Utilizing Your Makerspace

Snow Day Buster

Every makerspace is different. They all have similar elements – they are spaces for making things – digital objects, physical items or if someone is being really innovative perhaps a combination of these. Since makerspace can cover a lot, it can also end up being a catch-all for any activities or programs that don’t neatly fall elsewhere. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I think that most people running makerspaces want them to be utilized. As often and creatively as possible. Our makerspace has been used to create a digital sundial for our garden, for making cupboards to support a book tie-in project, for student passion projects and to teach colleagues, both locally and from other districts, about makerspace. We were also recently invited to participate in the Washtenaw County, Paint a Plow program. We, of course, accepted.

Before I get into the details, I should confess something. I usually outlaw paint in my makerspace. We have so many other options, I just feel that the mess added from including paint in our offerings overshadows the enjoyment. At least for me. I’m sure that the kids would tell you differently. Since we operate on a barter system for consumable materials, sometimes paint gets snuck in as a trade which means that I will occasionally look over and go – gah! Where did that paint come from?! I let the student working with it finish their project, then I sneak it into my back office. Also, I never let anyone work with anything that isn’t water-based. Until now.

Water-based paint won’t work well on a snow plow. After a little research, we (myself and my partner teachers Sharon Norris and Eileen McCallum) purchased a few different colors of Rust-Oleum paint. This worked very well. It also drove me slightly crazy. We took precautions – we all wore gloves (vinyl in order to avoid any allergy issues), we bought Rust-Oleum mineral spirits for the clean up, we ordered A LOT of paint brushes and we put a note in the school newsletter to remember to bring in clothing that the students wouldn’t mind getting ruined. There were students from several different classes participating, so this seemed like the best way to get this information out.

The gloves worked well, we had plenty of brushes for everyone, the colors were beautiful…and no one brought in clothing that they didn’t mind getting ruined. I was able to get two oversized shirts from a P.E. teacher (thank you again Fred!) and that helped a bit…until kids were kneeling on the ground to paint the bottom edges, right in the paint that they had dripped there. Paint got in hair, on skin, shoes, pants…I’m not even sure where else. We were able to fix a few things with the mineral spirits or scrubbing with soap and water. Some were beyond fixing.

Here are my lessons learned. Paint a plow is a really fun program. It’s worth doing. Gloves are key. Rust-oleum worked well. Getting a lot of cheap paint brushes that can be disposed of, if need be (if you can’t get them clean), is a good call. Next time I think maybe we should skip painting the entire background. Sending home notes in planners, about clothing, would likely result in more kids bringing in clothes that they aren’t worried about. Having only a few kids work on the plow at a time and only using 1-2 colors in a session also makes things go more smoothly. If you happen to live in Washtenaw County, keep an eye out for our plow and if you see it, tell me about it in the comments. The kids would be delighted with Snow Day Buster spottings!

Snow Plow

Me – pointing to the grassy spot for the snow plow to be painted.   Photo Credit: Tammy Reich

IMG_20181004_123725.jpg

   Snow Day Buster! Credit for the name and design go to Sharon Norris.

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