I’m not going to lie: the air-con plays a major role. The library is the only air-conditioned space open to junior school students everyday at break and lunch times. As a result, the library has always been popular at break and lunch, but not always for the right reasons. In thinking about the possibility of creating a makerspace, the non-readers at lunch were a big part of my thinking. How could we create a stimulating learning space for students who didn’t necessarily want to read?
We wanted a makerspace for all of the more standard reasons too. We wanted to encourage other kinds of learning and creativity in our library, beyond what our books and computers offer. I also really believe in making the library a welcoming space, and the makerspace has brought all kinds of students in, including many who might not have spent much time in the library before. The picture above captures what our library looks like on a typical lunchtime now. Incredibly busy! I also wanted it to be reasonable for us, in terms of staffing and other resources.
I wanted to make sure that it was clear we had a brand new space in the library, so we set aside a relatively quiet corner by our junior circulation desk and started small: a lego wall and a small cabinet from IKEA to hold a few resources. I started with an initial budget of about 30,000 THB ($900 USD). And off we went!
The Lego wall was our starting point. I wanted something obvious, and something fun. I brought the LEGO supplies with me from the US this summer, which significantly reduced the cost. We made a 70 inch square wall, consisting of 49 green baseplates. The 10 inch by 10 inch baseplates run about $8 USD/each, and the medium classic brick boxes are about $30/each. You could definitely get more bricks--this was just a starting point. The total cost for the wall was approximately $600 USD (20,000 THB). If you can get your LEGO outside of Thailand, it definitely helps. Click on the baseplate or the LEGO box above to see their Amazon listings.
Our maintenance department (kindly!) mounted the base plates on a 70.5 inch by 70.5 inch plywood board, which had been mounted on the wall. We followed the tutorial above, from the incredibly useful Renovated Learning blog.
I also wanted a simple electronics kit. I only bought two sets of these, and I have to say--that was a bit of a mistake. They have been so well-received that the junior science department is going to order an entire classroom set. Aside from one set of wires, they have proven to be durable and incredibly, incredibly popular. The instructions are clear and easy enough that even Y3 students can follow them. We offer these to groups of up to two students per set each day at break . Click on the image above to see the Amazon listing. The starter set that I bought runs about $20 USD. If I had it to do over again, I would have bought at least five or six sets.
There are so many things I would like to add, but our small permanent collection has worked well so far. Links above to the Amazon listings for some of the other resources I would like to get at some point… K’Nex makes great building kits, littleBits are so beautiful and simple (and expensive!), a 3-D printer would be wonderful, I would love to have more felt/fabric/sewing resources and projects, I’m trying to learn more about raspberry pi/arduino, and my simplest request would be an unlimited supply of cardboard. Click on the images above to see the Amazon listings; the cardboard picture will take you to the “cardboarder” challenges on diy.org.
Because our makerspace only has the LEGO wall and the snap circuits every week, I wanted to come up with a way to have new (relatively simple) projects every week. The library assistants have take this on. Each week, the library assistants rotate and one of them is responsible for coming up with a low-cost crafting or building challenge that can run during lunchtime. To say this has been popular would be an understatement. The students love it.
The library assistants have designed some fantastic building challenges. The first was slotted building discs, where the students were asked to build structures from these colorful discs that the library staff made in advance. The second was based on a projects with toothpicks and gumdrops that one of the library assistants found. We used clay (less sticky and also less edible), but gumdrops would be even easier.
The first week of lunchtime maker crafts, Miss Muay introduced 3-D paper art. The students cut out templates to create different animals and characters. If you click on the matryoshka dolls, it takes you to a website with lots of templates. The next week, Miss Mameaw introduced thumb print art, inspired in part by Ed Emberley’s funprint book (link above on the picture).
I felt it was important that we display pictures and samples of some of the work done in the makerspace, so that the weekly challenges didn’t just fade away. The next bit is a work in progress, but we are working to document and share the challenges as a resource for other makers.
When trying to decide how to display the great work that was being done in our makerspace each week, one of the library assistants, Mameaw, came up with this idea for a “Makers’ House”. To me, it was the perfect solution--the house itself was a great maker project, and it gave us the space to display up to six weeks of makerspace challenges at once. Made of cardboard and covered in sugar paper, the makers’ house has clear plastic sheets on the sides and roof so that it can be used and reused as a display space. It sits outside the junior library, in the main hallway of the Prep School, where students and teachers can see it.
We are still working on this, but we have started recording and sharing our makerspace resources. We keep a running book list for Junior Makers on Pinterest, and the library assistants have shared their pictures and ideas in a publicly-accessible Google drive folder. Click on either of the logos above to access these resources. At some point soon, I would like to start sharing some tutorials on our library blog.
There are SO many, but here are a few of my favourites… Diy.org has tons of challenges. We have used some of them as inspiration for weekly challenges, but you could have students use it directly to earn badges and record their work. Make magazine is at the heart of the maker movement, and their website has tons of amazing tutorials. The K-12 fab labs google group is a must for anyone interested in school makerspaces. It’s based in the US, but the resources and ideas would be useful for anyone. And, of course, Pinterest! I’ve linked to pins tagged #makerspace, but there are lots of specific pinners and boards that are useful as well. There are certainly no shortage of ideas out there! The School Library journal link will take you to an excellent makerspace bibliography, with suggestions for both librarians and students. Renovated Learning is the very accessible blog of an American librarian--tutorials, inspiration, and more--and generally fairly reasonable, in terms of effort and expense.
Some great fiction books (and a few picture-book biographies) for the aspiring makers out there… I’ve linked all of the images to Book Depository if you want to find out more.
These books have been popular with our students, and are just a suggestion. There are so many wonderful crafting, coding, and making books out there! Anorak has put out a book (shown above), but they are primarily a magazine. While not precisely a maker magazine, they have lots of great creative projects (recipes, crafts, etc) in every issue.
Creating a (Nearly) No-Fuss Makerspace
Creating a (Nearly)
Library Staff, Shrewsbury International School, Bangkok