Effect of the Collaboration Between MakerSpace, University, and Elementary Schools on Student STEM Attitudes: Bringing the Maker Movement to Elementary Schools

Effect of the Collaboration Between MakerSpace, University, and Elementary Schools on Student STEM Attitudes: Bringing the Maker Movement to Elementary Schools

Irina Lyublinskaya (College of Staten Island (CUNY), USA) and Stephanie Sheehan (College of Staten Island (CUNY), USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6951-0.ch005


This chapter examines the effect of a STEM project developed in collaboration between MakerSpace, a public university, and a Title I elementary school on student STEM attitudes and interests in future STEM careers. There is limited research on the Maker Movement and practically no research on whether MakerSpace facilities and expertise can be effectively integrated into a standards-based elementary school curriculum. As part of this study, 5th grade students designed and built birdhouses to make connections between mathematics and science learned in the classroom and world around them. The study was conducted in urban settings, in a school with large percentages of at-risk students. Pre- and post-surveys were administered to measure student STEM attitudes, 21st century skills, and interests in future STEM careers. Results showed significant increase in scores in all these areas after students completed STEM projects. This study illustrates a successful collaboration between MakerSpace and local schools to enhance the standards-based school curriculum.
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As technology advances and increases its reach within everyday life, the demand for STEM education and STEM professions increase as well. STEM instruction is integrated into the academic curriculum, branching from the elementary school classroom, to the secondary school classroom and beyond. However, student attitudes toward STEM vary, specifically among elementary school students. STEM educators work hard to create positive attitudes towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics in their students, in hopes of fostering a lifelong interest in these fields. A recent movement in STEM education is the Maker Movement (Hsu, Baldwin, & Ching, 2017). The Maker Movement provides a project-based approach to STEM education that integrates curriculum standards across subjects including science, technology, engineering, mathematics, art, and the humanities. The purpose of this study is to examine whether elementary school students’ attitudes toward STEM, 21st century skills, and students’ interests in future STEM careers were affected by introducing a real-life STEM project into mathematics curriculum.


Being that STEM attitudes vary across all student levels, it is not only important to understand how to spark student interest in these fields, but also how to sustain such an interest. In 2009, President Obama issued a statement to bring forth business involvement in STEM education (Giglio, 2010). Following this statement, in 2010, more than 100 CEO’s launched Change the Equation, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating students in STEM fields. “Through innovative and effective company-led programs, Change the Equation aims to fill the opportunity gap with capable and enthusiastic STEM-literate young people.” (Giglio, 2010) Change the Equation is the first and only program that brings together a large number of corporate leaders, politicians, and educators to build the success of STEM education. Thus far, Change the Equation has launched STEMworks, an online database for effective STEM programs, iON Future, a series of online games that encourages STEM career opportunities, and published its Work-Based Learning Guide that illustrates ways companies can engage students in STEM careers.

Similarly, in an ongoing project, titled “STEM-Inc”, junior high school students are exposed to STEM subjects through engineering and computer science projects. This project, funded by the National Science Foundation, intends to sustain student interest in STEM fields, while making students aware of STEM career opportunities. This project implements hands-on, group oriented learning experiences for students. The STEM-Inc project recruited college students from California State University Fullerton (CSUF) to serve as mentors to guide the junior high school students. This university-public school relationship in coordination with the hands-on engineering and computer science projects showed improvement in attitudes towards STEM for both, the junior high school students and their college mentors. However, this study has not yet found an increase in STEM abilities, nor interest in STEM fields. (Nair et al., 2017)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Makerspace: A place where people with shared interests can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore, imagine, and discover while sharing ideas, knowledge, equipment, tools, and materials.

Maker Movement: Grassroots movement that places value on an individual's ability to be a creator of things.

21st Century Skills: Certain core competencies and skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, technological literacy, collaboration, and creativity, necessary to succeed in learning, work, and life in this century.

Problem-Based Learning: Teaching approach in which students learn about a subject by solving open-ended complex real-world problems with the learning goals and outcomes set jointly by the students and the teacher.

Maker Education: A problem-based/project-based approach to learning using a wide variety of hands-on activities to support academic learning and the development of a mindset that values experimentation, growth and iteration, and collaboration and community.

STEM: An interdisciplinary teaching approach that aims to cultivate a deeper understand of each subject through an emphasis on the interrelated nature of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Project-Based Learning: Teaching approach in which students gain knowledge and skills by exploring real-world problems and challenges with the learning goals and outcomes set by the teacher.

Self-Efficacy: Person's belief in his or her ability to complete a future task or solve a future problem.

Title I: A federal program that provides financial assistance through state educational agencies to local educational agencies and public schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards ( https://www2.ed.gov/programs/titleiparta/index.html ).

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