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How Makerspaces in Schools Can Support Student Mental Health

Makerspaces in schools are a place where the normal rules of classroom learning are tossed aside in favor of just a couple — have fun, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

As schools continue to grapple with a student mental health crisis, could makerspaces also present an opportunity to support students’ well-being overall? And even a creative way for counselors to get their young patients to open up?

Absolutely, say a pair of researchers from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. A collaboration between professors Deborah Duenyas and Roseanne Perkins explores how makerspaces can be used by educators and counselors (in their own lanes) to help students deal with emotional distress. They published a research paper on the use of “makerspace therapy” by graduate counseling students in 2021.

Duenyas, an associate professor of counselor education, is a former teacher and certified counselor. Perkins, an associate professor of technology education, has a background in library science and art education.

What they found is that, as outlets for creativity and self-expression, makerspaces are already becoming informal places in schools where students can talk openly about negative emotions like sadness or grief. These are areas that encourage students to tinker and problem solve, sometimes with high-tech tools like 3D printers or low-tech materials like hot glue and construction paper. They can be stationary in a library or classroom, or they can be mobilized with carts that can be wheeled from room to room.

In formal counseling settings, the researchers discovered that integrating makerspace-style activities can get conversation flowing with clients who need encouragement to open up.

“Especially during COVID, it seemed like there was a real movement of people expressing themselves at all ages through making, creating and innovating,” Duenyas says, particularly on social media platforms like the video-focused YouTube. “This seemed like a

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