It’s been quite an adventure! This book went through title changes, three different publishers (before landing with marvelous Routledge), and several times I believed it might be scrapped, altogether. I did my best to make it practical, useful. My greatest hope is that some of you, out there in the wider world, are able to utilize the tips, projects and reproducibles to help kids spread a bit of brightness.
You can get your copy through Amazon or on theRoutledge website use FLR40 for a 20% discount* Offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or discount and only applies to books purchased directly via the Routledge website.
I’d love to hear what you think! Feel free to comment below, or shoot me an email at email@example.com. Happy reading!
It’s February. Here in Michigan that means it’s bitterly cold, and most days are gray. Snow, ice, and temperatures in the single digits make socializing out-of-doors a challenge. For those who are unvaccinated, socializing indoors is tempting, but it’s certainly a risk. So, how do you make staying home more tolerable?
Instead of railing against the cold weather, why not embrace it by adopting Hygge. Think fuzzy socks, warm beverages, comfort food, candles, and anything else that helps you feel warm, cozy and content. Hygge is lovely. It can change your perception of Winter from something that has to be endured, to something truly enjoyable. Embracing Hygge is a good start, but I encourage you to take it even one step further.
Combine Hygge and Makerspace to Make it Even Better
When I’m at home, one thing that takes my mind off things (like the fact that my freshly washed, still damp hair – froze – when I stepped outside for half a second), is immersing myself in a project. If you aren’t already in the middle of a project, consider starting one now…and pick a project that embodies Hygge. Maybe for you that means knitting a pair of fuzzy socks, cooking a pot of soup from scratch, or building a rack for your wood pile from repurposed lumber. For me, it means making hand-poured candles scented with essential oils. If you’d like to give this a try, I’ve included step-by-step instructions below.
How to Make Hand-Poured – Essential Oil Scented – Container Candles
Something to hold the wick straight (bow tie clip, tongue depressors or craft sticks)
Stainless steel pouring pot
A second, bigger pot, to create a double-boiler
Long stirring spoon
A Tablespoon measure
A stove or hot plate
Baking soda (in case of fire)
Note: You can buy most of these materials, fairly inexpensively, as part of a candle making kit. Wax flakes and essential oils may need to be purchased separately.
Weigh your stainless steel pouring container on your food scale. Make a note of how much it weighs when empty. Add a pound of wax flakes. If you don’t have a food scale, you can just eyeball this by filling your wax pouring container until you have about 2-3 inches of space at the top.
Next, set up your heat resistant containers. Make sure you have several containers prepped. I found that a pound of wax filled about 4 jelly jars. Start by attaching a glue dot to the bottom of the wick.
Use the other side of the glue dot to attach the wick to the inside, center, of your candle container. Secure the top of the wick to your bow tie clip, tongue depressors or craft stick, to make sure it stays straight when you pour in the wax, later. Place your prepped containers on top of a towel to catch any wax drips.
Create a double boiler by placing the wax pouring container into a larger-sized pot, with a few inches of water inside the larger-sized pot. It should be enough water that it won’t all boil off while you’re melting the wax, but not so much that water will pour over the side of your wax pouring container and into your melting wax.
Place your double-boiler on top of the stove top or hot plate, and turn the temperature up to medium-high.
Keep an eye on your melting wax at all times. Make sure you have the baking soda and fire extinguisher within reach. You can’t use water to put out a wax fire. Baking soda or a fire extinguisher will work. Stirring the wax with a long spoon will help it melt more quickly. Once your wax is completely melted, remove your wax pouring container from the double boiler and place on a towel.
If you’re using wax with a higher melting point than 130 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to wait until the wax cools to 130 degrees Fahrenheit before adding in your essential oils, or they can burn off, leaving you with a lightly-scented, or unscented candle. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can also just add the essential oils once the side of your wax pouring container is still warm to the touch (but not so hot that it burns your hand) and the wax is still liquid.
Measure out 1 Tablespoon of essential oil (this can be just one scent or several blended). Pour your essential oil into the melted wax, a little at a time, continuing to stir the wax as you’re adding the oil. This is the part of candle making that my kids liked best, they really enjoyed coming up with recipes for the candle scents. One of the completed candles ended up smelling a little bit like bug spray, so we named that one “Summer Nights”. If you want better control over the scent, you might want to stick with just one essential oil.
Pour your wax into your prepared containers, leaving about 1/2 -1 inch of space at the top.
Once your wax has cooled enough that it’s solid, remove your popsicle stick (or whatever you used to secure your wick). Using scissors, trim your wick to 1/2-1 inch above the top of the wax.
Good luck! Stay safe. If you have a maker project that’s also Hygge, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
It’s no secret that makerspaces, at least in the United States, are dominated by white people, usually men. Even in the professional makerspace that I frequent, whose owners focus on inclusion and diversity, there are rarely any people of color using the equipment.
Maker events such as Maker Faire are more of the same. Mostly white men sharing the cool things they’ve made, occasionally a white woman, and less frequently a person of color.
So, how do we change that?
Representation Matters – So Start There
While writing my book Teach Kids to Use Makerspace to Save Our World (publication pending) , I interviewed Taryn Gal, the Executive Director of the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health, about inclusion. We were specifically discussing inclusion of girls and LGBTQ youth, but the idea that representation matters absolutely applies to people of color, too.
The gist is, you need to make sure that anything you put on view has diverse representation. This includes male, female, nonbinary, people of color, LGBTQ and differently abled. Anything that has people on it should communicate inclusion; posters, pamphlets, websites.
When people see posters and other images that look like them, it feels inviting. When there are only people who look a certain way, those are the only people who will be comfortable in your space. If you don’t have any images of black people on your makerspace walls, displays and website you need to fix that right now.
Make certain that you have bathrooms available for men, women and nonbinary members and that all of these bathrooms have inclusive signage.
Design your makerspace so that those who are differently abled, including wheelchair bound, are able to use your space and equipment.
Invest in Your Local Black Community
Sponsor a black artist/maker with a maker-in-residency, or just free access to your equipment. Even better, sponsor several, if your space can support that.
Consider a partnership with a local, predominantly black, school. This could mean sponsoring a FIRST robotics team, offering free classes to students, lending out equipment for student use or offering free teacher training.
Recently, the recommendation came down from the CDC for everyone to wear cloth masks when going out in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Masks are currently hard to come by in stores, which, incidentally, you should stay out of if you can. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to make one.
Many hospitals are now accepting donations of homemade masks. If you have materials to make more masks than you need in your household, you might consider making and donating them.
I’ve been talking with a local medical professional who is asking for people to provide ear savers, too. Ear savers can be made from different materials. The goal is to keep ears from getting irritated when wearing a mask all day. There are two main types: sewn and 3D printed. The doctor I spoke to requested the sewn, headband style. You can watch a tutorial on how to make it from scratch here. However, if you have cloth headbands that you’d like to donate, you can wash them, then skip to the last step of simply adding buttons. The 3D printed surgical mask strap style can be found as a downloadable pattern on Thingaverse.
Using Masks Properly
When you are wearing your mask out in the world, you need to know that you are doing it correctly. You should make certain that your mask covers both your mouth and your nose. Just like you aren’t supposed to touch your face, you should avoid touching your mask. This CNBC article provides more details about what you should, and shouldn’t do, and includes information about how to properly clean your mask.
That’s it for now. Stay safe out there! If you have any suggestions about masks, ear savers or anything else, I welcome your input in the comments below.
If you are considering pitching in, by 3D printing, sewing or otherwise, start by reading the information on the GetUsPPE site. Next, check with local hospitals regarding what they are currently accepting. Here is the rundown on what’s being accepted in the metro Detroit hospitals. As of today, the only hospital accepting hand-sewn masks in metro Detroit is Beaumont. Don’t let that dissuade you. There are hospitals all over the world accepting hand-sewn masks. With the situation in the U.S. getting worse by the day, most likely more local hospitals will start accepting these, too.
With scary statistics of climbing COVID-19 cases dominating the news, it’s important to balance this with hope. The COVID-19 global pandemic has left so much uncertainty in its wake, it’s hard to know what to do to help. Makerspaces are equipped with tools and machines that can be used to make life-saving gear, but will hospitals welcome it? If so, how can you be certain that you’re making personal protective equipment (PPE), or ventilator parts, correctly?
Start by Checking Hospital Websites
Check your local hospital’s website to see what’s needed. Even if they aren’t accepting donations produced outside of a factory – yet – that doesn’t mean they won’t need to do so in the future. Here in Michigan, we are currently under a shelter-in-place executive order. However, leaving home in order to donate protective gear to health organizations, is allowed.
As of today, the University of Michigan hospitals are not accepting hand-sewn masks or 3D printed parts for ventilators, but if you have hand sanitizer, wipes, or factory-made masks to donate, they are in dire need. The medical professionals that I’ve spoken to have also indicated that what will be accepted, and what is needed, is changing on an hourly basis. It’s a good idea to keep checking back. It also doesn’t hurt to start making hand-sewn masks and other equipment, just in case.
Making PPE and ventilator parts at home, is a great use of maker skills. Despite the help coming from industry, this maker-made equipment may still be needed. The best thing we can all do, is practice social distancing. Talented makers should also keep an eye on the local hospital websites to see what’s being currently accepted, and what’s needed most, by our heroic health care workers.
Back in 2015, when I started really digging into makerspace, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Makerspace Operations Bootcamp, through Makerworks. The training was 5-days, intensive, and really, really good. I walked away with a much more comprehensive knowledge of all things makerspace, and I got to play with some really cool machinery, too. One of the messages conveyed through the training was to make it easier for your makers to do the right thing (rather than the wrong thing).
Difficulty Doing the Right Thing
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that message. In particular, all the hurdles that make it difficult to do the right thing. I see these everywhere. From confusing directions, to blocked educational websites, to too many steps needed to complete tasks. We make both students and educators jump through hoop after hoop in order to get where we want them to go. This causes frustration. It makes everything more difficult than it needs to be. It needs to stop. I would even argue that this is one (of several) factors causing the highest rate on record of teachers quitting their jobs in public schools across America.
Making it Easier
If we are going to be effective educators, leaders, mentors, makerspace managers, we need to rethink the way that we do things. We need to make it easier to do the right thing. This should be a lens through which we view every rule we make, every lesson or project we plan, each new initiative we envision. Even the way we evaluate teachers. Just imagine how much better classroom management could be, and how much more effective our educators, if we made it easier to do the right thing. The entire profession would be transformed.
For example, if we actually provided the resources needed to do the things that educators are asked to do, educators could be much more effective. If we had enough staff working to get everything done (which would translate to smaller class sizes), there would be a better work-life balance, and less burnout. If we had enough time to give to students who are struggling, students would be more successful across the board.
How this Translates to Makerspace Management
This lens absolutely applies to makerspace management. We need to make it easier for students to make safe (right) choices. When you are setting up your makerspace think about hanging safety equipment in front of where your makers will need to use it, posting safety instructions at workstations, and having a good adult-to-maker ratio.
Set everyone up for success. Put time and funding into helping your makers do the right thing.
As some of you know, I”ve been keeping a (poorly held) secret for the past year – I’ve been writing a book about makerspaces. It has been, hands down, one of the single most challenging experiences that I’ve ever had. It’s required a lot of sacrifice, most of all with my time. I’ve also gotten very comfortable with an unparalleled level of rejection of my thoughts…ideas…writing.
However, I’ve also learned SO much. I’m a substantially better writer than I was when I started this process. I’ve also spent hours thinking about the purpose of makerspaces.
When I first started my book, it was titled Build and Manage a Makerspace for Kids. The aim of writing it was to keep those of you buildings makerspaces from having to make your way through in the dark. More specifically, to provide management techniques, thoughts about which tools work well with particular age groups, and best practices for teaching kids to use these tools. I wanted you to benefit from the thousands of hours I’ve spent figuring everything out.
By February, I was halfway through writing it, when my publisher contacted me and informed me that the marketplace was flooded with how to start makerspace books. I had to start over. I was devastated. They suggested that I write my book assuming that the reader has a makerspace already. It took me a little while to warm up to that idea. That wasn’t my original vision. I wasn’t sure that’s the book that I wanted to write. I wondered what I could contribute that would still be beneficial.
This is when I started thinking about what we do well in our makerspace, and my immediate answer was passion projects. Which led to the next logical question – why do the passion projects get such great results? There is plenty of research out there that tells us that in order to get kids excited, engaged and passionate about school work there are two major motivating factors; choice, and some sort of real-world connection. The way that the passion projects are designed does both, which is why the kids stay engaged, and get incredible results.
I only give them two rules; they can’t do anything that involves money, or weapons. I also ask them to figure out who is going to benefit from their projects – themselves (which is completely valid), their school, their community (neighborhood, sports team, place of worship or however they define that), or the whole world. This scaffolds them to think concretely about that real-world connection. From here, the kids take off. Some projects they’ve done include making and donating blankets to animal shelters, inventing a vending machine with food and supplies to help the homeless or people in areas that have been devastated by natural disasters, coding games, presenting plans to make everything in school more inclusive to a wheelchair bound friend, building working snowboards and designing and making clothing for their pets. You can check out photos and videos of some of these passion projects on my Twitter feed @julielibrarian or Instagram @growingmakerspace.
Kids want to do good in the world. Giving them a way to do this, through the use of a makerspace, is the best way to utilize a makerspace for kids. I strongly urge you, if you have access to the incredible tools that makerspace provides, help kids learn to use those tools to better our world. If you want some suggestions on specific ways to do this, although I don’t yet have a firm publication date, my book You’ve Got a Makerspace – Now What? Teaching Kids to Use Makerspace to Better Our World will hopefully be out in the world at some point in 2020. I’ll keep you posted on that through this blog. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or ideas to share on the topic, feel free to comment on this post. You are also welcome to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you’re reading this, you probably already have some ideas about what a makerspace is. However, you may not know the origin story – how makerspace came about, and the ways in which the history of makerspace influences what we see today. To supplement my own five-year journey with makerspace, I did some research. This is what I discovered.
If you sensed a hint of the subversive in makerspace, you’d be right. Makerspaces harkens back to the late-1990s with hackerspaces. These were preceded by hacklabs, which first came on the scene in the mid-1990s. Both hacklabs and hackerspaces were a result of the proliferation of personal computers. Both also have computers and hacker culture at their respective centers. However, hacklabs are usually associated with some sort of political agenda, whereas hackerspaces are thought of as community organizations for learning and collaboration. What hackerspaces and makerspaces share in common is the focus on community and the use of technology.
The term makerspace didn’t come into play until several years after the launch of Make magazine, in 2011, when Dougherty registered makerspace.com, and started using makerspace to refer to spaces for designing and creating (often with kids). This was the point at which the maker movement started really taking off.
MAKE has always had its finger on the pulse of what’s trending in makerspaces and although some of the content is more applicable to professional making, it also contains some practical, kid-friendly projects, often complete with images, project completion time estimates and materials cost. MAKE also publishes a desktop fabrication guide with reviews of tools such as 3D printers, CNC and Lasers. This is akin to the Consumer Reports car buying guides, but for desktop fabrication. If you are considering making something, there has likely been an article written about it in MAKE.
Makerspace vs. Hackerspace
Makerspaces and hackerspaces currently exist all over the world. So, how do we differentiate between them? Honestly, it depends a lot upon who you ask. From my experiences, I tend to think of them in contrast to each other. Hackerspaces tend to be edgier, makerspaces a bit friendlier and more welcoming. Hackerspaces have a heavy tech focus, makerspaces tend to blend in more of the D.I.Y.
Makerspaces are usually more kid-friendly. Of the hackerspaces that I’ve encountered, I would not send a kid to any of them without a trusted adult (although I’m sure there are exceptions where that would be perfectly fine). This is partly because in hackerspaces, often the activities aren’t something a kid could do without help, either the materials or equipment are too dangerous (using lead solder, for example) or the skills are too advanced for kids, at least those younger than high-school aged.
If you’re wondering if there are any makerspaces or hackerspaces near you, there is a directory you can check. You can also register your makerspace or hackerspace in this same directory, once you have it up and running. You might be surprised by how many you find. Go check them out!
I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love music, and if I did, I wouldn’t trust them. Music is such an integral part of the human experience. It is a universal language that has existed in all cultures, throughout history. It’s something we experiment with – clapping, drumming with our hands and feet – before we are even old enough to talk. Music can calm us, bring us to tears and make our hearts race, and there are so manydifferent ways music can be integrated into makerspace. Here are some ideas.
Drumming is an inexpensive, straight-forward place to start. There are a plethora of online sites that will show you how to create an entire drum kit from trash. You can use easily find objects for drum sticks too, including; pencils, chop sticks and sticks just found on the ground. If you are looking for inspiration for how to use everyday objects as percussion instruments, do a quick online search for the group Stomp. I was particularly impressed with their composition done entirely with brooms.
If your goal is to create music with unusual instruments, there are plenty of intriguing examples. The Vegetable Orchestra performs music on instruments that…as you may have guessed from the name…are made entirely out of vegetables. You can do this yourself! Just watch Linsey Pollack’s Tedx talk where he shows you how to make a clarinet out of a carrot,in less than 5 minutes, and then plays it beautifully. This video, and other resources, are included on the kid-focused badging site DIY.org, in an entire section devoted to instrument making.
Synthesizers are really cool but might seem intimidating at first, especially if you are working with younger kids in your makerspace. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Kids as young as 3 years old can learn about how synths works by playing with Blipblox, a synthesizer designed specifically for kids ages 3 and up (although out-of-stock right now, they will be available to purchase this May, 2019). Blipblox even has MIDI input for an external keyboard or sequencer controller, so although it looks like a toy, if you add a keyboard and a computer with a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) such as GarageBand (on an Apple device) or Cakewalk (if you are using Windows), Blipblox can actually can be part of a fully functional, professional studio.
If you are working with older makers, you might look into the littleBits Synth kit. LittleBits are great for creating complex objects, quickly and easily, since the pre-made bits fit together using magnets. Their synth kit even has a well researched, concise history of synthesizers included in the booklet.
With older kids, if you have a small group, are feeling adventurous, and you really want to go down the rabbit hole, you can have them solder together an oscilloscope (that you can use to manipulate the pitch of a sound). The one that I made (which actually works!) is pictured below. But be warned – it took me two, focused hours, to put together.
If you want your makers to try music composition, Finale Notepad is a free (Windows) download that’s worth checking out. If you don’t use Windows, Sibelius is good too, but it isn’t free.
You might also consider giving your kids an opportunity to live code music using multi-platform, Ruby-based, Sonic Pi. Sonic Pi is easy to learn and fun to use. I spent an afternoon laughing with some kids over the different synth sounds and effects that you can produce with one.
Whatever you decide to explore, make sure to include music in your makerspace offerings. There’s nothing more enjoyable than watching kids dance to music, that they made all by themselves.