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Just Do It ... Start Makerspaces

MAKERSPACES ... I tried to ignore them! I tried to deny their growing momentum. I skipped over articles and blogposts where makerspaces were the headline. I averted my eyes when newsletters about them crossed my mailbox.

Not that I didn't find value in them! I ABSOLUTELY did. Honestly, I was just so overwhelmed with the thought of them. I had tons of excuses why they wouldn't fit into my program. Do you know how much room that they will take up? Do you know how messy all of this is going to be? Can you imagine how much time that it will take to implement them? My teachers are never going to go for these shenanigans!!

AND THEN IT HAPPENED ... The computer guys stole my six computer desktops last summer and replaced them with ten chromebooks. That left two whole tables completely empty. Empty, I say!! Then the new Art teacher put one of her tables up for grabs. Now I had three empty tables. Those empty tables all but screamed MAKERSPACE at me. I couldn't cover my ears any longer. It was time to dip my big toe into the Makerspace movement.

Adding Makerspaces to your elementary school library may seem intimidating, but educators everywhere are implementing them. You can create Makerspace centers simply and easily. Read how one librarian just to the Maker plunge. #makerspaces #elementary #library #centers #librarypatch

And that is exactly what I did ... just a dip, just a baby step! I didn't have any fancy materials ... no Little Bits, no Makey Makeys, no 3D printer. But I did have some paper, crayons, glue, Legos, Knex and a few hundred dollars in supply money.

So, I did it. Simply .... Really simply!

First, I grabbed a couple of those Sterilite plastic drawers and threw some Legos in one, and K'Nex in another and named it our Construction Zone. Add a few Lego Ideas books and voila ... instant Makerspace! My rule is that you can build and create, but once you leave, your inventions can be adapted, added on to, and even deconstructed.

Next, I pieced together a Creation Station. I simply set up a table with paper, crayons, markers, scissors, craft scissors, scrapbook paper, glue, Scotch tape, and washi tape. I pulled a few "How to draw", origami, and paper airplane books off the shelf and set them up nearby. The Creation Station goes through cycles. It's most popular activity to date was card making!

If you recall, I actually had THREE tables! The Construction Zone is set up on one, and the Creation Station on the second, and {if you are counting} that left me with a free table. What to do? What to do? Well, I kept it simple and threw a jigsaw puzzle on it! My fabulous assistant LOVES puzzles and always puts together the edges so that the kids aren't intimidated by a full box of puzzle pieces. Now, our library has a Puzzle Place!

See ... You don't have to have lots of cool technology or gadgets to create your own Library Makerspaces! It just takes a little bit of courage and the belief that if you build it, they WILL come. Did I LOVE having the Makerspaces in my library?? Most of the time! They did add an extra element of disorganization {which puts terror into this librarian's heart} to a perfectly chaotic space. But, I did LOVE watching the kiddos come in and make away. It was truly satisfying to watch them come in, let their guard down, put down their paper and pencil, and MAKE!

My favorite thing about the Maker movement is that it feels like kids truly get to be kids in an increasingly technology-driven, fast-forward educational environment. One of my kids came in, sat down at the Creation Station and looked at me incredulously as she said, "You mean, I can JUST color??" Well, if you want to put it that way ... "Yes. Yes, you can!"

So, my friends, BE BRAVE!! If you haven't already joined me in adding Makerspaces to your library, then jump in. Or, at least, dip a big toe in. Need to know a bit more? Here are the answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions about managing Makerspaces in my library!

As I run a flexibly scheduled library that revolves around curriculum work and information literacy skills, I don’t actually have time during MY scheduled times for students to use the Makerspaces. In a way the Makerspaces are an ADDITION to my library curriculum. So, teachers allow their students to use specific Makerspace Passes to come to the library during their school day. Honestly, I am happy that the teachers allow their kids to use the space, and ultimately it is THEIR decision how it works best in their schedules. Some teachers allow their students to come down during recess, others during study hall, and still others use the Makerspaces as a reward for completing their work. I am lucky enough to have a full-time assistant in the library who can monitor the students when I am teaching a class. So, it is VERY common for me to be teaching a class WHILE other students are completing their Maker Challenges.

Absolutely!! In order for any teachers’ class to be allowed to use the Makerspaces in the library, the class {and the teacher} are scheduled for an orientation. During that time, I talk with everyone about my expectations. We discuss the history and purpose of Makerspaces, the location of Makerspaces and their necessary materials, and what it means to me that they respect the materials. It is at that time that we talk about picking up and returning your materials, not using too much of a consumable material, as well as leaving the Makerspace BETTER then you found it. We talk about the level of their voices, and the difference between a whisper and a regular voice. I explain to them that I am kind of like their grandmother … It’s a privilege to come to my place. I don’t have to put up with your shenanigans, and if you don’t behave, I will send you right back home!

In my library, all students in Grades 3-5 are invited to participate in the Makerspace Program. I have found the students in these grades to be the best fit for the manner in which I have the program setup. They can generally work independently and with little outside assistance. I am currently looking for more ways to incorporate students in the primary grades. At times, I have scheduled classes in Grades K-2 to use the library Makerspaces as a whole group. When I do that, we simply break the kids out into groups and move them through pre-established stations.

If you are interested in the signs that you see in the pictures above, you can click below to grab a PDF file of the letters that I used as templates for both the Construct and Creation Station signs. I printed the Construct letters on black cardstock {No worries ... you can still see the printed lines on black paper}. The Creation Station letters each have a note on the page as to what color cardstock that I printed on. Once printed and cut, I glued them onto a piece of presentation board that I cut out. Easy, right!

 Click to grab letters!

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