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Creating a Makerspace: It's Not as Difficult as You May Think

30 Jun 2015 by Heather Breedlove

What started as a few bins of tissue out on a table turned into a Maker Corner and the Epic Lego Wall. Diana Rendina, a media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Florida, created a makerspace in her library by starting small and working with materials she already had.

The makerspace education movement blends the physical world with technology, engaging students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) through hands-on creating with various low- and high-tech materials and tools. Makerspaces are transforming schools all over the country, giving students opportunities to create using their imagination — where the learning happens naturally, not as a result of a set lesson plan or agenda. Depending on the focus or goals, other names for makerspaces are hackerspace, fab lab or tinkering space.

Learning with Legos

Rendina recommends starting your makerspace small with items you have on hand. She started out with boxes of tissue and students making homemade slime. Then she repurposed her room, creating a whiteboard wall where students could brainstorm ideas. She also created the Epic Lego Wall made out large green Lego baseplates. Slowly, she added more tools like Snap Circuits, littleBits, Makey and Cubelets through donations from Donors Choose. Plus, Rendina uses a mix of low-tech tools like cardboard and craft supplies, and keeps a variety of materials available for multiple students to work together.

Learning in the library

Maker Corner is part of Rendina’s school’s library and available to students as part of their library time or during other parts of the day, such as a reward for good behavior. At first, some students didn’t know what to build. “Other kids helped them, and they would get inspired,” Rendina says.

Rendina explains that creating in Maker Corner is open ended, but she provides a design challenge to kids in during-, before- and after-school clubs. Design challenges provide students with a goal of what to build, but it doesn’t tell them how to meet the goal. This setup gives them the flexibility and guidance they need to build and work together.

Checklist for starting a makerspace

Ready to start a makerspace of your own? Makerspace wishlists contain items like cardboard, perler beads, washi tape, paper, scissors, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, a Circuit Stickers Starter Kit, a Makey Makey Kit, Snap Circuits and littleBits

Learn more about Rendina's makerspace journey by visiting her blogs: Our Makerspace Journey and Makerspace Resources.