Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Have Some Money for a Makerspace. Now What?

Guest post by:  Heidi Neltner | Instructional Technology Specialist, Certified Librarian

I’ve been primarily working with elementary on the makerspace format for the last 4-5 years.  I would say the first thing you might think to do before buying anything is conduct a needs assessment see what is lacking for the kids and consider the kind of programming you might implement to help fill needs.  (we needed some tools to support NGSS so I started with Legos and Snap Circuits, then branched out from there.)  Also consider your school’s mission and vision and the CSIP.  Tying purchases and plans to those things goes really far in giving your movement credibility.

You might talk to teachers you consider to have an innovative mindset and ask them what they would need to support really taking kids to new places in thought and practice.  Look to see what kinds of projects get done each year and things that might support those projects – (for example if kids are making a lot of displays, maybe a circuit machine would be a good addition).   

I would also check in with the kids to see what they feel like they’re missing.  It might be that students need space to collaborate, so large white boards or writable surfaces would serve you well; or kids might need a place to make really good resumes, so workstations with tutorials on how to use sites like Canva to build really impressive, visual resumes might help.  Or kids might just be really stressed out and need a place to relax and work together on cool projects like collaborative art that could be donated.

If reaching out to teachers and students to find out what they need seems too time consuming for your timeline, another approach would be to establish a theme for next year and base your purchases around that theme.  For example you might consider a theme that includes the word “light” then you could focus on purchasing things and organizing events that would allow students to do things like create wearable LED projects, or your theme might have something to do with “bringing ideas to life” and center your purchases around things that would allow kids to create videos or cartoons (green screens, iPads for easy editing) or you could have a totally different view on that and buy kits that would allow kids to grow things and create green spaces in your school.

I do have some resources and suggestions here that might spark some better ideas: http://learninprogress.blogspot.com/2015/09/makerspace-on-budget.html

Ultimately whatever you purchase, it helps to have a general plan for how you want to use it and programming you might do with it – try to sketch out a rough calendar of how you would implement or use the items, or make a list of teachers you might reach out to for collaboration ideas, so you feel good about whatever you purchase.

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