You've no doubt read countless blogs and articles about the incredible impact makerspaces can have in schools. You may even have started rearranging your space, or perhaps you've created an Amazon wish list. But after being a maker-librarian for nearly two years, I can assure you that you should really stop thinking about starting a makerspace ... and just do it.
I spent a solid year planning my makerspace. I developed a vision statement and set goals. I made an infographic for my administration, listing standards that would be addressed. I weeded my library like crazy and made mock-ups using Google Drawings to help them envision the new space.
At conferences I went to everything with the word "maker" in the title. I set up a filter on TweetDeck to see everything posted on #makered and #makerspace. And while I learned a ton and met a lot of amazing people, I really regret not having my own space already established before going into all these learning experiences.
Which is why I strongly recommend you stop thinking about starting your makerspace and just get started.
Look through the right lens.
Every time I saw pictures from various makerspaces or read posts on makerspace activities, I assumed my students would be as interested and excited as I was. I assumed they'd be thrilled about a $200 Dash and Dot robot set. I assumed they'd be captivated by the $300 set of littleBits. I assumed they'd want to make a giant piano with MakeyMakey. And don't get me wrong -- they definitely enjoy having these gadgets -- but the magic really started when I found the No. 1 makerspace resource, the holy grail directory of makerspace fun.
So what is this amazing resource I speak of?
Remember that boy who continually slides down the staircase railing? What about that girl who always seems to know the answer before you even ask the question? Or the goofy boy who is continually making awkward and inappropriate noises in the middle of class?
You guessed it: The holy grail of makerspaces is your students. No blog, article, or conference workshop can top the genius of your students. If you're going to take the leap and start your makerspace, get the students involved. You need to! After all, it's for them, so why not make it with them? You don't ever want to ask yourself, "I wonder if kids will like it?" You need to know kids will like it because they asked for it.
Let them shop.
Students love shopping! If you're shopping for new furniture, have students browse websites such as KI or Demco's Ideas and Inspiration page. If you're using a paper catalog, have students use Post-it Notes to flag items they think would "make" their makerspace. Use a Google Form or a Google Doc to make a collaborative wish list. If students don't know what to search for, point them to precreated wish lists for inspiration. When students find something they like, fan their excitement by asking for or ordering samples!
Ask them what they want to make.
When I started our CreateIt Club, I surveyed the students to see what they were interested in exploring and making. If students aren't sure what they're interested in learning about, have them explore sites such as Instructables, Make it @ Your Library, Tinkerlab, Makezine, or Pinterest.
Start a conversation.
If you find something online you think is interesting, share it with the kids! This is a great way to integrate some of your social media tools. We have library Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts. Once you feel as though you really understand what your students want from their makerspace, start the planning and purchasing.
Ready to start? Brace yourself. Things are about to get awesome.
Check out these great resources:
- Edutopia: Edutopia is an all-around great website, but I'm particularly fond of their Maker Education section. It not only features awesome blog posts such as Colleen Graves' piece on starting a school makerspace from scratch, but it also includes discussion boards and videos.
- EdSurge's Maker Movement: If you don't read EdSurge, you absolutely need to. It's by far one of my favorite resources, and they have one of the best educational newsletters out there. Their Maker Movement pages have tons of posts on the latest gadgets and strategies to try in your makerspace.
- Makerspace Playbook: School Edition: This is a robust and free ebook from MakerEd.org. It includes everything from lists of resources and sample budgets to reusable templates.
- MakerED Resources for School Makerspaces: This is another free ebook from Makerspaces.com and is updated all the time! It has sections called Maker Educators, Maker Project Sites, and Maker Hashtags to follow. Also, a section called Directory lists hundreds of makerspace resources broken down by topic.