Library Makerspaces Spark Creativity
A makerspace may be something that has been on your radar lately. These innovative and collaborative environments are being incorporated into a variety of spaces. A makerspace can be big or small and hold any number of tools and materials for users to investigate and learn. The purpose of having a makerspace is to present people with an opportunity to explore their interests through hands-on, creative projects. Makerspaces create a culture of curiosity and creativity, encouraging its users to learn about a variety of technology as well as craft making.
Creating a makerspace in a school library is especially beneficial for students. A makerspace placed in a library setting opens a whole new world of resources and exploration in students and can do plenty when it comes to their learning process. Because projects done in the makerspace are focused on student centered inquiry, this makes them ideal to implement in school environments.
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Benefits of a Makerspace in School Libraries
School libraries have always been at the hub of student activity. This is one area of the school that students will no doubt visit at some point during their education regardless of the classes they taking or the subjects they are interested in. This is because school libraries offer their students resources to develop important skills that will be used as they progress throughout their education and transition into adult lives. Teachers will usually bring students by the library to learn useful research skills that help them evaluate sources, work on projects using a variety of technologies and programs, or for a simple introduction to the references and materials that the school library holds. Because libraries are at the center of student activity, incorporating a makerspace into the library helps connect curriculum, improve student achievement, and invest in a student’s creative journey.
Makerspace environments cover a range of topics in technology, science, etc. and have equipment that help people make videos, games, music, etc. Makerspace setups at elementary and middle schools have endless craft supplies and materials to help them conduct investigations and study different topics. At higher levels of education, they may hold 3D printers, circuit boards, and many types of computer programs. These spaces are designed with students in mind and materials are geared towards the interests and benefits of the young learners. On top of the academic benefits that a makerspace provides, students are also trained to build a mindset that revolves around teamwork, problem-solving and innovation.
Centralized Access to Resources
While schools usually have computer labs, science labs, etc. in place for students to learn a variety of STEM skills, creating an additional makerspace in the library allows all students to have access to science and technology resources, especially as students get older. Middle and high school students have options of designing their schedules around their interests. This means one student may have plenty of classes in the music department and none in technology labs or lots of computer-related classes lined up but no time spent in art studios. The library is one stop in the school where all students feel free to come and go. Implementing a makerspace into the school library bridges and opens up the gap for students to access creative resources that may otherwise not have been available.
Value in Discovery
People may criticize the purpose of a makerspace and wonder if it ends up serving as a “playground” for students. Looks can be deceiving. Many school libraries have done a fantastic job of creating a makerspace that really excites students and sometimes, these thoughtful setups can be mistaken for play areas. One example of this is a Lego wall that was installed at the entrance of a library. What most adults aren’t seeing, is that these building blocks end up serving as building blocks for discovery, expression, development of social skills, etc. Students working together to build and design are not only practicing collaboration and teamwork skills but also honing their skills for innovation and critical thinking. These Lego pieces were also used to engage students with their reading. One class was invited to build Lego murals that reflected the book they were reading. This was paired with a writing project and included QR codes that linked their Lego creations to their writing. This type of project is a unique way for students to connect with their curriculum in a new way and helps fuel that desire for discovery from a young age.
Makerspace environments create different learning spaces for students to inquire and discover. While students are able to explore new ideas through building using 3D printers, construction tools, and other materials, they are also able to discover through deconstructing and “un-making” things. Cyndi Felton helped create a makerspace at an elementary school in Broward County, Florida. This makerspace included a “Deconstruction Zone” where plenty of electronics, toys, and other household items are laid out for kids to take apart. This has been popular among the students at the elementary. They are able to pull apart various layers of an object, ask questions, and experiment with the technology behind each object. These types of activities and environments are perfect for stimulating curious minds and teaching kids how to learn.
A makerspace can also serve as a launching point to develop entrepreneurship in students. Schools serving college and high school students have blended makerspaces to serve as not only innovation centers but also develop entrepreneurship skills.
Entrepreneurship encompasses many of the competencies that students are expected to develop. The American Association of School Librarians’ highlights the importance to inquire, include, collaborate, and explore in their National School Library Standards. What many have found is that these shared goals can be achieved through entrepreneurship. Students these days are faced with a changing world and will find themselves in different jobs and settings as they progress through their working lives. Putting entrepreneurship at the center of the makerspace helps students connect their learning with future payoffs.
A school librarian in Ohio specifically took her high school students’ input to help develop a makerspace that would contribute to entrepreneurship. She surveyed students and asked them about their interests and hobbies outside of school as well as the activities that school made time and space for. The results were not surprising. Students wanted to spend more time with friends as well as have additional time with music, food, art, and technology. This helped guide the librarian’s purchases and plan out what the space would look like. In addition, an advisory board of students and teachers would be created to give input on decisions and also find ways for students to take these activities and interests and put them into action through business ventures.
Get Started on Your Makerspace
There are plenty of resources out there that can help libraries jumpstart their makerspace. A few books to reference include Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore and Extract Your Creative Potential by Michael Cohen and Making Space for New Library Learning by Michelle R. Davis. Laura Fleming also has books written on the topic-The Kickstart Guide to Making Great Makerspaces and Worlds of Marking: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School. Blogs are another place to head to find inspiration and guidance for creating a makerspace. Renovated Learning created by Diana Rendina and create+collaborate created by Colleen Graves house many articles and blog topics on creating and maintaining a makerspace.
Lots of libraries have been incorporating creative spaces into their buildings. The key takeaway is to stay creative yourself and to look into spaces and materials that students can benefit from. A makerspace can be constructed using the simplest objects like construction paper and cardboard. To visualize what this might look like, check out how this school organizes their makerspace and grab a few tips from their experience.
An important tip to keep in mind is to break up the creation of your makerspace into multiple small projects. It is easy to want to jump all in and get a makerspace up and running as soon as possible. But successful projects take lots of time, effort, and thought. It’s okay to start off small and grow the space as you’re able or to prioritize sections of your makerspace project.
For schools that are looking for some funding to help jumpstart or grow their makerspace, there are a few organizations you can look into. Service League, Kiwanis Club, or Rotary Club may offer funding opportunities to those who need it. EBSCO is also a great resource to look into for grants and awards for libraries.
Learn and Grow at the School Library
A makerspace helps engage and connect students with technology and interests in a completely different way than they are used to. Rather than just learning how to consume everything around them, students are taught to create. This mindset sets students up for success because it takes them outside of passive thinking patterns and guides them in turning knowledge into action. Libraries hold an important role in providing students with this type of space. Implementing this type of learning environment promotes critical thinking skills and creativity. Housing these learning opportunities in an accessible and central area of the school is what will help students develop and apply these important skills.