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Uncovering the principles of practice that make making work.

This research-based learning space is a permanent exhibit inside the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. MAKESHOP is a drop-in environment where children and families make, play, and design using “real stuff”—the same materials, tools, and processes used by professional artists, builders, programmers, and creators of all kinds.



HundrED has selected this innovation to

Pittsburgh, USA






March 2019
When kids are making, they’re learning about how their environment is constructed, and how they can be agents in that construction—they’re capable of changing their environment.

About the innovation

How can museums help educators implement maker learning?

In 2011, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh partnered with learning researchers to design a new kind of museum exhibit. In this space, young patrons would explore real tools, materials, and processes while museum educators investigated the practices and possibilities of maker learning. The result was the first museum makerspace: MAKESHOP.

At MAKESHOP, materials like cardboard, plastic food containers, old clothes, scrap lumber, and broken toys find new purposes and uses, taking on a new and different life with the help of tools and imagination.

While visitors are weaving on the MAKESHOP’s loom, building cardboard creations, and creating stop-motion animations, museum educators are testing principles of materials exploration, investigating strategies for supporting learning, and refining the practice of maker education.

How can museums help educators implement maker learning?

What happens at MAKESHOP reaches far beyond the walls of the museum. MAKESHOP has become a hub for maker-learning resources, equipping educators from around the world with tools to integrate making into their unique learning context.

MAKESHOP staff have identified seven core learning practices that empirically describe children’s engagement in MAKESHOP, creating a common language around making as a learning process. 

Through partnerships with Maker Ed, Google, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Science Foundation, and others, MAKESHOP has supported the design and creation of hundreds of makerspaces across the world, and provided resources and professional development to thousands of educators.

Impact & scalability

Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process


Making is characterized by interest driven engagement in creative production at the crossroads and fringes of disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, art and math. Over the years, the Museum has used making as a discipline and learning platform to do research and publish resources. These include booklets, e-publications, and websites that cover everything from how to make a makerspace, using making in the classroom, and the educational value of making. 
In 2010, the Museum began to work with Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center to envision a space designed to challenge and nurture the creative interests of the Museum’s visitors using physical and digital technologies. This enabled the Children’s Museum to marry the strength of its “play with real stuff” philosophy with technology, visitor-generated content and informal learning research and evaluation. This active partnership fosters organizational learning, strengthens institutional capacity and creates an innovative space for informal visitor learning.MAKESHOP provides children and families open-access to digital media resources and physical materials in a robust space designed to inspire curiosity, exploration, creativity and innovation. A dedicated facilitation team, comprised of skilled makers, artists and educators, introduce visitors to the diverse materials and processes of making and help visitors translate their visions into tangible products.
Teacher Professional Development
Developed through years of experience and research in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s MAKESHOP, the Museum's Teacher Professional Development Program emphasize that maker education is about more than a space and the right tools. These PD sessions explore the processes, materials, and approach of successful maker education and the means to bring these back to their classroom or learning center.You can find a schedule of upcoming PDhere. 
The Learning Practices of Making
With funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the Children's Museum and the New York Hall of Science engaged in a research initiative to determine how to best support family engagement in making as a learning process. Through this work, the research-practice teams at each museum have empirically identified the kinds of learning that we value with respect to making. Generally, we call this work, our Principles of Practice. At Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, this has developed into a framework, the Learning Practices of Making, as well as an ongoing approach to reflective practice.These Learning Practices also guide how the Museum designs MAKESHOP programming and professional development experiences. 

Implementation steps


Come us in person! The Children's Museum programs activities in MAKESHOP on a daily basis as well as encourages free exploration of the tools and materials available. 


Check out the MAKESHOP Blog, Twitter, and Instagram
Use the Making Spaces Tools

In 2016, the Museum launched with Making Spaces project with Google and Maker Ed. This project set out create a network  museum, libraries and other education institutions across the country to serve as experts in making for schools in their community. These hubs each train 5-10 schools or smaller education organization in their community to set up and facilitate their own, indvidually designed and programmed makerspaces.

Through this “hub and spoke” model, over 100 schools have been active in building makerspaces. As a part of this scaling, the Museum worked with the hubs to test and refine a suite of "tools" meant to guide the development, planning, and implementation of makerspaces. 

You can find the tool kit here.

Read more about Making Spaces here.

Attend a Professional Development Session

Check out Boot Camp

If you can't attend in person, use these tools can help you leverage a makerspace as an education resource in your community. 

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