By Rebecca Hoskins
I’ve been thinking about the word "access" recently. The word makes me think of doors, stairs, elevators, bridges, pulleys. Things that are made using physics, math, art, engineering, and design. It seems fitting that these skills both literally and figuratively provide access to many places in modern life. I began considering this topic with regards to makerspaces during Hour of Code week at Los Robles/Magnet Academy in December 2016. I was volunteering with a Kindergarten class, and the computer mice were big and cumbersome for the kids’ little hands. There was a chorus of clacks the whole time as the students lifted up the mice and put them down repeatedly to get the cursors across the screens. This was adorable, and didn’t seem to bother the kids much--but I think it illustrates an important idea: that we as educators need to remember that if we want kids to engage with a lesson, activity, or concept, they need to feel like it’s for them. This is less visible than opening or closing a door, but it’s an equally meaningful means of providing or denying access to education.
Our tinkerers do everything they can to eliminate visible and invisible barriers of entry to the makerspaces. Simple things like propping the door open, labelling things in both Spanish and English, putting out activities that appeal to students of all genders, and placing materials for younger kids on lower shelves are all on their radars. We also have been working this year to build teacher involvement so that teachers bring in their students for making activities. This provides making opportunities for students who might be less likely to come in on their own. The tinkerers and makerspace volunteers are a resource for students to turn to when they get stuck or lost. Our schools are full-inclusion, which means that students with intellectual and learning disabilities are integrated into our classrooms. At a recent RMC meeting, we learned about best practices for serving our students with disabilities from Janice Soon Fah, an Integrated Services teacher at McNair. We find that we’re always learning about how to best provide fair access to the space to all of our students.
Our hope is that by encouraging all of our students to take advantage of the access they have to makerspaces, we can open both visible and invisible doors for our students to great learning opportunities.