Making involves producing something. Whether you write a poem, create a garden, or assemble an electronic kit, “making” is the idea is that you are engaged in an activity that requires creating something and learning takes place as one investigates how to do it, encounters roadblocks, and need to solve problems.
Making Meets Montessori at the AMS 2018 Conference
Keynote speaker at the 2018 American Montessori Society conference and founder of Make magazine Dale Dougherty claims, “The maker movement has come about in part because of people’s need to engage passionately with objects in ways that make them more than just consumers.”
This passion is natural through the making itself. When one finds great satisfaction in creating something, the motivator is the fruits of their labor called productive agency and is the primary qualifier for high school students’ favorite classes, and why adults have hobbies. The Productive Agency Cycle is self-motivating and begins with satisfaction, captures the maker’s interest, and solves a problem.
Montessori environments are created with these fundamentals in mind whereby students work with a material, gain great satisfaction in their outcomes, it captures their attention and interest, and they repeat the process. Oftentimes the problem being solved isn’t explicitly apparent, yet the student is intrigued to continue. We could consider this state of being as productive agency.
Making in Makerspaces . . . or in Montessori Spaces?
Makerspaces, a kind of lab environment conducive to this kind of approach, provide lots of interesting materials to help guide learning about a particular topic. Makerspaces could be a modern definition of a Montessori classroom. Montessori materials are designed to be highly appealing and manipulative, and each material isolates specific skills and concepts that need to be mastered in order to complete them. In addition, a series of lessons accompany the materials to assist in the process of acquiring the skills and concepts, and these are arranged to lead the student from concrete to abstract knowledge. A primary tenet of making is that it is self-propelling . . . sounds familiar to the Montessori idea of auto-education, eh?!
In my former Montessori Upper Elementary classroom, we utilized a science lab space attached to our classroom as our makerspace. At any given time, you could find a student using a wood burning kit to create a sign for the peace table, or a student using a proper metal-smithing saw to cut out a replica of a steel knife for their in depth study of human needs, or yet another student using a leather tooling kit to solve the problem of binding the bundles of wood sticks used during recess for building structures.
Makerspaces are often thought of as technological spaces and even if you’re not equipped to scaffold your student’s learning with technology, don’t despair, handcrafts are an important part of making too! That said, finding another adult to train you or to step in to coach students with basic technologically can propel innovation and making!
Just like in a makerspace, the hands on work with Montessori materials leads to the kind of trial and error learning that results in deep understanding of the subjects being presented. The maker movement seems to go hand-in-hand with Montessori pedagogy (did you see how I did that!) and these quick tips should get you started with ease!
Quick Tips for Making in Your Montessori Environment
Your first plane Montessori classroom is already fully prepared for authentic “making”, yet I’d suggest to include in your art area some open-ended materials such as cardboard boxes, paper towel tubes, bottle lids, and tape to encourage budding makers to explore three dimensional building.
For your second plane and beyond students, prepare a makerspace lab that includes all kinds of hands-on tools and materials, and build into your curriculum opportunities for problem-solving for both individual learners to explore and small group project for collaborative learning.
I’d also encourage you to explore how to bring simple coding and maybe even a Raspberry Pi computing board into your steps to mastery curriculum. Check out this great website to find projects your budding makers can make!
So now that you know about how making meets Montessori, what’s your plan to promote making with your students?
– By Tammy Oesting
Our ABCs of Learning: Montessori Edition is inspired by the work of authors Daniel L. Schwartz, Jessica Tsang and Kristen Blair, Professors of Education at Stanford University’s book The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use which was reviewed on our Great Titles for Educators web page.