There I was, sitting in the lunch room last year, asking my colleagues to wish me luck. I was about to try something new with my students and had no idea how it was going to work out. The bell was about to ring and my only plan for the afternoon was to head to the art room with my students in hopes that by the end of the day, we would have all of our props done for the plays we were presenting during portfolio night.
During the previous weeks, the students and I read countless books of different versions of The Three Little Pigs. We knew exactly where our plays were heading and had made lists of props we needed. The students had all signed up to make one of the three houses and had also picked one or two other props each that we needed to make (such as pig and wolf ears, tails, and snouts, a chimney and big pot of soup, etc.).
I had decided that nothing was off limits. We would head to the art room and the students would simply create. There were no rules, no material they couldn’t use, no model to follow. They had to use their creativity to make all of our props. They had to collaborate and problem solve when they encountered problems. They had to ask questions, try things out, and try again when things didn’t work out the way they had planned.
Could first graders handle all of this responsibility? Would it be possible for us to finish off the day with everything that we needed to continue on with our play? I didn’t know.
The bell rang. Deep breath, chaos was about to hit. With our big chart paper list, a basket of scissors, and a bunch of bottles of glue in hand, the students and I headed to the art room! The only rule I had was one for me. I vowed that I wouldn’t give answers that afternoon. I vowed that I would question students and try to guide them in the right direction instead of simply telling them how I thought things should be done, or how something might work better. I wanted the students to really figure this out on their own and I knew they could do it! I was still worried about being bombarded with a million questions because there were no precis directions so, as soon as we got to the art room, I gently reminded the students that I was only one person and that there were 17 of them. I asked them to be patient and to rely on their classmates for help. I told them that they had free range of all of the material they saw and to go for it. And, so they did!
What happened next completely took me by surprise. The students were all engaged, they were working together beautifully and everyone was on task! There were no behaviour issues, there was just an amazing buzz in the air. Students were communicating and collaborating with their peers to build and create together. They were thinking critically and problem solving. This was the makerspace atmosphere I had hoped for. This was creativity at its finest.