Guest blog by Leslie Drake, Librarian at Martha Reid Elementary in Mansfield ISD, Texas.
What Is a Makerspace?
Makerspaces are all the rage in today’s school and public libraries. Every conference I attend there seems to be numerous presentations on how to implement one and how to make it meaningful to the students and patrons. Many schools are cutting arts programs due to budget constraints or are focusing more on testing and core requirements, which leaves no time for these programs (Larson, 2015, p. 124). By having a makerspace in the library this can help to account for lost fine arts programs or they can support current programs on campus to help show value for these and the library. Makerspaces can be a quick and easy pop up or it can be involved and last for a long period of time to complete a project. It is really all about what the kids are interested in and what resources the librarian has. They can also be a way for a librarian to show value to their stakeholders. Makerspaces are the perfect partnership for libraries as they are places where people gather and where librarians can guide students through the inquiry process (Daley, 2015, p. 43).
Makerspaces can be incorporated into the curriculum as well to be seen as relevant and supporting the school goals. STEAM projects are great ways to incorporate math and science skills into the makerspace. Makerspaces that support 21st Century learning and STEAM can have the potential to raise interest in art, science, math, and technology (Houston, 2013, p. 28). These types of projects can also spark career choices and can give underprivileged children a chance to get their hands on activities they would otherwise not be able to do. They are also a way for librarians to collaborate with teachers on units or special projects.
Makerspaces do not have to take over an entire library to be successful. However, libraries today should not be the gray, quite places of yesterday (Baule, 2015, p. 18).
You can put together plastic bins with supplies in them and have them set out on tables. Pop-up makerspaces can even be taken into the classroom as a collaborative project based on a lesson between you and the teacher. You just need a bit of planning to ensure you have enough space for the activity and rearrange furniture in a way that the activity can be completed. They can also be something larger and more long term if you are working on making 3-D models or a technology project such as robots or working on computer coding.
Think of your library as more of a gathering space rather than a silent place where you only read and check out books. Kids today are more interactive than ever with technology available at an arm’s length. Incorporate that into your makerspace as well if you have it available.
Find out what interests your students and do not forget about all the different groups in your school. Making book trailers would appeal to those who like theater and filmmaking. Having a Lego building contest will appeal to those who love engineering. I borrowed Spheros and our library lesson for that week was working with them and making connections to technology. Making beaded necklaces would appeal to those who like designing. They do not have to be huge projects or very involved as long as the students are inquiring and having fun with the process.
The focus can be on fun and play or can be tied to a concept being taught in their classrooms. The key is that the makerspace is all about the student and the environment should be one of community with no right or wrong answers and allowing them to take risks (Frederick, 2015, p. 22).
Whether your makerspace is tied to your state standards, 21st Century Standards, or STEM objectives, at the end of the day have fun! Plan something you know your students will be interested in and plan a variety of activities or rotate activities once a month so you have something for everyone. Remember the possibilities are endless and the learning will look different from a typical classroom setting, but with planning and focus on what they are learning you can successfully integrate that into your space and the kids will be able to make those connections. “Opening the learning experience opens unexplored horizons to students because independent thinkers have the uncanny ability to strike out into uncharted territory (Kurti, 2014, p. 20).” My wish is that I had more time in my day to incorporate these into my lessons. Don’t forget to show off and be an advocate for your makerspace.
Baule, S. M. (2015). When in doubt go the library: the changing physical aspects of the school library. Library Media Connection, 33(5), 18-19.
Daley, M., Child, J. (2015). Makerspaces in the school library environment. Access (10300155), 29(1), 42-49.
Fredrick, K. (2015). Making It Matters. School Library Monthly, 31(7), 22-24.
Houston, C. (2013). Makerspaces @ your school library: consider the possibilities! Kentucky Libraries, 77(3), 26-28.
Kurti, R. S., Kurti, D., & Fleming, L. (2014). Practical Implementation of and Educational Makerspace. Teacher Librarian, 42(2), 20-24.
Larson, J. (2015). Children’s services today: A practical guide for librarians.
Thank you to Leslie Drake for contributing her knowledge and guest blogging for us.