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making spaces project

Making Spaces - empowering young people through STEM

The Making Spaces project, a Lloyd’s Register Foundation funded research and development project encouraging young people into engineering and safety based careers, has launched a new report ‘Developing equitable practice with youth in makerspaces’ which summarises and shares ideas emerging from the project, to help practitioners support the engagement of young people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Makerspaces are informal multipurpose sites designed for collaborative hands-on learning and creative production. These spaces can provide ideal settings for encouraging participation in STEM, including for low income and under-represented communities. By empowering these communities to take up engineering related disciplines and helping redress inequalities in STEM education, the Making Spaces project is ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to become future safety experts.

The report details progress on the first phase of the project, including findings from observations, interviews with participants and practitioner workshop outcomes. Six key ideas were identified as part of this process, intended to support critical reflection among practitioners when developing makerspace programmes.

1. Develop a social justice mindset and culture

  • Challenge wider social inequalities by understanding and foregrounding issues of equality and social justice
  • Reflect on and identify aspects of culture and practice that can be exclusionary

2. Create safe, welcoming, sustainable and inclusive spaces

  • Protect young people from physical harm as well as care for them socially and emotionally.
  • Value all young people for who they are and support them to feel a sense of ownership and belonging.
  • Support long term social relationships and sustainable participation.

3. Work in participatory ways with young people

  • Support young people to play an active and meaningful role in planning, designing and decision-making.
  • Hear and enable young people’s voices to make a difference and shape activity.
  • Recognise and respect young people’s knowledge, expertise and experiences.

4. Foster caring pedagogies and relationships

  • Take account of relations of power and injustice, and respectfully centre young people and their needs.
  • Support young people emotionally, culturally, pastorally to foster wellbeing, progression and positive outcomes.

5. Support young people’s agency and social action through making

  • Provide opportunities for young people to act and make decisions in their own learning and experience a sense of ownership and voice in their making.
  • Support young people to engage in actions that are directed at social change.

6. Build capital, skills and progression

  • Provide opportunities for young people to develop a range of capital and skills in areas such as, but not limited to, science, technology, engineering, maths, art, crafts, creativity and beyond.
  • Support young people’s pathways and progression in ways that benefit them, their communities and wider society.

The project found that makerspaces whose practice is grounded in these six key ideas can make a big difference to the lives of young people from under-served communities. As one participating young person explained when reflecting on makerspaces: "My career has gone from [working in a cafe] for the rest of my life to being a QA tester or a data scientist - whatever I choose.”

The Making Spaces project has summarised the findings through easy to use visual resources for practitioners, and provided recommendations for funders and young people interested in makerspaces based on the key ideas throughout the report.

Making Spaces will be advancing the first phase of their project by expanding globally, exploring and understanding equitable practice in international makerspaces. This report has already been translated into Arabic, Slovenian and Nepali for new international partners, with a view to develop more makerspaces networks in the US, Middle East, Asia and Europe.

Download the full report, executive summary and translations on the Making Spaces project website and follow how the project progresses on Twitter and Instagram.

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