There are a lot of skills that we try to teach students in our classrooms, such as math, reading, and critical thinking. However, creativity is an often-overlooked skill that is just as important to learn. While there are a lot of great ways to incorporate creativity into the classroom, one strategy has been taking the teaching world by storm. They’re called makerspaces, and they’re the perfect way to encourage creativity and independence while allowing your students to have fun while learning!
What is a Makerspace?
If you’ve never heard of a makerspace, think of it as a laboratory that allows students to explore science, technology, engineering, math, and art skills. In a makerspace, there is little involvement from the teacher; your job is to give them a challenge or problem to solve and let them use their own ingenuity to come up with a solution. The makerspace should be filled with all of the materials that the students need to bring their ideas to life.
There are tons of benefits to exploring a makerspace, as described in this Ted Talk from Cameron Brody, a student whose life was changed by his school’s makerspace.
As a student who wasn’t engaged by traditional learning, he found his place in the iLab, his school’s makerspace. He ended up founding a robotics club at his school and making friends while collaborating on student-designed and led projects. He went on to major in computer science at the University of California – San Diego: a huge success story for the makerspace!
One of the greatest things about the makerspace concept is that it can be applied to any age group, not just high schoolers who are ready to build and program robots. There are great makerspace projects for elementary students to help them begin their journey into creating and building! Anyone can be a maker, and the more they explore, the more their creativity and ingenuity comes to life!
As any middle school teacher will tell you, the years between elementary school and high school are a unique time for learners. Their bodies and brains change rapidly during this period, and it can be a challenge for a teacher to keep up with their growing intellects. This is the stage of life when we begin to develop a greater capacity for reason and independent thought; these developments mean that middle schoolers are a very curious bunch, looking to explore and understand the topics that are of unique interest to them. They can now develop and test their own ideas, and they are eager to do so. This makes middle school the perfect time to encourage learners to explore, collaborate, and build in a makerspace.
12 Best Makerspace Projects for Middle School Students
- Make A DIY Popsicle Drone At Home →
- Circuit Blocks in the Classroom →
- Make Bluetooth Robot Car – Control with Your Smartphone →
- Make Simple Water Dispenser Machine from Cardboard DIY At Home →
- Make a Brass Spoon with Customized Letters →
- Build a Fridge Climbing Freedombot →
- Make an Insect Bot →
- Design a Fidget Spinner →
- Make a Scribble Bot →
- Simple STEM Boats →
- Duplicate Your Drawings with a Machine →
- Make Elephant Toothpaste →
Although a makerspace should be designed for maximum independence, teachers still need to give their students a specific problem to solve or task to complete before setting them loose. Let’s take a look at 12 great ideas that you can use to build an awesome makerspace lesson plan!
1. Make A DIY Popsicle Drone At Home
- popsicle sticks
- rubber bands
- soldering tool
- NAZE32 F3 F3 – EVO Mini Buzzer – COLORMIX
- SP Racing F3 EVO Brushed V2.0 Flight Controller – BLACK
- FLYSKY FS – i6X Transmitter – BLACK WITH FS – X6B RECEIVER
- 8pcs 57mm Propeller + 4 x No. 820 Brushed Motor Set – COLORMIX
- 650mAh 1S Lipo Battery
- Micro CMOS FPV Camera
Time: 3 hours
The beauty of this project is that it starts out as a typical arts and crafts activity, but ends with more technological components. These two pieces could even be divided into separate lessons if time is an issue. Students would first need to use popsicle sticks and glue to put together a frame for their drones. This is where they can exercise creativity, designing, and building a frame that they think will work well. Then, following the instructions in the tutorial, the students will assemble their frame with a buzzer, flight controller, receiver, motor, battery, and camera.
When all of the parts are put together correctly, they will end up with a miniature drone that can fly through the air under their control and record awesome bird’s eye videos.
2. Circuit Blocks in the Classroom
- 5-6 wooden blocks
- fine sandpaper
- hot glue gun
- various circuit components
- screwdriver and screws
- batteries (type depends on circuit components)
Time: 2 hours
Students can begin this project by sanding the wooden blocks to a smooth finish with a fine-grit sandpaper. This is crucial to making sure the circuit components can adhere to the blocks well. Next, students can use their critical thinking muscles to figure out the best way to put together the circuit by attaching the different components to wood blocks and connecting the various pieces together. This may take some trial and error as the learners experiment to determine how the different pieces should be assembled to make the circuit function.
If all of the components are hooked up properly, the students should have a working circuit that they can use to learn more about how electricity works! This is a great introduction to more advanced STEM projects and lessons involving electricity and machinery.
3. Make Bluetooth Robot Car – Control with Your Smartphone
- thin wood rectangles
- hot glue gun
- soldering tool
- Arduino UNO
- HC-05 Bluetooth Module
- Motors Driver
Time: 3-4 hours
In this project, students will use a Bluetooth module and various motor components to assemble the bottom of their car. The components need to be adhered to wooden slats and then hooked up to one another correctly. Students can follow the tutorial or experiment with the parts on their own. These components will allow the car to move as the student directs. Assembling the rest of the car gives the students an opportunity to come up with a workable design. After the motor and the rest of the car are assembled and coded, students can take it a step further by using their creativity to decorate the car!
Students will end up with a hand-made car that will zip around the room according to the controls that they give it using their own phones.
4. Make Simple Water Dispenser Machine from Cardboard DIY At Home
- plastic soda bottle
- plastic tubing
Time: 1 hour
In this simple project, students can follow a basic plan for building a cardboard water dispenser while using their own ingenuity to come up with a workable design. First, students should cut out cardboard pieces that they will need to build the dispenser based on their design. They can then assemble the pieces using glue and insert the soda bottle. A plastic tube can then be inserted through a hole cut at the bottom of the bottle. They will then fill the bottle with water and finish their assembly; flexible cardboard is ideal for the outside of the dispenser, as it can more easily be wrapped around the bottle. To add some artistic creativity, students can also decorate the outside of the dispenser.
When the tubing is correctly inserted into the soda bottle, students can twist the cap at the top of the bottle to start and stop the flow of water through the tube.
5. Make a Brass Spoon with Customized Letters
- blow torch
- metal tongs
- a bowl filled with water
- metal shears
- press machine
- combustion liquid
- engraving tool
Time: 4 hours
This is a more complicated project that involves some serious tools! Students will love having the chance to learn and use metalworking equipment. The project starts with using a blowtorch, shears, a file, and a hammer to shape a piece of brass into the bowl of a spoon and smooth out the rough edges. A bowl of water should be close by to cool the metal. Then, students will attach a handle and use etching tools to carve letters into the spoon. Students can use their own ingenuity to choose the correct shape for the bowl and handle and put an individual stamp on the project through etching.
Students will have a customized brass spoon that they can use throughout their lifetimes. Have them take the spoons to the cafeteria to show off their creations!
6. Build a Fridge Climbing Freedombot
- servo testers
- disc magnets
- micro servos
- limit switches
- 9V aluminum battery holder
- female header cables
- automotive terminal connectors
- 5V voltage regulator
- 9V battery
- soldering Iron
- hot glue gun
- needle nose pliers
- screwdrivers and screws
- utility knife
Time: 5 hours
Using various circuit components and switches, students can build a robot capable of using magnetic wheels to drive vertically on a fridge or other metal surface! The project requires them to correctly assemble the servos and other electronic equipment, but the design of the actual robot is up to them and their imaginations. They will be required to prepare and test various components using more advanced equipment, so they may need some extra supervision on this project.
Students will walk away with a customized robot that will wow their friends as it crawls up a metal surface. They will also have a much better understanding of how the internal components of electronic devices function.
7. Make an Insect Bot
- vibration motor
- male header pins
- 2 AA batteries
- battery holder
- female jumper wire
- soldering iron
- wire stripper
Time: 4 hours
What middle schooler doesn’t love insects? In this fun project, students can build their very own robotic bug! The above components can be configured in a variety of ways to build an insect of different shapes and appearances. Learners are free to let their imaginations run wild as they design and create an insect. By combining the parts and hooking them up correctly, they can allow their new robot friend to move. This project requires using a few complicated tools, such as a soldering iron, so be sure the learners know how to safely use this equipment.
Learners can create an insect-based on real-life or their imaginations. No matter how they configure it, they can use various mechanical components to make the insect vibrate and move across flat surfaces.
8. Design a Fidget Spinner
- fidget spinner
- paper plate
Time: 1 hour
Fidget spinners are a hot new item for kids, especially those who are middle school age. In this project, students can customize their fidget spinners with cool designs that will make them stand out. The project itself is fairly simple. Students will start off by disassembling a pre-made fidget spinner, removing the spinning parts in each arm. Then, they can use various colors of paint to create whatever designs they like on the empty shell. When the paint is dry, they can put everything back together so that the fidget spinner still functions.
Learners who participate in this project will have a chance to exercise their artistic skills, creativity, and individuality. In the end, they will have a unique product, unlike anything they’ve seen before. In addition, the process of taking the spinner apart and putting it back together will teach them a lesson about assembly and the important skill of reverse engineering something after it’s been taken apart.
9. Make a Scribble Bot
- plastic container
- felt tip pens
- electrical tape
- moldable plastic or clay
- batteries (type depends on motor)
- rubber band
- small motor
Time: 30 minutes
Students can make a colorful robotic creation with this fun project! They will start by using tape to attach pens to the edge of a plastic container. They can use various shapes of the container, colors of pen, and configurations to make their robot unique. By attaching the moldable plastic to the motor, they can make the robot move in unsteady ways, causing it to scribble. Components can be easily attached with tape, so students can relocate the components to try out new configurations and see how they make different results.
The resulting robot will move around on a sheet of paper, making unique designs with the pens attached to the container. This project is easy to set up and customize, so students can experiment with different versions and compare the results for a true science experiment.
10. Simple STEM Boats
- plastic bottles
- hot glue gun
- wood blocks
- plastic straw
- exacto knife
- popsicle sticks
- rotary tool
- electric motor
- plastic cups
Time: 1-2 hours
This YouTube tutorial provides four different templates for making working boats out of everyday materials. The beauty of this activity is that learners can experiment with all of the different materials to create a truly unique product. Students can work together to create designs and test them in the water to see if they can build something that will really move. They can further customize their designs with an artistic flair to add even more creativity to the project.
The different components create boats that will move using different sources of power, such as air currents, rubber bands, electricity, and water currents. In the end, they will have an actually functioning boat that will float and move, allowing them to learn about buoyancy and different forms of power.
11. Duplicate Your Drawings with a Machine
- poster board
- hole puncher
Time: 1 hour
In this fun, low tech experiment, kids learn all about the kinetics of putting together machines while using kid-friendly materials. They can start by cutting out cardboard strips and punching holes in the ends. The strips can be attached in different shapes and configurations using brads. Pencils and markers will be placed in the empty holes so that a drawing made with the pencil will be automatically replicated with the marker. The students can experiment with different configurations to figure out what will make the best copy of their drawing.
This fun activity is a great way to introduce machinery, kinetics, and even geometry. Students will have to think hard about angles and complementary movements while putting together their designs. Then, they can have fun flexing their artistic skills while experimenting with the finished device.
12. Make Elephant Toothpaste
- plastic bottles
- dry yeast
- warm water
- dish soap
- food coloring
- hydrogen peroxide
- measuring cups and spoons
Time: 15 minutes
This experiment is a great way for students to learn about what happens when different materials are combined. They will start by mixing hydrogen peroxide and dish soap in a plastic bottle. They can also add food coloring for an artistic touch. In another container, they will mix yeast with water. When the two mixtures are combined, they create quite a reaction! Learners can experiment with using different amounts of each material to see how the reaction changes.
Combining the different materials in this experiment causes them to grow into a thick foam that bursts from the bottle. This type of experiment is a great introduction to chemical reactions.
Now Get Started!
Because of their innate curiosity and newfound ability to think logically, middle schoolers are uniquely built to be fantastic makers. The examples above, as well as these makerspace projects for elementary learners, are just a few projects that can incite their curiosity and help them become independent, innovative thinkers for the rest of their lives. Makerspace projects are also great for English-language learners; if you’re interested in teaching students whose first language isn’t English, check out our lists of best TESOL and TEFL programs. No matter who you’re teaching, remember that as long as you give learners a challenge to solve, you’ll be surprised and fascinated by what they come up with. With the right tools and materials, any makerspace can produce magic!
Last Updated on September 14, 2020 by Emily