Makerspace and STEM in the FSL Classroom? Absolutely!

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Whether your classroom is high-tech or no tech, Makerspaces and STEM challenges are amazing ways to encourage authentic interactions in French.  If you aren't familiar with Makerspaces or STEM, I've added several great resources at the end of this post.
In a nutshell, a Makerspace is a space where students can gather to invent, tinker, build and share knowledge. Students are given the opportunity to explore different skills such as coding, sewing and construction in a self-directed environment that promotes creativity, problem-solving and collaboration.  Makerspaces encourage students to come up with real-world solutions through exploratory tasks and challenges.
Typically, a Makerspace should be situated in a public area where makers have room and opportunity for hands-on work.  However, if this is not an option for you, a Makerspace cart is a viable alternative.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is based on the idea of educating students through an applied approach.  STEM challenges (ou STIM en français) help develop life-long skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, communication, and resilience.  Challenges are student directed and usually feature low-tech materials such as cardboard, straws, tape, etc.

How can I incorporate Makerspaces into my FSL program?

I personally love STEM and Makerspaces in FSL because it provides students with an authentic opportunity to interact with each other in French.  One of the only requirements I have when running a Makerspace is that students speak in French.  The total engagement that comes with STEM and Makerspaces is a great buy in, even for your toughest students.
Makerspaces and STEM activities link directly to the Ontario FSL Curriculum.  Examples below are from the Grade 5 French Immersion expectations:


STEM Challenges

A1, A2 Example
I've slowly been accumulating and creating french STEM challenges for FSL students.  You can find a variety of low-tech challenges on my webpage www.labrigade.weebly.com
STEM challenges can be found under Défis STIM.  There are several different STEM categories such as construction, cardboard and Lego.  I continuously add new content to this site so check back often for some ready-to-use challenges for your students.
A2, B1 Example
Examples of Required Material:
            -toothpicks
            -spaguetti sticks
            -cardboard
            -newspaper
            -tape
            -glue
            -popsicle sticks
            -marshmallows
            -balloons
            -tinfoil

Acquiring Supplies: 
A great way to acquire supplies throughout the school year is through your students.  Send a letter home at the beginning of the school year with a list of items similar to the one listed above.  Ask parents to keep an eye out for these items when shopping at the dollar store or when sorting through the recycling. Check out a great example here from www.morethanaworksheet.com.

High-Tech Makerspace ($$$$)

One of the biggest challenges of starting an FSL Makerspace is the lack of resources in French.  As mentioned above, I have slowly been collecting and translating resources and posting them at www.labrigade.weebly.com.  High-Tech Makerspace exploratory activities and challenges are found under Dash and Dot, Sphero and LittleBits
Check back soon for activities for the KIBO, Makey Makey's, LEGO WeDo 2.0  If you are interested in adding more high-tech options into your Makerspace, visit www.makerspaces.com or click here for a comprehensive list of robots, kits and software that will enhance any Makerspace.

Low-Tech Makerspace ($)

A Makerspace doesn't have to be anything fancy.  If you have cardboard, art supplies and LEGOs you're in business!  Consumables are a great way to keep costs down and like STEM challenges, you can approach your students and parents to help keep your Makerspace fully stocked.  One of my favourite low-tech Makerspace is the "Make It Better" challenge.  Students find an item that they use in every day life and they need to redesign it to make it better.

Resources

Here is a list of resources that I have found extremely helpful when setting up a Makerspace and STEM challenges in my classroom:









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Lindsay Deschamps

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I am an Innovation Instructional Coach for District School Board North-East in Ontario, Canada.

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