The Sheffield project team has developed the concept of a ‘maker box’. The boxes are based on ‘story sacks’, which are a well-established set of resources familiar to early years practitioners. Story sacks consist of a range of materials relating to a specific picture book (such as puppets and games), which can be used to support interaction with the book, and stimulate a set of activities related to the theme of the book, all of which can support children’s learning.
Maker boxes extend this concept by ensuring that some of the activities related to the book have a focus on making. Our aim is to stimulate reflection on the potential role of makerspaces in early years settings through the use of maker boxes. Although the boxes themselves contain the materials required for only two maker activities to be undertaken, they all contain further guidance on setting up a makerspace in an early years setting.
The maker boxes all contain the following sets of resources:
A MakEY story sack
These contain one or more books, along with a set of props that can be used with the books. The props include resources such as puppets, dolls and artefacts related to the theme of the book/s, which can stimulate oral language and engage children’s imaginations.
Resources for small-world play
These resources consist of small objects that can be used to stimulate imaginative play, and foster oral language. The objects are related to the theme of the book/s contained in the MakEY story sack. The use of such objects can enable children to re-tell the story, or engage in play related to its content, thus contributing to comprehension of its contents, and the relating of the contents to their own lives and experiences.
A language game
This normally consist of an activity that supports oracy and/ or reading and/ or writing.
The theme of the game or activity relates to the book/s contained in the story sack. This can, in some cases, reinforce key vocabulary.
A mathematics game
This normally consist of an activity that supports learning in mathematics. The theme of the game or activity relates to the book/s contained in the story sack.
Each maker box contains materials and resources that enable two maker activities to be undertaken. These are activities that involve making and can foster learning in science, engineering, mathematics and technology (STEM), in addition to relating to curriculum areas such as art, craft and design, music, and so on (STEAM). Each activity relates to the theme of the book/s contained in the story sack.
The aim of the inclusion of such activities is to introduce practitioners to the concept of making/ makerspaces through the use of materials and approaches which are familiar. The activities are also framed thematically, which relates to the way that many early years settings and schools plan learning.
Guidance on setting up makerspaces
The maker boxes all contain ‘making’ activities which are self-contained, and normally lead to a product/ outcome. However, the value of including maker activities and makerspaces in formal learning spaces is that they can foster open-ended tinkering, hacking and experimentation. The maker boxes, therefore, all contain guidance on how to set up makerspaces in settings and schools – either a permanent space, or a ‘pop-up’ makerspace.