Sunday, January 31, 2016

Makerspace: Year One is Done!

One year ago today, my elementary school library opened a makerspace for students. It took a semester to plan, fine tune the plans, and gather enough supplies to offer this new program in the library. About 75 students participated in a before school maker club, so they could have an opportunity to work in the makerspace. About 60 students gave up their recess on Mondays to participate in the Alternative Recess, so they could spend their time in the library makerspace. At this point in time student participation has doubled. Along the way I've learned a few lessons and gotten a few tips from librarian Internet stars. It has been a great 1st year and hope to keep going strong with the makerspace and blog. Happy Birthday Makerspace Library Blog!!
                                           Image result for 1st birthday cake common domain

Tips from Library Internet Stars...
Collette J's blog  A Wrinkle in Tech help me resolve me latest makerspace problem.
How Can I give more students access to the makerspace? Next year I plan to let students check-out makerspace kits, so they can take parts of the makerspace home in a bag. You can order these take home kits from Collette's blog, and she even offers MARC records.

As I was planning this space my planning team Skyped with Andy Plemmons to get tips and ideas to start the space. I asked him, "What's the one of the best resources your makerspace offers?" He said, "Sphero." Looking back having a Sphero in the makerspace got a lot of students interested in coding and robotics. Robotics went on to become our makerspace theme for this 15' - 16' school year.  At the beginning of the year students had a chance to build a robot and share it a Maker Faire Houston, the Robotics Team held their meetings in the library. Coding and robotic design will continue to be a part of our makerspace offerings this spring semester.

Since, I've followed Mr. Schu on Twitter for the past few years, I was super excited to hear him speak at a recent library meeting. He is an ambassador for libraries and reading and spent thirteen years as an elementary school librarian. Hearing him speak was inspirational and reminded me of the importance of my profession. The library is a safe haven where students can develop their thoughts, voice, and reading life, this is all supported in our makerspace.

5 Lessons I learned Starting a Makerspace

1. Get lots of help.
Our makerspace would have looked a lot different without the help of volunteers. It would have been chaotic. Volunteers ensure the students stay on task and they guide students through the process of completing a makerspace project without feeding students the answers. They also give the librarian a chance to oversee the whole program as they watch over one area of the makerspace.
2. Tinkering is okay. I was so worried when we started the makerspace would be viewed as indoor recess. But, I had forgotten that kids learn through play. The constructivist educational philosophy was supported by Montessori, Dewey, and Piaget stresses the importance of learning through play or tinkering.
3. Write Grants. Our budget for the makerspace was zero dollars. The funding came from grant writing and donations. Grant writing takes time, but it's worth it.
4. Students who work in a makerspace quickly learn they need grit which is a combination of passion and perseverance. It's very rare for students to create a robot, make a duct tape wallet, or complete a project without failing at least one or more times in the process. In a makerspace it's okay to fail, but giving up is not an option. 
5. You don't have to be the expert on everything. A makerspace is about the students discovering, inventing, and learning. As a librarian, I'm there to give students space to create.

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