All of a sudden, so it seems, the terms “Maker” and “PBL” are everywhere in the educational landscape. You may be wondering what each of these terms means, how they are related and how they differ. You are not alone. I myself wondered the same thing as I made my journey into the field of Maker Education and Project-Based Learning
Project-Based Learning and Maker Education are terms which are growing in use these days. Here are two definitions:
“Project-Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” —The Buck Institute of Education
Maker Education brings the Maker movement into the school setting to provide students with hands-on learning that promotes creativity, thoughtfulness, a community of learning and sharing ideas, as well as, the idea that each person can create what they want to see or use as opposed to just buying it. Making combines new technologies with old-school arts and crafts and vocational education.
Maker Education focuses on bringing together Science, Math, Technology, Engineering, and Art in a student-centered, creative way. Often times Maker Education happens in a Maker Space:
“… [A] space where kids have the opportunity to make – a place where some tools, materials, and enough expertise can get them started. These places, called makerspaces, share some aspects of the shop class, home economics class, the art studio and science labs. In effect, a makerspace is a physical mash-up of different places that allows makers and projects to integrate these different kinds of skills.” –Dale Dougherty, The Maker Mindset, in Design, Make, Play
After having immersed myself in the field of Maker Education and Project-Based Learning for the past two years, my main takeaway is that they are quite similar. They both focus on the creation of projects, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, creativity and have the potential to foster empathy in students. The main difference is that Maker Education has a big emphasis on “hacking” or “tinkering” where you take something that already exists and makes it better or you make something entirely new for the fun of creating it. Maker Education also has a strong tech bent with the inclusion of coding, computer science, and engineering while Project-Based Learning can encompass any and all subject areas.
At Grass Valley, we are combining these two related approaches so that we use the best of both approaches. Our focus is hands-on, project-based learning where students create a product that they showcase at an expo. The Maker Project-Based Learning units can focus on any subject area and integrate a low or high tech component into the end product.
We invite you to check back here often to see where our journey in PBL/Maker Ed takes us.
4th grader creates her ideal school.
Ms. Vetterlein assists a student with a design challenge
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paula Mitchell, Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA)
Paula is a 20+ year veteran Oakland teacher who has been crafting, designing and making since she was a little girl. She is delighted that her job as a TSA for Project-Based Learning/ Maker Ed allows her to bring more hands-on, minds-on learning to the community she loves.