Making, learning, sharing - Makerspaces in the metro - MetroFamily Magazine
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Making, learning, sharing – Makerspaces in the metro

by Lindsay Cuomo

Reading Time: 6 minutes 

What is a makerspace?

A makerspace is a collaborative, modern workshop! From the low-tech to the high-tech, there are a lot of different makerspaces out there, according to Aaron Pence, the computer training center manager for the Pioneer Library System.

Pence oversees the Maker Lab at the Norman Central Library and the thing he gets most excited about when families use the lab is that kids are learning how to transition from consumer to creator.

“Kids get to go in to create and come out with something new they can use!” said Pence.

However, the finished product is not the only goal in a makerspace. Pence pointed to valuable soft skills that can be cultivated.

“Sometimes you can follow all the instructions and [your project] does not come out looking like you intended,” shared Pence. “Mistakes are part of the experience and that is a wonderful benefit of the learning process. It’s OK to fail your first, or even thirteenth, try.”

Rondia Banks, manager of the Bethany Library, which is home to the Metropolitan Library System’s first in-library makerspace lab, said she loves that kids can get an early introduction to technology.

“Technology is so ingrained into our careers and workplaces and that is going to keep growing, so why not learn how to use things like a 3D printer now?” posed Banks.

Linda Maisch, the vice president of community engagement at Science Museum Oklahoma, sees the activities happening in makerspaces as “exercise for the brain.”

“There is lots of research that shows that our brains are always changing and rearranging,” Maisch explained, an idea that is explored in the temporary exhibit Mind Mirrors, on display at Science Museum Oklahoma through April 24.

Where to visit a makerspace?

Depending on your child’s interests, there are a variety of makerspaces your family can visit within the Oklahoma City metro.

Science Museum Oklahoma is like one big makerspace. Within many of the exhibits, kids can get hands-on with scientific principles such as building dams to combat erosion, constructing with large scale blocks, digging with excavators in the gardens or perfecting the art of a paper airplane. While tinkering is encouraged throughout, the museum does have two dedicated makerspaces.

The Tinkering Garage, located in the center of the museum, is a space designed for “kids 7 to 700,” according to Chris Seyfrett, tinkering and special projects educator at Science Museum Oklahoma. Tinker Works, a neighborhood garage in Curiocity, is perfect for young kids. In each of the makerspaces, activities change regularly to engage kids with a variety of STEAM experiences such as animation, puppetry, robotics, plastic fusion, snap circuits and even something called automata, which are mechanical toys driven by crankshafts.

In March, the Tinkering Garage will feature take-aparts where kids can see what is inside computers, toasters and more.

Both spaces are open during museum hours and are free with admission. Science Museum Oklahoma is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Learn more about the exhibits, plus school break camps, at sciencemuseumok.org.

3d printers, metro libary, makerspace, tinkering, STEAMThe Metropolitan Library System currently has one in-library makerspace lab, called MLS Studio, and a mobile makerspace that visits libraries throughout the system. The new Belle Isle Library will include a makerspace lab and a third is planned for the new Almonte Library. Each of the libraries will have different tools and programs in their makerspaces.

MLS stands for Making, Learning, Sharing, highlighting the goal of the makerspaces to support educational, professional and personal growth. The all-ages makerspace serves local entrepreneurs as well as families, providing free access to materials, tools and software. The only thing you need to use the makerspace is a library card.

Families go through orientation to learn safety and operational guidelines and sign a user agreement. Kids ages 12 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The Bethany Library MLS Studio is open on a first-come, first-served basis, Monday through Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment only on weekends.

Visit metrolibrary.org for more information on programs offered at libraries throughout the metro.

makerspace, tinkering, STEAMPioneer Library System has a dedicated Maker Lab at their Norman Central Library and a traveling makerspace, the Maker Mobile, that visits all the system’s libraries to provide STEAM-focused programming. The Maker Mobile makes appearances at other locations and events in the community, too.

The Maker Lab includes professional-grade tools like a sound lab, video lab, 3D printer, laser cutters and engravers, CNC router and more.

“When the lab is at its best, you get so many different levels and walks of life,” shared Pence. “It’s pretty easy to get started.”

The lab is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m. A library card is not required.

“For a quick activity and a tour, you can come in any time,” said Pence. “For a more involved activity or your first time really using a piece of the equipment, it’s good to make an appointment.”

Visit pioneerlibrarysystem.org for more information.

contemporary art, makerspace, tinkering, STEAMOklahoma Contemporary’s Learning Gallery offers open-ended, creative art projects to take kids on a deep dive into the themes on display in the museum’s galleries. During Open World, an exhibition centered on video games, families could create their own avatar, learn about careers in the video game industry and even play a 3-person video game together.

Beginning March 24, the Learning Gallery will focus on biology and the natural world in conjunction with an animal-centric exhibition by John Newsom called Nature’s Course.

Jaime Thompson, director of education and public programs for Oklahoma Contemporary, said she intentionally incorporates STEAM principles into the programming at Oklahoma Contemporary because so much of contemporary art utilizes science, engineering, technology and math.

“Contemporary art expands what you think about art and what you think goes into art,” said Thompson.

March’s Second Saturday event, happening March 12, takes place in the museum’s sculpture garden and will explore how scale and construction are part of art-making.

Camps and in-studio classes at Oklahoma Contemporary are another way kids can learn more about how technology, science and math are used to create art.

“Parents often think ‘if my kid is into science, let’s go to a science center,’ but there is so much more to that,” shared Thompson. “Our programs encourage kids to tinker and explore to figure out what they enjoy. We work with local artists to dream up new ideas and every year is a little bit different.”

The Learning Gallery is open during regular museum hours. To reserve free tickets to visit or learn more about camps and other programming, visit oklahomacontemporary.org.

How can families create a makerspace at home?

While the makerspaces Pence and Banks reference are high-tech with recording studios, Cricut makers, laser cutters and robots, at-home versions don’t have to be quite as involved and can be easy to curate. The two experts point to the process as the best confidence builder.

“To me, if you can dream it and you can see it, you can create it,” said Banks. “Focus on the process of creation and invention and also the story that goes into it and what comes out of it. Asking questions and making mistakes are vital pieces to developing cooperative solutions.”

Dig into your arts and crafts supplies and even your pantry to find paper, glue, tape, clay, LEGOs, uncooked spaghetti, marshmallows, pipe cleaners, cardboard, anything goes! Pence said there are lots of free digital tools available, too.

“You don’t need fancy equipment to cultivate a making mindset,” said Pence. “It’s just helpful to have a space to begin and that mom and dad play, too.”

Seyfrett said parents shouldn’t be concerned about being an expert or knowing everything about a project before getting started. He recommends parents focus on modeling behaviors that promote openness, curiosity and that it’s OK to fail.

“Part of being an expert is realizing you don’t have to know everything and that’s OK,” said Seyfrett. “Just grow along with your child.”

For families new to makerspaces or those looking to take the concept to the next level, Thompson, suggests checking out a book called The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich. The book encourages kids to take things apart and explore tools and materials all in an effort to create art that is part science, part technology. 

Other metro venues offering makerspaces & STEAM programming:

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