Although I was super excited about the makerspace movement, my enthusiasm quickly faded as I realized expectations and reality can be very different. What started as a $50,000 educational shopping spree (thanks, TeacherPreneur Grant), had all but ended with two broken 3D printers I’m taking home over the summer to hopefully repair. Left with the remnants of a once-promising makerspace, I needed a way to make these broken, half-missing, moveable parts into something awesome (or even something kind-of-okay-for-now would do).
Randomly clicking school library-related content, I found our game changer: The MakerCare space. I’m sure there are many different types of MakerCare programs, but the one I found inspiring is led by Gina Seymour. I’ve always been especially inspired by community service and activism, and with a MakerCare program we can really bring those ideals into our library while revitalizing our ghost town of a makerspace.
First, I took stock of our makerspace. While everyone was praising makerspaces and sharing how their admins had finally gotten on board with the movement, I came in like a wrecking ball. Tossing, sorting, rehoming, and rearranging the contents of our makerspace. I let go of feeling like a makerspace failure. I finally started redefining the space, and developing a deeper understanding of makerspaces.
Once I had a better idea of what I had, I realized what I didn’t have: a project or community service goal. I thought about letting students decide, but ultimately opted to make a judgement call for the first somewhat experimental MakerCare project. Earlier this school year the library sponsored fundraisers for a local pet shelter and a petting zoo. We received so much positive feedback from students and teachers telling us how happy everyone was to help these animals.
Based on this, I decided our first project could be building and distributing DIY winter cat shelters. To accomplish this goal, I made a long-range plan to use the second semester to work out some details and implement the plan in the 2018-2019 school year.
Before going all in on DIY Cat Shelters, I contacted a local cat rescue, which was very helpful and provided some information regarding what types of shelters are best. I also created an activity where my students did some research into community service and DIY Cat Shelters. Part of their work was creating a supply list, a chart comparing items, and doing a mini cost analysis for building the cat shelter. Students were definitely intrigued by this plan. Even the ones who said they didn’t particularly like cats were interested in the actual construction of the shelters, while others were motivated by compassion. Students discussed and debated responsibility to our communities and what that responsibility looks like in real life.
We’re still working out the details for next year, but so far the response to MakerCare has been positive, and our makerspace is no longer languishing in the corner. Ultimately, the makerspace philosophy of creating, inventing, and learning is at the core of our redesigned program. The “stuff” didn’t change, but our perspectives did. Has anyone else launched a MakerCare program?
Author: Mica Johnson
I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.