Our school is a very innovative STEM school. I knew that my principal would be on board if I wanted to do this, but we had never had anything like this in our library before, so I was really nervous to start it.
I had been to a Maker camp at our local co-op and they mentioned some staples that aren't very expensive that are perfect to start maker spaces. As a part of this class at the co-op we even got a $500 grant to purchase some things. We bought an Ollie robot, pearler beads, craft supplies, and Legos. The next question was where was all this stuff going to go?
I originally planned on just moving some books around to have an empty shelf. On this shelf I was going to put the maker space stuff in storage boxes and have the students just pull it out and use it on the tables in the teaching area. So with my plan in mind, it was time to talk to my principal.
I don't know why I was so nervous; she absolutely LOVED the idea. She even told me about some materials we had around the school that she wanted to move into this new space. We used to have an engineering lab which used tons of Legos, so we pulled those out of storage. We found old geo boards and rubber bands and pulled those out as well. Soon a school board member heard about this and donated an old Rokenbok kit to our space, too. We were off to a good start!
My idea was to create a space where students had the freedom to just sit and explore. When advertising to the students I use the word "play" because I think it makes them buy into the space more, but it really is them figuring things out and "making" things.
When I tried to sell this to my literacy teachers, they weren't nearly as excited as I was. I knew that it was just so different and they were scared to lose their literacy time. Because of this, we turned it into an incentive. We decided that students would be required to have a percentage of their independent reading assignment completed in order to be able to participate in the maker space.
But this caused a new problem. If some students were reading or playing chess and needed quiet, we couldn't have it out in the open area where we do our lessons. I was kind of at a loss and just put the whole thing on the back burner for a few weeks. I didn't deal with it again until my principal called me from a field trip at a local museum and told me to come right away- she had to show me something! When I got there we looked at their tinkering space. It was amazing! They had a peg wall that students were making marble machines on. We fell in love and started thinking: how on earth could we add this to our space? I went back to the library and started looking around. We have an old storage room that I was thinking of using as the maker space, but was scared to lose the storage. When I started re-imagining the space, I thought about our computer area. Our library is actually three old classrooms all opened into one room. This causes it to be in an L shape. The previous librarian used the short part of the L as a very small (8 computers) computer lab. This is where students took their AR tests. I kept the space for the same purpose, but I took out the old clunky computers and used a mobile lab instead. I still put 8 computers out each day, but we had an entire class set on a mobile cart that sat in the storage room. When I realized that we didn't necessarily need a designated "computer space" anymore, the new idea formed. This would be our new maker space, and it could truly be a space of its own!
This space used to house our 8 computers and a small seating area for students to sit and read. There are two shelves under the windows. One side held overflow reference materials and the other held lower level picture books.
After relocating the books under the window, I had empty shelves that I could now use to house all of our maker space materials. We still use the computers here, but they are moved when we don't need them.
Marble Machine Pegboard Wall Link
The co-op continued its technology classes and soon we received a small 3D printer. We invested in a few more robots and found some old Kinex roller coaster kits in storage. With a few more small purchases (my principal finds fun things on Amazon and buys them for the space all the time) our maker space was ready for students. The only problem was our library pacing guide wasn't. I still needed to teach several lessons before we had time to tinker in the maker space.
I wanted kids to get to explore and play in the space even though I still had lessons to teach, so I created Tinker Tickets. This allows students to come in at lunch time, bring a friend, and tinker in the maker space. They LOVE them and our school now uses them as a behavior incentive. Every single lunch period each and every day we are jam packed and students will do almost anything to get a tinker ticket! I'd say this space has been a huge success. I couldn't be happier with it!
My advice to librarians out there: re imagine your space! Just because something has been used for one purpose for twenty years doesn't mean it has to stay that way. Also, it doesn't require a ton of money to make a meaningful maker space! If you could look at what you already have and spend a little money wisely, I promise it can go a long way. And lastly, don't let the hesitation of others stop you from being innovative.
(*update* my literacy teachers are the best and are now in LOVE with our maker space. They are seeing students who never finished their independent reading finish months early so they can play in the maker space, and my teachers are in there exploring too! I sometimes think they have more fun than the students!)
Steve Jobs once said, "People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do." Changing the world seems ambitious, but who says you can't change your library? We should always be asking ourselves: are we doing the very best for our students? And if we aren't, we need to get to work!