Maker Education


Making is grounded in the tradition of constructionism, which believes that we learn best by building knowledge through experience, not through transmission and assimilation (think sage on a stage). When we engage with tools, materials, and each other in the process building objects we develop personal and lasting knowledge. Furthermore, the objects created become richly imbued with meaning and information that we can come back to again and again.

Quakerism and Making: The Power of Inquiry

So what does a religion founded in 17th century England and Making have in common? Simply put, both believe in the primacy of questions over answers. Not simple questions with simple answers, but complex ones that challenge us to investigate, explore, and grow. In the language of the maker movement we call these types of questions inquiries; within Quakerism they are called simply queries. Queries guide our thought and actions, and empower everyone to contribute to the work of peacefully transforming the world.

How is Making different at FCS?

Making at FCS is guided by three principles: Be Safe. Be Original. Be Respectful. When students come into the makerspace, these directives guide our thoughts and actions. From there, we are bounded only by imagination and determination. Students and teachers work side by side to explore and discover, each taking turns as experts and learners as the situation requires. To help our journey, the makerspaces are filled with materials, tools—both hi-tech and low-tech, analog and digital—and inspiration, which drive creativity and empower learning.

Where are the Makerspaces at FCS?

Makerspaces are central locations for creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration. Filled with tools, materials, and inspiration, makerspaces empower students to be active and engaged learners, giving them agency to explore their unique talents and interests.

On the City Avenue campus, Middle and Upper School Makers can be found on the first floor of the FCC. The Makerspace is equipped with a laser cutter, two 3D printers, two sewing machines, various hand and power tools for woodworking, electronics, microcontrollers, and supplies to fuel creativity. The Makerspace is a place where analog and digital technologies live side by side. Sometimes the best tool for the job is a hot glue gun. Middle School Makers can also be found on the second floor of the Middle School building in our new MakerNook - a micro-makerspace designed and managed by students - which houses tools and resources for students to work on classroom projects like poster presentations or personal projects like 3D-printing a thank you note.

At the Lower School, our students can utilize the innovative new Light Lab, which contains four distinct studios for our youngest makers. Brie Daley, our Light Lab Director, shares details from the Lower School Light Lab on the Quaker Makers Blog.

The Makerspace is a collective of creative individuals who learn by doing and who intentionally blur the lines between academic disciplines. In the Makerspace, no problem is unsolvable, and we design systems and objects to solve problems in our School, in our communities, and around the world.

How are the Makerspaces used?

On our City Avenue campus, students are constantly moving through the makerspace. Most often students will come with their class to work on a project. These projects may last a day, a week, or a month. The Makerspace is also home to three clubs—Digital Editing, Metal Arts and the Middle School Maker Club— that meet weekly. And if that’s still not enough, students will often spend their free time in the Makerspace working on projects for classes, themselves, and for others. Additionally, there are several classes that are held in the space including a computer science class and a fabrication and design class.

The history of "Make" at FCS

The Makerspace began as the home to an "un-course" that met during a regular class block. There were no tests or grades, only students and teachers engaging collaboratively in solving problems using engineering, computing, design, and any and all other available tools or ways of thinking and seeing.

After two years without a permanent home, the Makerspace at City Ave. moved into the computer lab. The old computers and desks were moved out, and the carpet was removed to make way for new tools and materials. Now in its fifth year (two as a club and three as a physical space), the Makerspace encompasses two connected rooms. One side is devoted to fabrication and houses the laser cutter, 3D printers, sewing machines, woodworking tools, and more. The other, quieter side has a mobile laptop cart and desktop computers, flexible seating, a little-bits library, microcontrollers, and soldering stations.

What is going on in the Makerspaces?

This year, a 7th grade student wanted to explore how other students were using the space by counting how many students were in the space and when they were there. He saw it as a way to support the community and wanted to help make the space efficient and better understand our Making environment. His solution uses sensors and an internet enabled arduino—a microcontroller that combines hardware and software to interact with the physical environment—to sense each time someone walks through the makerspace door and upload that information to the internet.

By understanding the traffic in and out of the Makerspace, he will have a better understanding of the stress on the tools and the volume of people utilizing the space and ultimately suggest adjustments to when there is an opportunity for students to use the space at lower volume times, and to optimize the spaces efficiency.

Driven by the acquisition of new software by FCS, a Digital Editing club has also emerged. This student-lead club from the Upper School meets twice a week to share skills and knowledge and engage in friendly competitions to help hone their skills. Each session a student expert shares his or her knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator, or any number of other software applications while the other students follow along, and ask questions.