Five top tips for inspiring pupils with technology

Tes award-winning teacher on how she created the first state-school-based makerspace

Caroline Keep, Tes new teacher of the year

Caroline Keep won the Tes new teacher of the year award for her work inspiring pupils through the creation of a school makerspace.

Ms Keep is a physics teacher and director of the Spark at Penketh, a space where pupils combine technology and creativity to invent, design and build their own creations.


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Here are her five top tips to creating a school makerspace to get pupils inspired by science and technology.

1. Reach out to your school community

If you don’t find a community, you will really struggle to do and open a makerspace like ours and also to get your pupils and teachers involved.

If you can get them to talk about what kind of things they like, what kind of things they want to experiment with and what kind of ideas they have got this will help you develop your makerspace.

The community and the people that you get involved - especially to be able to do the kind of STEAM ( science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) learning we do here – are pretty crucial.

2. Give your space a name

Ours is called Spark at Penketh High School because we like to think it sparks our students' imagination. Give your space a name and an identity so that you can refer to it.

Also, it gives it a sense of ethos and culture, which encourages your students to get involved with it.

3. Don’t worry about the kit

I know looking behind me, you could think, "Oh god there is a lot of kit here", but I didn’t start with much kit.

What you want to do is reach out to your parents, your teachers, your universities and see if anyone has got anything to donate. 

You go to your other departments at school, science, technology, engineering and say to them we are going to open a makerspace for STEAM learning have you got anything you don’t normally use.

You’ll find your school has absolutely loads. Then, over time, you can get the pieces that you need. It is more about your imagination to start with.

4. Make sure a key group of teachers give you support

It can be quite isolating to be a teacher that does lots of the technology in schools so make sure that you spread across other departments that can give you some support for that.

My headteacher here at Penketh High School, Jonn Carlin, and all my teachers are incredibly supportive.

We have support from teachers who come in and work here in biology, art, design technology. There should be a supportive structure.

Not only do you go to them for ideas but they can come to you with ideas. Make sure you get a whole-school network among your staff and your students. Make sure you go to them to get the pupils’ voice about what they want.

5.  Design projects that are reuseable

When we design a module we do it so that our entire school can do it and then we can roll it out elsewhere. 

Because we do that we have been able to outreach to all of our libraries and anyone else in our community who wanted to run those kinds of things.

So make sure whatever projects you do try to make sure its something which is recyclable, reusable and can be resourced relatively cheaply.

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