Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Makerspaces - Getting Started

My library's makerspace is a little underwhelming at first for visitors.  There is currently no 3D-printer (maybe someday?), no poster printer, and no fancy, electronic cutting machines.  You won't find power tools or sewing machines or soldering irons.  

What you will find are big ideas, things the elementary students in my school are familiar with, and a few things they are using to inspire learning.  We have basic arts and craft materials that you'll find in any classroom: pipe cleaners, craft sticks, construction paper, markers, and a million crayons.  There's also some inspiring electronics: a raspberry pi, makey-makey, snap circuits, and little bits. And let's not forget the free computer programs and apps we can use for coding, 3d modeling, and photo, film and audio editingLinks to most of what we work with on a daily basis can be found below on the Symbaloo.

This is what our makerspace looks like

Makerspace basics

So what is a makerspace, how does it support the learning community, what should you consider before starting, how do you start one and where do you go for more information?  Many of those things can be answered here:

Makerspaces - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

How our makerspace works 

The makerspace in my library acts as a tool to inspire students to explore and share their learning.  They can participate in "maker recess" to tinker and try things out that they wouldn't ordinarily have time to play with at school.  They get to build on the lego table, 3d model with Sketchup, code with Scratch and create with the makey-makey, snap circuit kits, and green screen.  They can also use the materials as inspiration to create projects to share their learning for Genius Hour and project based learning.  Students use the Big 6 research model and Super 3 to help coach students through the project planning process.

During this past spring, students made how-to videos, built websites, designed models, put together powerpoints, and created projects for a series study and an author study that included: stuffed animals, settings built out of legos, and puppet shows filmed in front of a green screen. Another group of students researched uses for a raspberry pi and began working on creating a station in the library where they will be able to tweet pictures of books they are reading with short recommendations.

Next year plans are already in the works to host after school maker events where are World Language and Music teachers can spotlight extra skills.  We will be working towards building a butterfly garden and using technology to create music.

What about the budget?

At this stage in the game we are fairly low budget.  I will dedicate some of our book budget to purchasing books that inspire making.  I am currently using only free software and apps for students, and am working to build the collection of materials available through donations, some of my own money and a portion of the proceeds from book fairs.  

You would be surprised what you can get just by asking.  In the past I have put requests out on Facebook for both Legos and a coffee table to make repurpose into a Lego table, and I found quickly that many of my friends were looking to off load things for a good cause. For the electronics and consumables, I hope to add a few key things each year and am going to budget approximately 30% of my book fair proceeds to help do that.  For other projects, I may ask students to bring in materials: I'm finding that the kids are willing to bring their own duct tape or rainbow looms if it means they can have a space to work with their friends. I will also be exploring other options to fund consumable materials - local and national grants and fundraisers are next on my list of things to research. 

Resources to Check Out

Below is a Symbaloo webmix of maker inspired links. The resources in red and on the left are some helpful articles and resources for getting started.  You will also find close to those resources, different blogs and books that would be good to follow and read.  The resources in the orange are local or state resources, links in teal will lead you to places to find maker activities and ideas, there are also links below to coding, free programs and electronics you might want to start with.  Not to mention Pinterest boards and YouTube channels to follow.

To see the mix on Symbaloo - click [here].

 Do you have a makerspace?  How do you fund it and what happens there?

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