How Our Makerspace Began…
Starting an elementary school makerspace can be done one step at a time. When I started as a media center assistant in 2014 the library was located in a regular size classroom. I was hired mid-year. Not many students used the library and I started looking for ways to get the students to come in.
During my first year, I quickly found out that there was a large group of students that need a place to hang out during recess and lunch. I adjusted my hours and I took my lunch early so I could then open the library to students during their lunch. As students got to know me they started to feel more comfortable and they started to come to the library to read, check out books or chat with me.
Makerspaces Shouldn’t be Silent
I brought in a speaker and started playing music during breaks and that helped the students realize that I didn’t expect the library to be silent. As the months went on, I could see that the students were looking for something more. I bought a roll of coloring sheets that I taped to a table and set out a container of markers and crayons. They loved it. That was the extent of our Makerspace for that school year.
All the schools in my district received $10,000 for the library. The money could be spent in whatever way would most improve the library. We needed library-bound books, but I also used some of the money for some new tables that allowed collaborative work and some Makerspace Supplies. The new tables allowed me to have small group activities in the library.
Getting Started With Projects in Makerspace
At the holidays we spent weeks making ornaments out of discarded books, using glue guns, fancy holes punches, and rubber stamps. In the spring we spent months working on Pop-Up cards using geometry skills, rulers, glue sticks, and lots of creativity.
Starting an After-School Makerspace
All of our lunch activities were going so well I added a Tinker Tuesday. 12 lower-grade students followed by 12 upper-grade students would sign up to stay after school in the library with me and we would tinker. We built catapults, used Break-out EDU boxes, made old-fashioned potholders and Perler Beads.
Our Makerspace table in our old library.
During the summer I spent a few weeks installing a giant Lego Wall. I added a rolling cart filled with Legos. Adding the Lego wall changed the course of our library. The wall brought in students that normally didn’t hang out in the library and it also increased our noise level.
The district bought all of the school’s 3D printers. I embraced learning about the printer and by the end of the year, we were using programs like Morphi Edu and Tinker Cad. I added a FaceBook page for the library to keep everyone up to date about what was going on. At the end of the school year a room across campus opened up and we made the decision to relocate the library. We had outgrown the space and on a daily basis, it was too crowded to move around.
Year 4… We Now Have a Dedicated Makerspace Lab
I spent the summer packing up the library and moving to a new location. We had two portable classrooms that had their walls touching. They were able to cut a large hole in the wall to connect the two classes. We now have one room that is the library and one room that is the Makerspace Lab. The new Makerspace lab used to be our computer lab, however, we now are almost a 1 to 1 ratio for devices, so the lab was becoming obsolete. I can move back and forth between the space and still supervise both rooms. In our new lab, we raised old computer tables to make them barstool height.
Legos in Our Makerspace
We couldn’t move the Lego wall and although the room was bigger there wasn’t a spot for a Lego Wall, so I used two old double desks to make a Lego table. I used Gorilla Glue to glue the base plates to the table and added some fun stools. One of our walls is painted green so we have a permanent green screen in the lab. We added a sewing machine, a dedicated art table, and we took a deep dive into 3D printing.
Year 5… A Very Busy Elementary School Makerspace
Our big change in year 5 is we chose to get rid of most of our desktop computers from the old lab. We kept 12 and removed the rest and that opened up a whole wall. With all the extra room we installed open shelving for all of our Makerspace supplies. Students need to know what they can use and it helps if they can see it. Our local high school had some old lockers and the district painter fixed them up for us and we installed them. Students love having a place to store their Perler Bead projects where they know they won’t get bumped and ruined.
Expanding our Electrical
The school electrician installed dropped-down electrical from the ceiling and that was truly a game-changer. We can now have the sewing machine and the iron plugged in and not have to worry about someone tripping. One table is the dedicated hot-gluing station with a power strip on the table for all the plugs.
Students Have the Room to Create in Makerspace
This year was busy. On a daily basis, students were busy sewing and we started a cardboard station with mini cardboard saws and hot glue guns. They made numerous movies and videos using the iPads and Green Screen. We also added a Breaker Space Station with cordless screwdrivers and some basic tools. The students continue to love the Legos and art supplies. Our 3D printer prints all day to keep up with the student’s projects. We also added Ozo-bots and Dot & Dash.
Year 6… An Ever-Changing Makerspace
We are currently on summer break. I’m not sure what this school year will bring, but I’m sure it will be exciting.
Final Thoughts About Starting A Makerspace…
Starting a Makerspace can feel overwhelming that is why I tried to outline how long it actually took us. Makerspace doesn’t have to be stagnant, it can be ever-changing depending on the interests of the students.
Finding Money for an Elementary Makerspace
People always ask about money. We don’t have a big budget. Don’t be afraid to ask your parents, because they donate supplies all the time. They can bring in simple things like toilet paper rolls, or fabric, or left-overs from a project that they worked on at home because the one thing I found is students will use whatever supply I put out for them.
Elementary Makerspaces are Noisy
The other thing I get asked about is the noise. Every day it is noisy in the Makerspace. We have rules, I play background music, and 99% of the time behavior isn’t an issue, because the students are choosing to be in the lab.
Go Ahead and Start a Makerspace
If you are interested in starting a Makerspace I suggest you just jump right in. You can start with something as simple as coloring sheets and markers. I have found that students are missing this creative outlet in their lives. They don’t have time to do fun projects in class or at home. I like to think that the main focus of our Makerspace is to teach students real-world skills. It is a bonus that they are having fun while they are learning these skills.