Oct 30, 2017
The makerspace at South East Junior High in Iowa City, Iowa started small. It began with two plastic tubs and $50 worth of craft supplies, which lived in the study hall rooms. Soon after, we added a bucket of donated Legos to a table in the library, and then purchased two Sphero robots, which we ran with the teacher librarian’s assigned iPads during Teen Tech Week. It was clear that students wanted and needed more opportunities for hands on learning and play, so our makerspace began to grow, and our district recognized that makerspaces were something worth investing. Thanks to funding from our district foundation, all secondary schools in ICCSD were able to better develop a maker program.
Now, we have a dedicated area in our library with counter space, a table on wheels, and plenty of easy-to-move chairs, which serve as our “permanent” makerspace area. The green screen is set up in a corner with an iPad mini on a tripod. Our new 3D printer runs nearly everyday and a sign invites students to try their hand at designing and includes instructions for using Tinkercad. We have small carts with supplies like scissors, scrapbook paper, stickers, scrap cardboard, safety goggles, and more. We have a tub of Legos donated by a family friend, shelves featuring books full of craft, tech, and maker projects, and a computer hooked up to a big monitor and a MakeyMakey. On the table in the center is our Community Coloring center - a giant coloring page (Engineering print from Staples, $7), and several adult coloring books ready with a container full of colored pencils. Rotating regularly in and out of the space are several kits - LittleBits, Snap Circuits, Perler Beads, the Dash robot, squishy circuits, VR goggles, and more. These kits are also available for teachers or study hall supervisors to check out.
The stuff and the space are awesome, and we have so much fun working with students in their creative endeavors. But more than that, we are trying to grow our collaborative maker community. Last year, we were successful in getting more students involved in making during their study hall time, before school, and during our MTSS intervention/enrichment block. This year, we are trying to reach out to more students by inviting in all 8th graders through their Applied Tech class (a trimester long PLTW course required for all 8th graders). Already, we are seeing a much more diverse group of students visiting the library to explore these materials. Another goal this year is to increase teacher comfort and capacity with including the maker mindset in their classrooms. Because our district has focused on both Growth Mindset and Differentiated Instruction, including hands-on learning opportunities in traditional curriculum makes a lot of sense. I hope to include maker opportunities in building PD as well as find meaningful ways to include making through classroom collaboration. You can follow our makerspace and library program on Instagram @SEJHLibrary!