The beginning of the 21st century saw the rise of Maker Spaces, where people could engage in a variety of creative design and fabrication activities. These informal learning environments are often community-based rather than sponsored by formal, public education. Maker spaces are designed as collaborative workshops that provide access to materials and equipment that are not easily accessible. The explosion of the Maker Movement is an example of grass roots interest and engagement in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) that is increasingly popular in mainstream community and culture. With such success in informal settings, it has attracted educators as a way to overcome the perceived achievement gap in these fields between the United States and developed nations. Integration of the Maker Movement into schools holds great promise in the area of instruction and learning. Education reform has increasingly focused on preparing students with 21st century skills. However, there is a dearth of research on successful models of integrating the Maker Movement into formal education. Some education reforms espouse the importance of student-centered instruction to prepare youth for occupations that do not yet exist. However, many classrooms and curricula are still utilizing the teacher-centered instruction of lectures and memorization that prepared youth to be cogs in the wheel of industry decades earlier. However, simply adding technology to classroom and curriculum is not the panacea to improve interest and achievement in STEAM. Research that can uncover tangible actions formal educators to integrate the maker movement into its classroom spaces and curriculum has the potential to prepare students for 21st century skills to improve society and create innovations necessary for the 22nd century.


This research project will investigate a pre-existing, grass roots integration of the Maker Movement into its middle and high school in a rural southwestern Pennsylvania school district, Elizabeth Forward (EFSD). This collaborative, formative research effort will be highly exploratory. Given the limited number of such initiatives and related research or evaluation, our research is largely descriptive, with the anticipation of moving to more inferential studies in subsequent funding cycles. Our research will strive to respond to the following questions. First, what are the characteristics and capacities of EFSD’s integrated Maker Movement at the middle and high school, and which are critical for success? Next, how has EFSD’s integrated Maker Movement generated a productive nexus of informal and formal education? Lastly, what is the effect of this integrated maker movement on student and teacher learning, confidence, and capacity in STEAM? The first year of will be predominantly action research with data collected through observations and interviews of key stakeholders. This research will inform the district to articulate a theory of action and specific outcomes related to Maker integration. Measuring these outcomes through surveys will be the focus of year 2 data collection activities. The overarching goal of the project is to add to the growing body of generalizeable knowledge to integrate the Maker Movement into formal learning environments.