Don’t be intimidated by the idea of setting up a makerspace in your library. If you are an elementary librarian with a fixed schedule, you may think that you don’t have the time or the space for a makerspace. Creating a makerspace is not as difficult as it seems. The key is to start out small and build your makerspace one step at a time.
I have shamelessly stolen my teens’ old Legos for my makerspace. Yard sales, Good Will, and my own garage have been great places to find inexpensive items. If you have a Scholastic Book Fair their bonus point catalog has many makerspace items. I have gotten the following items using just Scholastic Dollars:
Tegu Blocks: The kids love building with these magnetic, wooden blocks. There were enough blocks that I took out all of the flat pieces and created a magnet wall where the kids can create pictures using various magnets.
Magnet Sets: These sets come with wands, magnetic marbles, magnetic chips, and many other types of magnets.
Stick Bots: Let your students make stop-motion animation movies using these cool figurines.
3D Pens: For those of us who aren’t ready to take the leap of getting a 3D printer, this is an easy and inexpensive alternative.
Magna Tiles: These colorful tiles are another big hit with my students.
The Makerspace/Literature Connection
I like to tie in makerspace activities with literature. After I read a story, the students choose which building materials they want to use (Legos, Magna Tiles, IO Blocks, or Tegu Blocks) and I give them a challenge.
For example, after reading, How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace, I challenged my students to build their own leprechaun trap. Each group got their own glittery shamrock cut-out to use as bait for the leprechaun. After reading various versions of the Gingerbread Man, I challenged my students to create a vehicle that would help their gingerbread man get across the river and avoid the fox. I gave the students a card stock gingerbread man to use for their vehicle. When they finished building, I filmed the groups explaining how their creation worked. I posted the best videos on Twitter.
Let Students Take Charge
Many times, my students have come up with their own makerspace ideas. Last year, for our International Night, we transformed the library into the Cinderella International Museum. The museum contained artifacts that related to different Cinderella stories from around the world. One group of 5th-grade students asked if they could create Cinderella’s carriage. I handed them a bunch of card board, Christmas tree lights, tulle, and any other crafting “junk: that I had. This group created a beautiful carriage that K-2 students could actually sit in for photos! Another group created a life-sized tepee for The Rough Face Girl by Rafe Martin.
Each day, these students would come in during their free time to work on their projects. I was amazed at how well they collaborated to make these complex artifacts for our museum. I provided only the space and the materials. My students chose their own groups and their project. My flexibility and hands-off approach allowed these students to take their creations to the next level.
Keep It Simple
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to makerspaces. It’s about letting students create and be creative. I admit, my Stick Bots and 3D pens are still sitting in their packages. I just haven’t had the time to get started with them, but that’s OK. Start simple. Look at the “junk” that has been accumulating in your library. (You know you have some.) Discarded magazines and books alone can be used for all sorts of creative activities. I had a parent take a discarded Calvin and Hobbes book and create beautiful laminated bookmarks for me. Now I have a bookmark-making area for students to use.
Less Is More
The beauty of the makerspace is that the students do the work. As teachers, we’ve been trained to have every aspect of our lessons planned to perfection. That is not needed with makerspaces. Once the students know your expectations, let them have fun with the materials. Your flexibility will allow student creativity to grow.
Author: Colleen R. Lee
Colleen R. Lee is a former middle school English teacher and Elementary Teacher. She is currently the Elementary Librarian at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA. She is frantically working on the first draft of a YA Fantasy during NaNoWriMo this month. Follow her on Twitter @MrsLeesLibrary.