Within open-structured makerspaces, kids have free range to use materials in any way they desire. This can be creatively inspiring for some and overwhelming for others who are not sure how to engage in purposeful design. While open-structured makerspaces can instill creative experimentation, it is only effective if students are prompted to reflect on their experience and further examine their design process and/or content learning (see our suggested assessment strategies listed in “Tips for Facilitating Maker Activities”).
Unfortunately, one of the many laments people have about open-ended makerspaces is that it looks like creative chaos and unrecognizeable “junk”. Though it may sound hurtful at first, it is worth pointing out that with strategic scaffolding we can simultaneously nurture creative exploration while also supporting thoughtful and purposeful design considerations that can help students create more effective designs. As Krueger points out in 4 Maker Activities To Keep Students Tinkering we can provide the freedom of choices while also providing structure to support student learning in our makerspaces. Taking a page from design education and engineering, we can provide “constraints that enable” our students to create designs that are even more personally meaningful and have potential to directly address problems and solutions.
Design Challenge Task Cards are meant to be short inspirations to spark student creativity and inventive problem-solving. They can be A) individual cards that fit on an index card or digital equivalent of ¼ or ⅙ of an 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper or B) an assortment of tasks formatted as a bingo-style choice mat or quest map on an 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper.
Design challenge task cards can be used at choice-based stations for students to select during free time, formal instruction to facilitate problem-/project-/design-based learning, or sent home for enrichment. Design challenge task cards can be formatted to target a variety of outcome types, including:
- Content Specific (specify content theme that must be incorporated into design)
- Scenario Specific (state engaging scenario in story form and identify constraints the design should meet)
- Materials Specific (e.g., recyclables, crafts, office supplies, 2D, 3D, electronics)
- Tool Specific (e.g., specific kits, software, hardware)
- Quick/Easy Creativity Warm-Up (very open-ended idea that could be completed quickly)
At The MAKE Lab, we are working to create even more design challenge task cards (like our Content Specific example set above) and we look forward to sharing them with you soon.