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Sustainability

Funding a Sustainable Makerspace

Funding a makerspace is challenging. Figuring out how to fund a makerspace, in a sustainable way, even more so. I’m not gonna lie. There aren’t easy solutions for this. You can write grants, crowdsource, have book fairs, bake sales, maybe you are even lucky enough to have annual funding through your school or library.

But what if you could get the kids to do it? 

At the heart of makerspace are the building blocks of engineering and industry. We call it STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) and it lends itself nicely to this model. What better way to utilize a makerspace than by giving students the actual real-world experience of taking their design from idea – to production?

One way that this could be done is by developing a makerspace entrepreneurial class, where the objective of the class is to create something that other students in the school, and people in your community, want to buy. Students in this class would design something, create prototypes, market and produce it. They could work in teams; each student could be primarily responsible for one or two (depending upon the size of the group) roles. The roles could be design, production, marketing, social media, finance, (or some other similar iteration). Students would then actually sell the product, as a fundraiser for the makerspace.

The objects that they make could be sold at a physical or online school store, a local Farmers Market or even an Etsy store. They could also follow up at the end to figure out what their profit margins are, and determine if they could streamline or change anything in order to lower production costs. This would be a great way to develop partnerships with local businesses, too. Students could consult with these businesses to learn about how production is done on a larger scale, and what they could adopt for their own projects. They could also make some great connections…and maybe that could lead to a career some day.

Self-funding your makerspace in this way is a powerful idea that would teach your students a whole lot of real-world skills. It’s certainly something to consider.

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Brainstorming, Makerspace Management, Utilizing Your Makerspace

Makerspace Challenges & Personal Choice

Choice is really important in getting students excited about learning.  As the educational guru Robert Marzano states in his book The Highly Engaged Classroom, giving students choice increases their intrinsic motivation, is linked to higher engagement, and overall learning. If you’re interested, you can read more about that in Tips From Dr. Marzano.

In the Creekside Makerspace FLEX (elective) classes, and in 6th grade media, students get to choose their own projects. In our FLEX classes, where I have the incredible Sharon Norris co-teaching with 5th grade, and the amazing Eileen McCallum co-teaching with 6th, we are able to have students do this individually, or in groups, should they so choose.

With the 6th graders in my media classes, since I am teaching all (roughly 150) of them solo, they work on their Passion Projects in groups. My rule is that they have to have at least two people in their groups. If that means they each do something individually and they merge it into a project, that’s great. If they have a group of 10, and each person works on a piece, that’s wonderful too. They have complete control of the way in which they want to make it work. Sometimes it’s smooth and sometimes they learn a lot about working in a team.

Sometimes kids have a hard time figuring out what they want to do when given complete choice. In makerspace, we try and help with this in a few different ways; they can explore the DIY.org website or sort through the makerspace challenges on the Teach Engineering site (check the “Maker Challenge” box on the left to filter for them) or they can look at already created projects in the display case for ideas. We also have a robust collection of maker reference books that they can page through.

With Passion Projects, I guide them through a brainstorming session where they start out with crazy, wild ideas – like a bicycle that you can ride on the ceiling that is made for a cat! Then we break it down into something that is more viable that they can either actually create, prototype or pitch to the class. The students continuously amaze me with their creativity, ingenuity and…well…passion.

The kids do the heavy lifting; they come up with the ideas, pour the energy and time into making it work or figuring out how it could, in theory. They give inspirational, impassioned presentations and hopefully learn a lot in the process.

However, these projects would never be as intriguing, amazing or exciting without choice.

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We will start our brainstorming session tomorrow with a read aloud! It starts with an idea…

 

Cardboard Construction, Tools

Cardboard Construction and the Global Challenge

I love using cardboard in my makerspace. It’s the most versatile and readily available material that you can get. As anyone who has kids – and has ever brought home something in a giant box knows – it can be used for play, for hours. You can also get incredibly sophisticated with it. People have made amazing things out of cardboard, such as a working electric car, furniture and full-sized Iron Man sculpture.

I think of the Fall as prime cardboard construction season since this is when the Global Cardboard Challenge takes place.  The challenge was inspired by a kid named Caine who created an entire arcade in his dad’s auto shop. The Global Challenge is now a worldwide celebration of making. It can also be used as a fundraiser for charities, if you want it to.

With past schedules, I’ve been able to involve the entire 5th grade in creating objects with cardboard for the challenge. The light box below is one example. Since there are around three hundred 5th graders, I had them work in teams. Even in teams, with that many students, there was cardboard on pretty much every surface of the media center! It was a worthwhile mess – it fostered team-building, creativity,  kinesthetic learning and imagination. In addition, the students are always very excited to share what they have made and it’s a great introduction to makerspace.

In order to help the students create cool things, without injuring themselves, I have them use Makedo Tools.  These tools are made specifically for cardboard construction and it’s almost impossible to hurt yourself while using them, although the tools take a bit of strength to use with thicker pieces of cardboard. I found the tools a little confusing when I first got them, so I created a video, Using Makedo Tools, to help anyone else who might need it.

The book that I mention in the video, Build and Manage a Makerspace for Kids, is still in process. When I have a firm publication date, I will post it here first! In the meantime…happy building.

LightBox

Working light box created by students for the Cardboard Challenge.
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Why Do Makerspace?

Today during our professional development we talked for a little bit about why we teach. This led to an interesting discussion about how teaching is the hardest thing that most of us have done and how the day to day can be really rough. If you are in the profession, you already know that it’s not for the faint of heart.

However, making a difference in kids’ lives is hands-down what makes it worthwhile. Some of my colleagues spoke about how they’ve heard, years later, from kids who told them about the difference they made. We also watched this video (make sure you have tissues close by)!

All of this got me thinking about why you would want to create a makerspace for kids. If you do it right, it truly is a labor of love. I’m not gonna lie – it’s work. But it’s also a space that reaches the kids that don’t do as well in a “traditional” classroom. Hands-on activities make the kinesthetic learners’ eyes light up. The freedom to choose their projects gets all kids excited. The variety of materials and tools allows kids to really push the limits of what they’ve tried before. It gets them exploring. Dreaming.

After watching how excited they get – the 100% engagement – how could you not want to build one?

LizardFriend

Photographs are something I like to make. This little guy was peeking at me when I was talking on my phone.
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Back At It

The Summer is rapidly drawing to an end and I am SO excited about what this school year has in store, for myself and for all of my students.

Summer is such a lovely time to step back and allow space for ideas to brew…and develop into plans. Goodness do I have some plans for this school year!

Sneak peek: More makerspace how-to YouTube videos, lots of detailed blog posts chock full of helpful information (and personally experienced pitfalls) free downloadable forms and more!

Stay tuned here to see how it all unfolds.

“Makerspace is interesting, surprising and FUN!” – Second Grader