The Maker Culture and the Science Labs

by iw_inundaweb 19 Jul

The popularization of the maker culture in the context of education, is a trend. Drones, robots that teach, 3D printers, 3D pens, and various projects with low-cost materials aiming at the natural creative development of children and adolescents are multiplied in education fairs in the world.

The maker movement is fun, it’s visually appealing, part of the culture “Hands on” and has an exceptional educational potential, especially for letting the free student, and in the center of the teaching-learning process.

Faced with this innovation in the way of doing education, where do the “old” science labs fit?

The meaning of Innovation

Usually when one hears the word innovation, the replacement for the new comes to mind. The immediate change from a traditional method to something completely different.

This way of thinking is not wrong, but does not include all the biases that the word can have. An innovative project can either build on a traditional proposal and improve its efficiency, or use an existing project in a way that has never been thought of before. That is, for something to be innovative it is not necessary to make a previous proposal obsolete, but to give another meaning.

This is the case with Airbnb, people have always offered houses and rooms for rent, whether in word of mouth or by placing ads in newspapers. The innovation of Airbnb was to create a platform that would unite in one place supply and demand and the conditions for the transactions to be fulfilled.

Innovation in process and assembly dynamics has made the McDonald’s brand stand out among the fast foods of the era, increase productivity, and become the great brand it is today.

The role of the science lab

Returning to the initial reflection, the maker movement encourages the formation of a generation of innovators, problem solvers. The goal is to make pupils creators rather than pure consumers.

But, so students do not become mere replicators projects and may have ownership of the process that are running and can thus turns it in solving a problem, it is necessary to show the scientific basis behind the makers transformations. It is necessary for students to understand the scientific method and apply it in their projects so that they are able to perceive what can be improved and to do so.

That’s where the “old” science labs come in. The maker culture did not come to end the practice of experimental laboratories, but has brought meaning. Now, more than ever, the student can understand concepts experimentally, and use them to transform, to innovate and to create.

The fusion of Maker Culture with Science Laboratory

As an example, one can cite one of the activities most reproduced in classrooms, the slime. It is an activity that is part of the maker culture. Totally “hands on” and visually appealing and fun. But the mistake many of these classrooms make is to show the activity only as something fun and not as something scientific. Slime is a great project to be taken into the science lab to introduce concepts such as changes in state of matter, demonstrate the process of crosslinking long chains of molecules, and explore the science of polymers.

What’s more, it’s a great opportunity to challenge students to try out the best formula, or the best proportion of materials used, to make the best slime. For this they will have to think about the process, create hypotheses, choose only one variable to modify, test, analyze and reach conclusions. And that’s where science is being done.

Yes to the Science Lab!

Although the makers spaces encourage creativity, collaboration and effort, this alone is not enough to achieve the desired goal in education. In order to identify a problem and design a solution, it is necessary to delimit the problem, make a predictable forecast, collect data and evaluate the results.

The culture maker did not necessarily come to replace the science labs, but rather to bring meaning, came to add.

Maker spaces are producing a generation of innovators, but let’s not forget that our innovators need to understand how to render their creative ideas into day-to-day problem solving. And merging with laboratory practices is essential for that to happen.

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