Managing a Makerspace The Beginning Stages
The makerspace movement has transformed library spaces across the country in many different ways. In an effort to provide my campus with our own makerspace, I began to research, read, and attend professional development sessions highlighting makerspaces.
One characteristic that I noticed all successful makerspaces had in common was their focus on stakeholder needs. A viable makerspace must be relevant to those using it. Although our makerspace is still in the beginning stages, the foundation of our space rests on the needs of our students, teachers, and parents.
Scheduling, management, and materials have been three major talking points in regard to designing our makerspace. In the coming weeks, I will share a few ways we have addressed these talking points, and how we have gradually implemented makerspaces into our library program.
Scheduling: When Can Students Use The Makerspace?
Our campus moved to a combination fixed/flexible schedule, which has allowed our students additional opportunities to visit the makerspace outside of their normal library time. Currently, Monday and Fridays are open check-out days and have also become open makerspace days. Makerspace Monday and Fun Friday have become a way for students to have additional time to invent, create, and make. During these days students can visit the library with a makerspace pass. The pass is laminated and has a place for the teacher to write in the student’s name and amount of time they can visit the makerspace with a dry erase marker making the pass reusable.
Students may also participate in makerspace before and after school. Before school, students can join our makerspace club. Our club is split into three areas of interest. We have Creation Station for students who are interested in arts and crafts, a Robotics Club, and an Engineering Team. Each student decides their area of interest and their projects are based on their passions. After school, monthly library nights have allowed for parents to engage in makerspaces with their children.
Finally, collaborating with teachers to create classroom makerspaces that support state standards has been possible through flexible scheduling. For example, our second grade students are required to write procedural texts. Makerspaces such as Ozobots, drawing, and origami were taken into the classroom so students could walk their peers through an activity using a procedural text they wrote after using the makerspace.
Management: How Do I Run A Makerspace?
Many obstacles of a makerspace can occur because the librarian has difficulty running the makerspace in addition to the normal demands of the library program. One way I have addressed this issue on our campus is by teaching students autonomy when using the library space on open makerspace days.
During a regular class library time, I teach all students the procedures for our makerspace so they can be independent, in case, I am not able to support them during their visit. Students are taught to enter the library, grab a timer to match the time that is written on their makerspace pass, and grab a makerspace bin. Our makerspaces are organized and labeled so students can easily grab, go, and find an empty work space. When the timer beeps, students know to clean up their space, return the bin, and head back to class. This system has allowed me to run open check-out and makerspaces even when I don’t have additional support in the library.
Utilizing parent volunteers has been another instrumental management piece of our program. My knowledge of coding and engineering is very basic, so I reached out for help. On our first makerspace sign up note, I added a place for parents to volunteer and help with our club. An engineer and a computer programmer both signed up to lead our students in these two areas.
Materials: How Do I Buy Makerspace Materials Without A Budget And What Do I Buy?
The first year I decided to launch makerspace, I didn’t have funding to support the program. Donations have been a great way to get duct tape, Legos, crafting supplies, and a variety of other materials. Book fair earnings that have been converted to Scholastic Dollars have been another great way to buy makerspace materials.
Once your makerspace has become an integral part of the library program, creating a budget request that reflects makerspace needs may be another option in seeking funding. Recently, I wrote a grant for take home makerspaces in an effort to expand our current program. I have found that utilizing a variety of funding resources can quickly build a makerspace program.
Once you have funding, using a vendor, such as Maker Maven, is a great way to find materials that meet student needs. Once students showed an interest in engineering, I was able to find materials like Makedo and Strawbees to fulfill their requests through makerspace vendors.
Although our makerspace is still in the beginning stages, our library program has grown because of all of the positive aspects associated with makerspaces. As long as our makerspace remains fluid and meets stakeholder needs, I know we will continue to find success with our makerspace.
- Trisha Hacker
Cedric E. Smith Elementary School, Magnolia ISD