How Our Space Became a Makerspace

It was the final week of school and we were all but finished with the 2013-2014 school year when I had a conversation with a colleague about something she kept referring to as a Makerspace. It was a term I had heard of while surfing the Twitterverse, but was relatively unfamiliar with what it actually was. After hearing more about it from her point of view, I felt I needed to do a little more research to familiarize myself with the potential of a Makerspace in an elementary school. After a simple search online, the Makerspace resources were plenty and I was in full research mode. The resources listed below were two of the best I found and after reading and reviewing, I was convinced our school needed a Makerspace.

The Makerspace Playbook

Edutopia – Designing a School Makerspace

In addition to the resources listed above, I also had to do some research on Twitter to see which members of my PLN were into the Makerspace Movement and determine who I could begin following on Twitter to learn from them about their Makerspace. The following members of my PLN were influential in jump starting our journey and ultimately the opening of our space.

Starting with folks in my own backyard:

@lorraineshimizu – The colleague who gave me the spark
@R_H_Steele – The Principal of the @ChristieCubs
@jess_malloy – Learning Commons/Makerspace Facilitator for the @ChristieCubs
@NancyWTech – Librarian turned Technology Specialist

Some folks a little farther from home:

@DianaLRendina – Check our her Makerspace Resource Page
@tinaberumen & @shawnaford1 – They shared this great resource with me – Make it @ Your Library

After several discussions online with the folks listed above we rolled up our sleeves and started to determine what steps we could take immediately and what steps we could take over time and ensure our space was done right. We decided we wanted to do some fundraising and write some grants so we spent the summer writing grants and setting up accounts on @DonorsChoose and @GoFundMe. Additional funding sources we are using include World Wear Project & Funding Factory because every little bit helps! If you want to learn more about how you can raise money to support your school, check out this post by @LindseyLipsky,  titled, Finding Funds for Your Classroom.

While we waited for funds to be generated online, we started collaborating with district leaders, sharing our vision and determining how we could take this space…

Before Pic of our Makerspace
Before Pic of our Makerspace

…and turn it into a Makerspace where collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking happened the moment you walked into the room.

The first step was creating space by eliminating book shelves, wooden cubbies and reshelving books. The Library Media Services group in our district and my amazing librarian (Head Maker) @j9dowdy played a huge roll in facilitating this process, which actually took months!

We have a lot of books and each one had to be moved! Once the space was created we could really begin to make some progress.

During the Transformation

The void you see between the tables and the wooden cubbies against the wall (what is called our tech bar) is where a 2nd row of cubbies used to be.

Its all about getting floor space. So the original bookshelves in the back of the library were emptied, books were reshelved and we began moving the shelves around to determine how we could maximize our space.

During the Transformation

Our goal from the beginning was to create a space that allowed for traditional library use, but also supported a Makerspace that could be used during library time or that teachers/students could access simultaneously during their instructional day. If you look at the picture above, you can even see a screen and projector that would need to be relocated. It was the small things, that took the longest amount of time. I told you, we wanted to do this right, so we were ok taking the time do get it right.

A More Intimate Library Setting 

Shelves were moved and books were reshelved which allowed our space to ultimately be inverted, leaving a large open space as you enter the library and the traditional library space was moved to the back of the library where bookshelves used to be. The projector was also moved back this space so traditional lessons and important things like “staff meetings” could still take place and utilize the projector.

The Creative Wheels are Turning

During our transformation, it was important that students begin to be exposed to the Maker Movement so with the support of several departments throughout the district, including the Multilingual Department, students were able to “make” with Legos and “create” settings, alternate endings and write their own stories using Lego Story Kits.

Now that we had the students attention and their interest was high, we started with our Lego Wall. I had spent some time researching Lego Walls and found this site to be the most helpful.

The First Base Plate

The Masonite went up first and the first base plate was glued to the wall. I read it was important to use the Legos as spacers when putting on the base plates so the next photos show us doing just that.

If You Build It, They Will Come

I will be the first to admit, the Lego Wall took a little bit longer than expected, but doesn’t every DIY project? We built it brick by brick or I guess base plate by base plate, but ultimately it was completed and we made sure everyone knew we were the Sigler “Super” Stars.

Our First Lego Wall Creation

As I mentioned above, we were waiting on funding…I can happily say, both of the projects posted on @DonorsChoose and @GoFundMe were funded. If you had a hand in funding either of those projects, I cannot thank you enough!!!

In addition, we applied for a grant through a local branch of the Awesome Foundation in Plano, TX @awesomefound which was funded and has been used to support the purchase of Lego Robotics Kits. I cannot wait until they arrive!

The good news kept coming as we also received word that a grant we had written through Lowe’s Toolbox for Education was funded. Each of these grants allow us to keep adding pieces to our Makerspace.

With the all of the great news about funding resources coming through and the progress we were making with creating space, our 2014 closed on a high note and we knew 2015 was going to be exceptional!

The staff returned from winter break on January 5, 2015, which is the day our Makerspace officially opened! Teachers were able to visit the Makerspace and explore the various stations the students would be working through the very next day!

Enjoy the photos of our teachers “exploring” the various stations

Build It – Zoob Challenge
Origami
Play Osmo – We have 3 separate Osmo Stations 

Play Osmo – Words
Play Osmo – Tangrams
Magna-Tiles
Google Doodle Station 
Rainbow Loom – Bracelets – Bracelets are Donated to Our School Store for Students to Purchase 
Coding Corner w/ Chrome Books & Desktops
Puzzles
Lego Wall
Lego Wall at the End of the First Week w/ Students
What We Want Teachers and Students to do Upon Entering
We were very anxious to show this Makerspace to the teachers and students, but the overwhelming response we have received thus far has squashed any fear we may have had, because the students and teachers have LOVED the space! The ideas continue to flow for stations to be rotated in and out to continually challenge our students and in a couple of weeks, each station will have a problem that students must attempt to solve. 
The following stations are on our list to be rotated in:
  • Cardboard Creation Station
  • Book Blurbs
  • Record It
  • Bookmarks
  • Marble Challenge

What would you add? 
Thank you for visiting our space! I hope sharing the story of how our space became a Makerspace will inspire others to create a space of their own. 
Until then, keep creating, keep exploring, and keep making! 

8 thoughts on “How Our Space Became a Makerspace”

  1. I LOVE it! What a fantastic transformation. I love how you've found a balance between traditional library activities and Maker activities. And your LEGO wall decor rocks 🙂

  2. Very interesting! We are getting a brand new library media center in one of our elementary schools this next year. Thank you for all of the ideas and words of experience.

  3. This is really helping me! I am a new librarian at a small school, and we are currently forming ideas to transform our library into a makerspace. I relate with a lot of what your school did- moving books, applying for grants, working together to use the space as best as possible!

    Thank you so much!

  4. I seem to have the opposite problem. I already have all these materials (except the OSMO), but no place to create my MakerSpace so they are all boxed up in my classroom and only come out on Fridays. =(

  5. I'm trying to build a Lego wall but the baseplates I've seen all have rounded corners, not crisp 90 degree corners. Where did you get your baseplates? Any help you can give is greatly appreciated!

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