So now what?! We are at a public school in California. Funding is very tight and the only way to start anything new is for the parents to get it started. HELP!!! We asked the PTA to give us a budget of $2,000 to launch this program. We had no idea how much we really needed. Found “like-minded” moms, all of whom are overcommitted at the school already, and convinced them to help create this program. They all wanted to say “no”, but once they understood what this program was all about, they knew that they had to make it happen. Yay!!
There are a bunch of great resources online, starting with the "Makerspace Playbook, School Edition”. Also, “Invent to Learn” is a must read. We visited the few schools in our area that have a Makerspace. All three are in private schools and run by tech teachers. They were amazing to check out and we are so thankful that everyone has been so willing to share what they are doing and offer suggestions on how to get started. The program that we are creating is being developed by parents and none of us are techie. So we have a bunch of information and great ideas, but how do we actually start the program? This was the hardest part. We finally just decided that we needed to start small and slowly grow the program.
In January, 2014, our principal talked to the 4th grade classes about our pilot Makerspace program. The program would take place on Wednesday’s at lunch/lunch recess. The students could fill out an application to be in the program. We had over 25 kids lined up outside the school office by 7:20am the next morning. School doesn’t start until 8:15am. By the end of the day, we had over 45 applications for the program. Unfortunately, we could only start the program with 20 kids, so the wait list started.
For the first group of kids in the program, we started with making bristle bots. We were not sure if the kids would make the bristle bot in 5 minutes and then look at us wondering, “What’s next?”. The lesson was less than two minutes and we let the kids figure out how to make the bots. Some struggled. We really wanted the kids to be figuring things out on their own and have the kids help each other. All of the kids that first day were able to make a bristle bot. Yay!!! The kids did not want to leave the room. We challenged the kids to think about what type of bot they would want to make the following week. All of us moms were so thrilled with how well everything went that first day. Over the next few weeks the kids made bigger bots, art bots, back scratchers, marble runs, cardboard games, etc. They really surprised all of us with their creativity. The kids continue to want to be in the space.
After launching the pilot program with 4th grade students, we ended up expanding and offering the program to 3rd, 5th and finally 2nd grade students. Our 2nd grade students started the year late and not all students that wanted to be in the program were able to try it this year. Thankfully, the program was so well received by the school district, school board, parents and students, we are getting our own classroom this next school year. How crazy it that!?! Space is so tight, and we have our own room!!! This just goes to show you that programs like Makerspaces need to be available to our kids. We love that we are starting this program with elementary aged students. Get them while they are young and keep them thinking creatively. Let them know that they can make things. They are “Makers”.
For the 2014 school year, we are creating projects that will teach the kids a skill and give them the freedom to make something with that skill. The students will also have the freedom to come into the space and make their own invention. All students will need to fill out the “Maker Plan” to get started. When the students do not have a plan, they end up wasting supplies and not really making something that they are proud of. Our goal is to get the kids to think and make something that they are interested in making. We have a ton of “how to” books in our Makerspace Reference Library that has books that range from low to high tech to give them ideas. We want the kids to be inspired to try new things. We want kids in the space working together and sharing ideas. We want the teachers to use the space for teaching math in a different way, making projects, etc. We want the other elementary schools in our district to have a Makerspace. We want our community to have a Makerspace in the new library. We want to have a Fab Lab in our community.
Having a Makerspace in our elementary school is just the beginning of a much bigger goal. So far, we are very proud of what we have created and work daily to grow the program the right way. It is not as easy as just following a plan listed in a book. It takes finding parent volunteers to help in the room, learning about circuits, learning about woodworking, learning about arduino, etc. The list of things to learn seems unending. Creating this program is overwhelming and exciting. It takes having parents that are passionate about bringing this to our kids and administration that supports our efforts. Thank you to Kim Linz, our principal and Christina Lee, our tech advisor, for bringing the idea of this program to our school and helping us to make it happen. We all are so excited to see how this program grows and the impact that it has on our kids.
Sample of Possible Projects:
* Simple Circuits (sewn, squishy circuits, paper, etc)
* Bridge Building
* Paper Construction
* Sewing/Needle Point/Knitting
* Makey Makey
* Physic projects
* Make a game
* Pushes and pulleys
* Jewelry making
* Wind & propulsion
* Sound waves
* Instrument Making
* Earth Week - recycled project (water bottles/cardboard)
* 3D printing
* Make a video
* The list never ends. If you can think it, you can try to make it...