Digital Age Teaching and Learning

How We Launched Our Makerspace

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How We Launched Our Makerspace

As a Digital Teacher Librarian, I never want to let an opportunity for innovation pass me or my students by. I had been hearing a lot about the Maker movement and wanted to figure out a way to bring it to my students and school. There were so many ideas swimming in my head from all that I had been reading and seeing on sites from the School Library Journal and the American Library Association to Pinterest. The possibilities seemed endless.

After having tech clubs and coding clubs, I thought, “How about a Makerspace Club?” And so, the preparation began. I had several partners (my instructional coach and a parent who teaches Chemistry and Robotics in a different school) help me work through and reign in my ideas to create a vision for how our Makerspace Club would launch.

Collecting Supplies

First, we had to figure out what supplies were necessary.  A parent who is also a teacher had a Makerspace at a previous school and she helped to create a list of supplies. We came up with lists of items that we could get donated as well as items that we had to purchase.

For purchase:
Makey Makey
Sphero/Sprk/Ollie
Kits that could be used to start
Legos/K’Nex
Straws
Toothpicks
Paper clips
Tape (clear, masking, painters, duct)
Rubberbands
Popsicle sticks
Pipe cleaners
String/yarn
Marbles
Balloons
Ping Pong balls

Donations:
Cereal boxes
Tissue boxes
Bottle caps
Lids
Toilet paper rolls
Paper towel rolls

How do I fund this?

If you’re wondering where the money came from to purchase all that, I used a number of strategies you can try too.  I started by visiting the RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) to purchase supplies and kits at reasonable costs. I also spent several weeks shopping online, at dollar stores and hobby stores, etc. to build our supplies. We also asked for donations of recyclables such as toilet paper rolls and bottle caps to Legos and K’nex. Parents and teachers have come through in a big way, helping add to the collection.

Setting it up

Because this is a before-school club, I needed everything to be mobile. I had to find a way to roll it out in the morning and then roll it somewhere else for the rest of the time. Depending on the space you have available, you could also go this route, or keep things stationary. I’m still working on my setup but started with several rolling carts that were sitting in the library collecting dust and plastic storage bins. I have a fairly large storage room in the library but until now, it was an unorganized mess with unused and old curriculum and materials. This has really given me the excuse I needed to clean it out and make real use of the space.

Using Breakout EDU to set the club in motion

Looking for something to complement your Makerspace to get things moving?  I recently attended a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Summit where I was introduced to James Saunders’ Breakout EDU. As the website says, Breakout EDU is “A platform for immersive learning games.” I was looking for a unique way to introduce the Makerspace Club and for me, this was it! The critical thinking, collaboration, and communication required for this “game” were perfect since those are the exact skills that students will use in the Makerspace Club. Breakout EDU says, “it’s time for something different,” and that is exactly what I was envisioning for this club.

To get us started, I created puzzles for students to solve; each one leading a way to open one of the several locks to the Breakout box. I started with this poem on a piece of paper:

Welcome students!

This club is for thinkers
This club will be fun
There’s a few rules to help you
and show how it’s run

  1. You have to be flexible
  2. Sometimes work as a team
  3. Be OK with failure
  4. Learning’s the theme
  5. Use your imagination
    • to build and to make
  6. Bring a positive attitude
    • and it will be a piece of cake!

Let’s see how smart you are today
and start you on your adventure
Through a scavenger hunt of sorts
To break into this little treasure

The first clue is on the back! Play puzzles one, two and three. One of them will give you the directions for opening a lock.

On the back was an envelope with a QR code cut into fourths that had to be put together, scanned and opened to the Hour of Code Star Wars game. The directional lock could be opened by using the directions from puzzle three in the Star Wars coding game. Each puzzle I created to open a lock incorporated some element of what would be offered in the club. I designed puzzles around Makey Makey, Minecraft, Legos, craft supplies, jigsaw puzzles and even a picture book with the theme of growth mindset. This led us to our new motto – “Try…Fail…Problem Solve.”

What’s next?

The students in the club are super excited for the possibilities we have created for them to explore, design, and create. The next question is, how do we reach the whole school? I am hoping that as the teachers see the possibilities that are available, they will start to see how they can incorporate the concept into their classroom learning. Together, we can collaborate on projects that integrate concepts from our Makerspace with their core content.

If a Makerspace sounds like something you want to dive into for your students, I say “jump.” What’s stopping you? Don’t let this opportunity for innovation pass you or your students by.

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