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Increasing STEM Exposure in K–5 Schools Through MakerSpace Use: A Multi-Site Early Success Case Study


Using Brinkerhoff’s success case methodology, this multi-site case study examined early models of MakerSpace implementation in K–5 schools in a single district. Specifically, this study examined the early use of MakerSpaces as well as the supports and barriers affecting teacher use of these spaces. The study also examined curricular connections and MakerSpace use as a conduit for purveying instruction in the soon-to-be-implemented Next Generation Science Standards.

The findings of this study are based on three sources of data: a survey of teachers in the district querying current usage and beliefs about MakerSpaces; in-depth interviews of seven district principals of schools with MakerSpaces; and nine observations of MakerSpace lessons in the district. The data were coded by macro themes such as barriers and affordances, as well as themes related specifically to vision and curricular content.

This study showed that MakerSpace practices in the district are not guided by one specific model and that different models of use have emerged: the dedicated teacher model, the insider capacity builder model, and the collaboration model. Additionally, the study revealed a teacher training gap in using MakerSpaces resulting in missed opportunities for grade level-connected learning. However, the study also found that teachers’ use of MakerSpaces provides hands-on experiences for students, which provide early engineering exposure. Many of these experiences are supported by a dedicated person in charge of the MakerSpace. The findings suggest a need for a well-articulated plan prior to MakerSpace implementation that includes professional development opportunities for teachers as well as specific curricular and human capital supports.

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