JoslynAdcockfrom LEGO Education on how we can encourage EYFS children to be creative through the use of "makerspaces" using the famous, brightly colouredbuilding blocks...

Currently, we’re seeing a push for effective ways to encourage creativity and innovation in the classroom. With fast-paced changes in technology, the future workforce is certainly unpredictable, making it ever more important for children to be prepared for whatever lies ahead. Therefore, equipping them with foundational knowledge and key skills from an early age will mean that they are able to use their talents and apply themselves to any field of work.

To encourage creativity and innovation, we need to not only provide children with tools and resources, but also the freedom and imagination to come up with their own creations using what they have learnt in lessons.

Having the space – both physically and mentally – to come up with their own designs and creations will allow pupils to explore their creativity and consider a range of different ideas to help find the solutions to the problem. We’re seeing this concept grow more and more in the form of makerspaces; a specific area created at the discretion of a teacher, which allows children to get hands-on, engage their natural curiosity and develop the skills and confidence they’ll likely need in the future. 

Makerspaces teachers experimentWhile this isn’t necessarily a new fad in the early years setting – quite often children are given ‘play’ time – providing them with a range of stimuli to explore and build upon will encourage them to think critically and creatively, communicate with peers and learn to refine and modify creations when they don’t go right first time around. It’s all of these key skills that help children to develop the foundational knowledge needed to effectively prepare them to transition into the next phase of their academic life.

So what makes a makerspace?

The idea behind makerspacesis to help children be creative and innovate. In order to foster a ‘maker’, activities need to be open-ended, allowing them to interpret things in their own way and come to their own conclusions. This way, they start with a prototype and continually refine it until the best solution possible has been reached.

Makerspacesallow children to build resilience and ‘try, try and try again!’ It means they can learn that it’s ok to fail and that not everything will always go right the first time round. Reassure them that mistakes often lead to new discoveries; something that often happens in everyday life in both business and personal scenarios. Another important aspect of a makerspaceis the idea that every child’s creativity is individual. One child may create a prototype that is completely different to another child’s, and it’s important that they understand that when this happens, it’s ok. If anything it’s more beneficial, so collaboration between peers can help individuals work out the strengths of each design, which in turn will help them make an even a better model!

The beauty of makerspacesis that they can be created anywhere, at any time. With dwindling budgets, it doesn’t have to be a huge expense for a nursery or school either. The space doesn’t necessarily have to be a section of a classroom, it can even be brought outside should the activity make sense to do so. Another important aspect is that anything goes; whether you have card, papier-mâché, building bricks or pipe cleaners in the class, the point is that children can take any material in front of them and use their imaginations to design and build something. Including a range of different materials is encouraged; it allows them to unleash their imagination, develop creative design skills, and understand how to work with different aesthetics – arguably all-important skills for the future!

Making it a success

Having a makerspace encourages children to learn without limits. They can be given the autonomy and responsibility in order to really build their confidence and resilience. Of course, it can be difficult to set an open-ended task without worrying that the children may just become distracted or even not understand what is asked of them. But acting as a facilitator rather than an instructor will help children to think, learn how to learn and be more flexible, adaptive and imaginative. Allowing them to see where the design can be improved, considering other factors they may not have originally thought about and by responding to questions with questions, will encourage pupils to think for themselves and challenge their own perceptions and ideas.

It’s also useful to consider existing lesson plans, guides and problem-solving activities to help form your makerspacesessions. For example, think about what you’re already learning in lessons. Are you learning about different communities? Then why not get children to design a new transportation system, building, or bridge? Think about the books you’re reading in class, does a particular character face a challenge and can children design something to solve it? You could even use one word or idea as a stimulus and get your pre-schoolers to build something based on their interpretation of it. The opportunities really are endless.

Give them the opportunity to ‘show and tell’ too – it’s a great way to allow children to collaborate on their designs and revise them based on feedback from their peers. Not only does it build the skills of teamwork, communication, presentation and confidence but it also allows them to see each other’s models and appreciate the differences and the benefits of each one.

Makerspacesare a great way to encourage children at a young age to give things a go with no right answers. By inspiring your pupils to share their ideas and celebrate their successes, you will motivate them to create more, express their individuality and develop their Maker skills.  As a teacher or practitioner, it provides you with the chance to let go of the wheel and give children the freedom and flexibility to create and learn for themselves how to adapt, improve and come up with their own solutions; all of which are key to success in the next stages of their education, and arguably too, the world of work.

For more information about creating makerspaces, visit: www.legoeducation.co.uk

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