Being a Maker in PE

There’s a lot of talk about the “maker movement” and “maker culture” at the present time. In a nutshell, it’s about using technology to learn as you create solutions to problems, or design blue sky projects. Think Arduino, Raspberry Pi, 3D printers, electronics and robotics. There doesn’t really seem to be a solid bridge between the maker movement and PE. Or is there?

The other day I mucked around with an idea as a semi joke. I cycle a lot, and this winter (where I live in Australia) has been warmer than I can remember for winter.  I joked to a friend that “Magpie season” might start earlier than usual.

Swoop –

Around August/September when magpies start to nest they become very territorial. As a cyclist, you know there are some stretches of road where you will be swooped. Some swoopers are half hearted – some can be persistent and quite aggressive.

I’ve seen a variety of “anti swooping” countermeasures over the years. Cable ties on the helmet is a strategy that has lasted longer than most. but I’ve never been able to bring myself to use them. (The laughing from motorists is too hard to bear)

The Magpie Alert has plenty of stories about this

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the possibilities of  linking PE with the idea of being a “maker”. It made sense. The “learning through doing” philosophy of the maker movement should happen every day in PE lessons – but we generally focus on “movement skills”, rather than  creating “things”. But why shouldn’t we make things? I reflected that my “Mystery Bag Challenge” was in fact a “maker” based exercise, before I realised what  being a “maker” meant.

And you know what would make it more powerful? It’s not the teacher’s responsibility for the design and creation process – it’s the students. We might provide the brief or perceived need – then let the kids loose on it. What an excellent assessment strategy!

Helmets to deter magpie swoops, innovative equipment designed to help us play newly created games, prototyping sports equipment, using 3D printers to create PE related tools like Jarrod Robinson and his 3D printed whistle – the list goes on.

I’d love to hear what “maker” activities you already do in class, or what the possibilities for maker spaces in PE could produce.

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1 thought on “Being a Maker in PE”

  1. A thoughtful blog, thanks for sharing, and it is one that I can certainly connect with. In my last year as a secondary school physical education teacher I engaged in a number of units of games making with different groups of students. I also had students try and make up their own practices for athletics as well. In a recent paper with Peter Hastie and a secondary school teacher called Steve Jump we argued that the central idea/philosophy behind making (in this case games making) was appreciation while the central idea/philosophy of traditional physical education was playing the game well. In many respects as long as students could play the game with all the right skills they didn’t need to understand more than the correct sequence of movements at the right time.

    One idea that I have become really interested in is the idea of self-made materials. In last year’ special issue of the ACHPER ‘Active and Health’ magazine Javier Fernandez-Rio and Antonio Mendez-Gimenez authored a paper entitled ‘Self-made materials, Cooperative Learning and games invention: great combination for physical education’. In this paper they advocated for the educational benefits of self-made materials and I think that your idea Brendan and theirs has a lot of synergy.

    Playing or doing anything by a predetermined set of rules is fun but it isn’t as challenging or as empowering, I believe, in a huge spot of “do-it-yourself”. If you’re still not sure then have a look at this paper (, which explores the learning that took place when I supported my students in making their own games.

    I will close by saying that I am a real advocate of this approach. So much so that when asked to showcase my teaching with the University’s Academic Leadership Team I chose to do games-making…and what’s more they loved it.


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