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Picture this. Child and caregiver are at the table using their Makerspace baskets. Both sit side-by-side, exploring the materials in front of them when the following question is asked…
Child “I can’t decide if I want to stick the pipe cleaner or the paper towel to my board.”
Caregiver “Well, what problem are you trying to solve today?”
Child “I don’t have a problem. I want to know what is sticky.”
Caregiver “Hmm, figuring out what is sticky is a good idea to explore. I wonder what’s something we have here on the table that is sticky?”
Wondering what happens next?
Curious how the caregiver might respond? Me too…!
A previous blog (written by Extension Educator Lynn Devries) described how to create Makerspaces in early childhood settings. The blog broke down the child’s role in Makerspaces.
In this post, the focus shifts to three teaching strategies that can be used to support the child’s exploration in Makerspaces.
- Ask questions or prompt children’s thinking
- Follow children’s lead
- Teach and model safe use of tools and materials
First, open-ended questions and “I wonder… or Tell me more…, or That’s interesting, could you explain that to me…” prompt children’s thinking. Well, you might be wondering yourself, what does prompting children’s thinking even mean? Prompting is a specific teaching strategy that fosters children’s imagination and creativity and generates new ideas.
Second, when allowed to lead, young children are more likely to be engaged in the activity and stick with it. This is because children are actively involved in learning how to problem-solve with caring adults rather than adults solving their problems. Children build their confidence by leading their investigation, and that further encourages children to try out new ways to learn, explore, and problem-solve.
Finally, Makerspaces are meant to include real tools and materials. The caregiver’s primary responsibility is to help children understand how these tools materials are used in everyday problem-solving. In addition, it is important to teach and model how to use them and why it is vital to follow the set expectations and use these materials appropriately.
For example, the caregiver can teach and model how to safely get materials (like how to hold scissors while walking), use the materials (wearing goggles while using a hammer), and put materials away (closing the lid on a box holding different sized small buttons).
Let’s Keep Following the Example Above to See How the 3 Teaching Strategies Support Exploration
Direct link for image: https://www.pexels.com/photo/anonymous-cute-toddler-girl-holding-brush-for-getting-white-paint-from-plate-standing-on-chair-3933226/?utm_content=attributionCopyText&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pexels
Caregiver “Hmmm! I wonder, have you looked a little closer at the blue box? I think there might be a few tools in there that are sticky.” Strategy 1
Child (rummages around but in the process is starting to knock over a box that is holding cut up cardboard)
Caregiver “It looks like you focused on this sticky situation but, do you remember what our first rule is in this space?” Strategy 3
Child “Respect our classroom materials.”
Caregiver “That’s right; we respect our space so we can stay safe. You are looking so hard that you’ve knocked some other items over. Please pick that box up, take a deep breath, and let’s think about where the sticky stuff is kept.”
Caregiver, “OK. Thank you for putting that away and pausing to catch your breath. Now, did you find where we keep our sticky stuff like tape, glue, and tact”?
Child “In the blue box.”
Caregiver “Great! (child brings over a bucket) What do you want to explore first?” Strategy 2
Child (points to a roll of tape)
Child “Yes, but it’s smooth, not sticky.”
Caregiver “Sounds like you explored one side of it. What can we do to make it sticky? Strategy 1
Caregiver Have you tried peeling it? Peeling is like pulling it back, kind of like when you peel a piece of fruit like a banana or orange.” Strategy 1
Child (grabs the tape and pulls it back) “WHOA. It’s sticky on this side. That’s perfect for what I need.
Caregiver, “OK. You have the sticky tool. Now you said you needed pipe clear and paper towel, right?”
Child “Yes. I will use both and then stick them with three pieces of tape. Maybe four, I don’t know yet.” Strategy 2
Caregiver “As you go along, see how many pieces work for you. You can try small or big pieces. It’s up to you.” Strategy 2 Caregiver “Glad you found something sticky to tinker and explore with for a bit. Maybe you can try out some of the other items too, if you want. I’m going to go check on a few friends for a bit, but then I’ll come back and check in with you to find out what you’ve discovered. Don’t forget our rule, please, respect the space, so everyone and the materials stay safe.” Strategy 3
See how each strategy encouraged the child’s role to tinker, make, and further construct? It’s also helpful to see how the strategies are not linear. Depending on the situation, the caregiver’s role may require a different approach to facilitate the child’s time to creatively design, build, and explore their ideas. Caregivers will need to be there to establish and model the safe use of materials and tools, but by following the child’s lead, caregivers can facilitate them to make their own discoveries!
If you are interested in learning more about Makerspaces or incorporating more STEM learning into your Makerspace, enroll in the Tinkering with STEM on Demand course offered through the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska Extension.
Additional Blogs and References
LINDA REDDISH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD
Peer Reviewed by Dr. Soo-Young Hong, LaDonna Werth, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child
Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!