What is a Creative Space?
A creative space is a space in which people come together to make things - be it students, educators, parents, or community members. These spaces are informed and inspired by the Maker movement, by Art Hives, and by the act of creation that makes us human.
A creative space brings together head, heart, and hands.
A creative space is a human space where we collaborate with others to design, create, and build using physical materials and digital devices. The focus on the process of making allows us to make deep connections between concepts, to solve real-world problems, to develop perseverance, or simply to create serendipitously.
Pedagogical Approaches in Creative Spaces
Creative spaces can foster student engagement through active learning with high and low-tech materials. This can include, but is not limited to:
- programming ( go to page )
- using microcontrollers such as the Makey Makey and micro:bit ( go to page )
- robotics ( go to page )
- constructing with cardboard (see "Materials in Creative Spaces" below)
- working with e-textiles and paper circuits ( go to page ), as well as,
- designing and creating simple machines.
But more importantly, there is an emphasis on the process of design, creation and collaboration, and the maker mindset.
In addition, works-in-progress, documentation using photos and videos, and final productions created in the space can be shared with others in the community and the world through journals, websites, blogs, and through social media. It’s not really about the product, but about the learning that is happening throughout the process and the reflection on the learning, for both the teachers and the students.
A learning environment that is process-oriented and student-centred
Creative spaces can be ideal settings to promote diversity. There is no one-size-fits-all; multimodal ways of learning and representing knowledge are encouraged through a variety of open-ended learning opportunities, where all learners can focus on their own interests, develop their abilities, and hone their strengths. Students who struggle academically can be successful through experiential learning activities, while those who thrive academically may face obstacles when there isn’t an obvious path to accomplish a challenge. This provides opportunities for growth for all and engages students in their learning. “Practice makes perfect,” best describes a maker mindset, where abilities can be developed, improved, and expanded upon throughout life. This open mindset champions risk-taking and failure which helps us adapt to and contribute to a world that is constantly changing.
One of the most important roles for teachers in a creative space is to plan learning activities, projects or challenges that allow students room to explore, engage, and evaluate their own learning process through the act of making. Since there is an emphasis on process, there must be time to work on and store projects, a wide choice of materials, and lots of room for mistakes and Ah-Ha! moments.
Developing Cross-Curricular Competencies/21st C. skills
Creative spaces provide a context for lifelong learning, interdisciplinarity, the development of essential skills, and real-world problem-solving. These include the Cross-Curricular Competencies from the Quebec Education Program:
- Uses information
- Solves problems
- Exercises critical judgment
- Uses creativity
- Adopts effective work methods
- Uses ICT
- Achieves his/her potential
- Cooperates with others
- Communicates appropriately
The STEAM approach
STEAM is an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math processes and concepts as anchors to guide student-centred inquiry and experiential learning. It helps to foster critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication while developing competencies and knowledge across subjects by focusing on how they are connected and work together. Creative spaces are great settings for this kind of learning to take place, so they are a great fit.
Different ways to get started
- Using open-ended interdisciplinary challenges as a starting point to learn about a concept, tool, or technology and then taking it further;
- Trying out or remixing existing project examples in order to learn about a concept and to later build on it;
- Exploring different materials and techniques to become familiar with how they work and be inspired to invent and create something new;
- Starting with a specific idea and prototyping with a variety of materials to see what works best for your creation;
- Repurposing and creative reuse – taking objects apart or using recycled materials to make something new;
- Using the opportunity to meet a need at the school by building benches, gardening bins, bat and bird houses, or meet a need in your community;
- Trying to fix something that is broken or mending something that is worn out.
Using Design Thinking to solve real-world problems
The design thinking process can be used in a creative space to address issues in your classroom, school, local community or around the globe (such as UN’s Sustainable Development Goals). This allows students to become involved in making with a purpose for a specific audience.
For more information on the design process, see our blog post: The Design Process - The Backbone of School Makerspaces
Go to site
What Does a Creative Space Look Like?
Your space can take many different forms - in fact, no two creative spaces look alike. The physical space can be in a classroom, a library, a designated space in the school, a set of bins in a common area or even a mobile supply cart that you roll into your classroom. It is not just about the physical space, but what will take place in your creative space and the mindset you want to encourage. If many age levels will be sharing the space, you’ll need to consider making a range of work surfaces and tools available.
Materials in creative spaces
The list of available technologies may seem daunting, but your school may have already purchased equipment through the funding that was made available for 2018-2019. When looking to invest in a creative space, you can start with what you have and what you know. The materials and tools are simply a means to an end. It is highly recommended that the school community be involved making choices about what to put in the space to meet local needs. Survey fellow teachers, students, and community members about their interests. As a staff, talk about what is happening in the classrooms, and how the creative space might augment the projects, activities, and challenges that are already in the works.
Think about the expression “low floor, high ceiling” - that is, tools that are fairly accessible and easy to start using but which have the potential to expand into larger, more complex projects. You don’t have to know everything to get started. Start small and let it grow. A first step might be to produce a list of consumables for parents to donate to the space. As the space develops, so will the tools. All you really need is cardboard, duct tape and an open mind. Allow for time for students and teachers to begin experimenting with the materials and tools in the space regardless of their familiarity.
What support is available if our school wants to get started with a creative space?
- Consult members of your school community - staff, students, parents, local experts
- Get support from your School Board local RÉCIT and pedagogical consultants ( Go to page)
- LEARN’s Open Creative Space website, professional development opportunities, virtual/on-site support ( Go to site)
- Community Partners, ie. Kids Code Jeunesse ( Go to site)
- Provincial Conferences ie. QPAT, LCEEQ, CCI
- RemixEd Camp
- Training modules on the Campus RÉCIT site (in French) ( Go to site)
- Online resources
- Training modules on the CADRE 21 site (in French) ( Go to site)
- Online resources for specific tools and technologies (see sections below)
Questions to ask yourself
What are my pedagogical intentions and goals? What do I want students to learn and be able to do? What subject-specific and cross-curricular competencies do I want students to develop in the creative space? What activities and projects will support their learning?
What kind of learning environment do we want to create for our students? Are we giving them choice in the type of activities and the materials that they will use? Are we setting up the space to foster collaboration? Are we allowing time for ongoing projects?
Space and Material Management
Who will have access to the space and/or materials? Who will be responsible for the management of the space and materials? How will we schedule time? Will we embed the creative space into our school timetable? Who will be responsible for the space? How will the community get involved? Who will make community connections? Who will purchase consumables? Who will decide on purchases?
What digital devices will best support our learning in the creative space? How can different technologies and materials be used to accomplish our goals? How will we make time for teachers and students to experiment with the tools and materials?