a space that children can
feel free to explore, experience and
understand how to communicate,
collaborate and invent with each
other and the world around them.

“A lot of what you think of as core
curricular goals, we sort of structure
the maker space around,” says
Amanda. Social and emotional
development plays a big part in
maker spaces. Character building,
collaboration and the element
of play all form the pieces to
an environment that provides a
space for learning and invention.

Miki and Amanda interviewed
teachers to understand what they
wanted out of a maker space.
Much of what they uncovered
was teachers “wanted the space
to foster opportunities to work
alone, to work in small groups and
large groups, to collaborate in
different ways, to view each other’s
ideas. As long as those elements
are there that’s a good start.”

“The things that kids do for 45 minutes at a time in a maker space permeates into the rest of their life.”

Miki Vizner
Tufts University DevTech, Research Group

Making developmentally appropriate
tools and space also played
a big role in the maker space
experience. When thinking about
designing a maker space, Miki
and Amanda compared young
children to older children in how
they interacted in a maker space
for adults. They looked at the
types of tools, the scale of each of
the tools, and how to incorporate
digital and physical materials.

“There is a whole wealth of curricular
directions you could go. When
choosing the ideal tools – there
are tools that allow you and your
students to explore curricular
areas and make connections
between science, engineering,
designing, human anatomy and
plenty more,” said Amanda.

Miki and Amanda’s maker spaces
bring in elements of both digital
and physical creations – a mix
of materials that introduce arts
and crafts, programming, coding,
and science. “The scissors and
crayons for the 21st century – that
is what we’re after,” said Miki.

When asked
what the
difference between
their maker space
and an early learning classroom is, Miki responds,
“Ideally there is no difference.”

He continues, “For children the
best growth happens when they’re
free to explore the world around
them. The things that kids do for
45 minutes at a time in a maker
space permeates into the rest of
their life. I’ve seen that in all ages
that I’ve worked with. It’s not about
what you can do in this room, but it
changes the way you see the world.”

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