The #1 Makerspace Resource: Your Students!

If you are looking to start a makerspace at your school or library, there are a wealth of resources available to help you get started. I would be so lost if it weren’t for many of these. They also have a lot of research supporting the maker movement.

In addition, there have been a few key individuals whose blogs I follow religiously.
Renovated Learning – blog of Diana Rendina @DianaLRendina
Create, Collaborate, Innovate – blog of Colleen Graves @gravescolleen
Worlds of Learning  – blog of Laura Fleming @NMHS_lms

These resources have been invaluable to me in determining projects, designing the space, and the many planning and logistics that are involved. They’ve also helped me anticipate and work through any issues that may arise.
What these resources didn’t provide was the voice from my students and teachers. No matter how many reputable sources or blogs I consulted, I wasn’t getting the input and feedback that really mattered.

Student Voice from Day 1

I’ll be honest – starting a makerspace was not on my list of things to accomplish this year. But in October our 7th grade students were in the midst of their campaigns for class president and many of their campaign posters had things about the library. Some of them recommended adding a second floor, some of them recommended adding a pool table. One of our students suggested a LEGO wall for the library. I had no idea what it was until he showed me an image he found on Google. Turns out, that image was from Diana Rendina’s blog. Anyway, this was the start of it all. Although that student wasn’t elected class president, we decided to continue with the LEGO wall. We had about 6 students involved and they planned the entire thing from start to finish. Take a look at their Google Doc here. 
A ton of learning went into the planning of the LEGO wall. The kids researched the required materials, did all of the math to figure out what was needed, and then did research to compare prices. Once we had a materials list and a cost, we brainstormed some ideas for fundraising. Things got really interesting here! We had everything suggested from a car wash (in November) to selling $0.25 bags of chips in the library. In the end, we followed in Diana’s footsteps and I did my first DonorsChoose project. The kids were awesome at marketing the project. In fact, their parents were some of our biggest donors. It makes sense that parents would contribute to something that directly impacts their child.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about our makerspace (yet). Instead, I really want to focus on why I think its going to work – the students. All of our purchases, arrangement, and programs have stemmed from the students. We have a group of students called the “Creative Council” (they wanted to be called the Imagineers but then they had an argument about copyright…again more learning). This group serves as representatives for their grade to provide input on our library space. Essentially, there job is to ask their peers what they want and then report back. Our 7th grade team decided to post a huge banner in the hallway asking “what do you want to see in the library?” WARNING: DON’T DO THIS. Especially if you’re in a middle/high school. Let’s just say we got some pretttyy interesting and grossly inappropriate responses.

So if you’re currently thinking about starting a makerspace (or even if you already have), please include your students on the decision making process. Just because something is successful in another makerspace, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be successful in yours. So while there are loads of great resources out there (and growing), the most important resource is right in front of you.

P.S. When asking your students for suggestions, be prepared for some wild and crazy ideas. We’ve had suggestions for a petting zoo, skate park, a pool table. We also had a suggestion for a beehive and a goat to put in our courtyard to mow the lawn. And while those ideas won’t work, it was so fun having the discussion. And remember, amidst those 50 crazy ideas, you’ll have a few amazing ones!

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