Make YOUR SpaceIt’s easy to see why the maker space movement is a good fit for schools and community libraries. According to New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), one of two Maker Faire sites, “The Maker Space is a learning environment where children, teens, adults and families can tinker, design, and create together. From woodworking and plaster casting to electronics and 3-D printing [the movement] encourages experimentation, open-ended exploration, and believe that making mistakes is a great way to learn.” Visit the NYSCI website (makerspace.nysci.org) to get great ideas and see current projects, such as the 4D Animated GIF Photobooth and Electric Pop-Up Cards.   

Why the ‘Maker Movement’ is Popular in Schools suggests that while people have always solved problems and “tinkered,” the internet has not only given exposure to maker projects, but given people an opportunity to post their inventions and allow others to improve upon them. The article points out that while K-2 students have historically used Play-Doh® and Legos® to create, we don’t see that type of “making” in the higher grades as frequently.

In December, NBC News reported on a school in Abermarle County, Va, that turned its library over to the students. Areas of the Monticello High School library were repurposed as a music studio, a “hacker room” (computer programming) and “genius bar” with peers teaching peers about technology. The school also acquired a 3-D printer. "It's a place to gather, to collaborate, to study, to read--whatever it is they want to do," said Chad Ratliff, the assistant director of instructional programs at Albemarle County Public Schools.

In The Importance of Making in Education, Dr. Margaret Honey, president and CEO of NYSCI, explains that their efforts are to “create experiences, particularly for young people, that are inspirational and, like Maker Faire, are catalytic and transformative … Places like science centers or children’s museums or other kinds of community-based organizations are also really important hubs for community activity because we’re less of a barrier and more of a resource that engages.”

Maker spaces in New Jersey

At New Milford High School in New Jersey, the maker space consists of Legos, machines and building blocks. At Maker Space Lays Foundation for Innovation you can see video posts, created by the school’s librarian Laura Fleming, of a human teamwork keyboard, an orange as a spacebar, and an unfortunate carousel. Atlantic City Free Public Library just received a $7,500 award from the New Jersey State Library and LibraryLinkNJ to create a maker space (Make AC) for teens in their Teen Lounge and for children by incorporating making into their children’s programming. The library also has plans to bring some of the technology to local schools. Technologies will include digital music production, photography, electronics and robotics, textiles and wearables, writing and publishing, 3-D printing and design, video game coding, science and technology and tools and hardware. Look for it this spring.

Maker Space at the Newark Museum encourages visitors to “build to think.” The space, designed for fabrication includes silk screens, sewing machines, microscopes, micro-controllers, dremel tools, motors, soldering equipment and 3-D printers and software. The museum has partnered with Big Picture Schools and HTINK in the Newark Public Schools for a 14-week class.

Inside the Classroom, Outside the Box! lists several highlights of making that schools should consider when thinking about maker spaces:

  1. Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects provide authentic learning.
  2. Maker spaces encourage students to think critically and work collaboratively.
  3. Adding art to STEM (STEAM) is a central focus in making.

Where to start?

Low Tech, High Gains: Starting a Maker Program Is Easier Than You Think suggests that you can start with maker spaces that are much more low tech (LEGOs, arts and crafts, gardening, cooking, astronomy, knitting, weaving, crochet, jewelry-making, sewing, wood working, metal working, bike repair, button making, paper airplane construction – you name it) and therefore more cost effective than high tech robotic and 3-D printer technologies. It’s not the space or the tech, according to Dale Dougherty of Maker Media. “What matters most in the world of making is the spirit of DIY creation and discovery.”

Want to Start a Maker Space at School? Tips to Get Started outlines some helpful advice:

  1. Know your space (tolerance for noise, tool availability, dedicated space, space for messy projects, etc.).
  2. Do a preview run; try a project yourself before testing it out with kids (some materials may be flammable, there may be bugs in the design, etc.)
  3. Verify skill levels. (Do your kids know how to use that tool?)
  4. Be flexible (encourage student voice/choice).

Making a Maker Space: Peek Inside My Plans is an excellent description of one STEM educator’s ideal maker space from vision and mission to getting there. The outline includes a cycle and timeline, room layout, a suggested reading list, and resources on other labs and intentional learning.

Designing a School Maker Space suggests that asking the right questions is important. The concept for a maker space described here includes: cardboard construction, prototyping, woodworking, electronics, robotics, digital fabrication, bicycles and kinetic machines and textiles and sewing. Author Jennifer Cooper asks:

  1. What range of subjects will be taught in the space? What type of activities?
  2. Which tools are most needed?
  3. Who are the kids that will be using the space, and will there be others using the space?
  4. Who will be staffing and managing the space?
  5. When will the space be used?
  6. How will it be built? Will the design be staffed or volunteer driven?

Three Key Qualities for a School Maker Space is about the process of putting together a good maker space. This article describes the skills to be addressed (manual and problem-solving), the people you need (dedicated teachers with their own skill sets), and a place that encourages creativity.  

You can watch practitioners talking about their programs at Maker Spaces in Schools, a You Tube video that suggests you can start with just a few simple tools: box cutters and hot glue guns, screwdrivers, a drill press (a “source of endless fascination”), drill gun, power drills, portable drills and inexpensive items from places like Harbor Freight.

Funding your maker space

Having a “Make Sale” is just one of the suggestions from Funding School Makerspaces. Other suggestions are for lots of parental involvement, and free, donated, or borrowed tools. You might also consider fundraising campaigns via new “crowd funding” sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The author provides a checklist for grant planning and development with both general and specific considerations.

Grants for Maker Space Schools lists both national and regional grants that may be available to help you support your maker space program. Some suggestions are your local public service and gas companies, the Toyota USA Foundation, Motorola Solutions Foundation, the National Science Foundation, Toshiba, Intel and more.

Resources

Maker Camp on Google is a free virtual year-round camp for teens. There are DIY projects campers can build at home, archives of previous projects, and shared spaces for ongoing projects.

High School Maker Space Tools and Materials is a comprehensive, downloadable guide from makerspace.com that lists tools and equipment, materials and parts lists, class size, and costs for several different modules: general, woodworking, metalworking, electronics, textiles, computers, 3-D printing, laser cutting and CNC cutting. Also from makerspace.com, the Maker Space Playbook is a manual that explains everything from how the maker movement started to tools and materials, safety, the roles of everyone in a maker space (from teacher to mentor), best practices, projects, startup, documentation, and some model projects.

Stomp Rockets, Catapults, and Kaleidoscopes: 30+ Amazing Science Projects You Can Build for Less than $1 is available from Amazon. It includes steps for building a working model of the human hand’s muscles, bones, and tendons using drinking straws, tape, and string; using a pair of two-liter bottles and a length of rubber tubing to learn how a toilet flushes; and discovering how musical instruments make sounds by fashioning a harmonica, saxophone, drum, flute, or oboe, all designed from recycled or nearly free materials.

Gloucester County Library System has posted a resource list as part of their MakerStudio@GCLS, which will be a collaborative learning space that will offer exposure to new technologies and provide library users a chance to bring their creative ideas to life. According to Freeholder Robert Damminger, “The MakerStudio@GCLS is going to be an exciting place for patrons of all ages and interests to use and help realize their creative potential. These learning environments are popping up in public libraries all over the country and drawing in new library users and offering current library customers something new.”

Patricia Bruder, president of Linchpin Solutions LLC, consults for the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) located at the South Jersey Tech Park at Rowan University, Mullica Hill. EIRC is a public agency specializing in education-related programs and services for teachers, parents, schools, communities, and non-profit organizations throughout New Jersey. Learn more about EIRC at www.eirc.org or call 856-582-7000. Contact Patricia Bruder at linchpinsolutions@gmail.com.