You can make anywhere

Gary Stager, co-author of “Invent to Learn,” once said “the best makerspace is between your ears.” If you don’t have a space, make it. The average book in my library was published some time in the mid 1980s, so it was very easy for me to weed out titles such as “How to Train Pigeons” and “What the Astronauts Will Do on the Moon” to free up some shelf space. Consider wheeled, metal cabinets that can serve as much needed makerspace storage. Attach magnets to the back of Lego baseplates and this cabinet can work double duty as a portable Lego wall. Consider any empty space that you have including walls, ceilings, doors, and windows. Any place can become a blank canvas for making (as long as you respect fire codes).

You don’t need to do it alone

Someone’s grandmother may have bought more skeins of baby blue yarn than she needed to crochet her grandchild’s first blanket. Share your vision of a makerspace with your administration and colleagues, as well as your students and their parents. Do you need 25 baby food jars to make water globes? Maybe a new mom on Facebook will begin saving the containers for you. Need pieces of wood to make photo transfers? Stop by your local Karate or Tae Kwon Do studio and ask for their broken boards. One of my students brought in a large incomplete Lego set, and a mom answered my call on Facebook for a blender. Chances are, if there is something that you need there is someone who can help you.

Your space will be different from everyone else’s

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” There is no one set definition of a makerspace. Your space will continue to develop and evolve to reflect the needs and desires of your students; within your comfort level and ability desire to learn about new resources; and funding from your school budget, grants, and donations. Have a vision of where your makerspace is going and outline a plan to get there. Realize, however, that your makerspace does not turn out as planned. Creating a makerspaces is, in itself, a process of making.

Don’t wait until you are ready

If you keep reading and planning, you will begin creating reasons why you should not create a makerspace. The best way to get started is to dive right in with what you have before you spend any money on the bright, shiny things that catch our eye, such as the coveted 3D printer. Pace yourself, stop and reflect, and ask your students and faculty for feedback. But don’t dwell on it. There will always be some new gadget or idea that will replace the old one. Consider the lasting effect of your purchases:

  • Can they be used for multiple activities?
  • Can they be used by a multitude of students in a variety of scenarios (age, academic ability, language)?
  • Can they connect with other tools or resources that you already have, or will they serve as a launchpad to future purchases?

Ed note. Kristina Holzweiss will present a realted session, “The Under $500 Makerspace: Tools and Toys to Get You Started” on Wed. June 29 at this year’s ISTE 2016 conference in Denver.

About the Author:

Kristina A. Holzweiss is a school library media specialist at Bay Shore Middle School in New York. She has created a Genius Hour program in her library and organized SLIME – Students of Long Island Maker Expo. Kristina moderates a Voxer group for educators interested in makerspaces and Genius Hour, and blogs at http://www.bunheadwithducttape.com.