Makerspaces – To Kit or Not to Kit?

I am lucky enough to serve librarians, teachers, and students in Denver Public Schools, which has a wonderful collection of circulating makerspace kits for librarians and teachers to check out–kind of a “try before you buy” concept that provides a variety of kits at different grade levels, many complete with curricular connections and books that complement the contents of each kit. Much work has gone into the selection and creation of these kits, as well as the policies that govern their use. Here is the website our Library Technical Systems Team has put together to spread the word about what is available and how our librarians and teachers can go about getting their hands on them: https://sites.google.com/dpsk12.net/etlsmakers/home.

Now that I get to manage the amazing staff that got this project started, I am going to focus on connecting our makerspace kits to the AASL Standards, marketing the kits to our campuses, starting with evaluating the level of maker mindset on the campus, and determining whether there is a need for making beyond “this is something I saw at a conference, and I thought it would be cool.” Our circulating kits allow librarians and teachers to try popular making activities with students before they ask their campuses to invest in several expensive kits or renovate an entire room to establish a makerspace. This helps our campuses avoid the expense and potential waste that often comes with investing in an idea, concept, or equipment, then not having the culture, plan, staffing, or the momentum to fully integrate it into teaching and learning.

I will also track the usage of our kits, collecting stats and Flipgrid (which is now free, in case you haven’t heard!) video reactions from teachers. I’ll also ask teachers and librarians for ideas and suggestions on adding to our existing kits or new kits for us to consider creating. This will help us keep Denver Public Schools on the cutting edge of what’s new and exciting in making without asking over 100 separate campuses to invest in equipment themselves. We will be taking some of our kits on the road, presenting them to teachers at any and every staff development opportunity we can find. Teachers are more likely to try out a kit if they have seen it in action and can imagine their students participating in hands-on learning.

For campus librarians exploring the concept of making in their buildings, I recommend a similar approach. Before going all-in on a grant or funding drive to create a makerspace, it would be beneficial to determine if there is physical, cultural, and curricular space for making to grow in your building, a plan to sustain a makerspace, and the potential for momentum to keep it going once the novelty has worn off. Circulating makerspace kits are a great way to start testing the waters with a minimal investment; they provide variety, support materials, and curricular connections that a big, intimidating room full of equipment may not be able to.

Some ideas for getting started include:

  • See if students might be interested in a club with a maker focus. It might not be high tech, and that is OK; knitting, quilting, building birdhouses, and other more traditional crafts definitely qualify as making!
  • Check with teachers to learn about opportunities for hands-on learning. Do classes have gardens, science fairs, or other opportunities for students to build something? Providing maker resources, such as tools to help classes achieve existing objectives, could be a great place to start.
  • Do you have community members who might be interested in sharing a passion with students? From rocketry to coding to scrapbooking, there are probably experts in something who can share with students and start a making culture in your building.
  • Many of us know that teachers feel as if they do not have time to add “one more thing” to their classes. Consider using non-instructional time to reach students–before school, during recess and lunches, and after school all provide opportunities for students to drop in and make something.

Notice none of these ideas start with stuff; they start with people and ideas. If you want to build a maker mindset in your school, I advise not starting with expensive stuff. Practices like that have failed in education time and again–we get something, then we try to figure out what to do with it, we get busy on other things, and it collects dust in a corner, to be eventually forgotten. Starting a makerspace by partnering with people helps us get out of that wasteful pattern, and helps us ensure we have support, momentum, and the beginnings of a maker culture, where our makerspaces can grow and thrive to meet the needs of our hands-on learners.

How are you building a maker culture in your campus or district? Continue the conversation below!

Further Reading:

McCrea, Bridget. “Do Pre-Packaged Kits Belong in Makerspaces? – EdSurge News.” EdSurge, 10 Aug. 2018, www.edsurge.com/news/2018-08-10-do-pre-packaged-kits-belong-in-makerspaces.

 

Author: Len Bryan



Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Makerspaces/Learning Commons, STEM/STEAM, Technology

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