Our school makerspace has all sorts of cool things- robots, Little Bits circuits, Makey-Makey kits, cardboard, old math materials, rubber bands, paper clips, art supplies, yarn for days, and the list goes on. You name it, we have it. The problem is that these materials have sat in the library untouched by many, and tinkered by few. The only purpose this makerspace served was that it was an attractive exhibit for parents considering our school.
I came to realize that we didn’t actually have a makerspace, and all these materials were just a waste of space.
An official definition by Wikipedia says, “A Rube Goldberg machine is a deliberately complex contraption in which a series of devices that perform simple tasks are linked together to produce a domino effect in which activating one device triggers the next device in the sequence. “ After watching this music video, my mind began racing and this was my “ah-ha” moment. We needed Rube Goldberg in our makerspace. I asked the art teacher at my school if he would like to co-facilitate a Rube Goldberg after-school club, and he agreed! This club (for kids in grades 3-6) has pivoted my makerspace into what it actually should be, and is changing the culture of how the kids use this space.
The kids plan backwards, one contraption at a time. It has been hard for the adults to refrain from “jumping in” and solving the problems, so we are practicing the “Yes, And” protocol. What’s been so amazing about this protocol is that the kids come up with solutions that the adults didn’t even see. The kids are driving the inquiry. We’ve done a ton of filming in slow motion so that we can see just where the contraption went wrong. This video is a great example of how filming in slow motion can help pinpoint the problem. In the many times in which the kids failed, the whole group stops to willingly participate in collaborative problem solving. This has been the finest example of failing forward I’ve ever seen.
If you are looking for a way to kickstart your makerspace, Rube Goldberg is your “in!” Our makerspace looks chaotic now, and it’s beautiful. There are tons of resources online, but my advice is to watch a few Youtube videos, and let the kids take it from there!