OverDrive Education spoke with School Librarian Jennifer Peterson of Menasha Joint School District in Wisconsin about maker spaces in libraries and media centers. She offers traditional crafting materials, along with eBook supplementation from OverDrive’s reading platform on Chromebooks. Students can find how-to books or inspiration for a project if they are stuck. Peterson graciously shared how she launched the space, and the success and challenges so far.
What have you used in your makerspace so far?
It’s definitely evolved over time. Getting started with a makerspace can be very easy and free because kids go crazy with cardboard, so we started right in the school library with old boxes and tape. We did have to buy safety scissors but that was the only expense at first. We had kids that created a whole suit of armor, a theater, and in the style of Caine’s Arcade, some made foosball games and a pool table.
Other materials we’ve used: duct tape, Legos, origami, Shrinky Dinks, 3D viewfinders, cheap electric toothbrushes, pool noodles, and rubber bands. You can pick up a lot of stuff at the Dollar Store.
How did you convince decision makers of the necessity of a makerspace?
Some of the staff were a bit apprehensive at first, but when they saw what the kids were doing with it and that it’s all about creativity and how to plan to do something, they got on board.
How did you get funding?
We have a small library side budget, but the PTO has been very open to supporting if we detail what we’re going to use the funds for. My advice is to be specific, and you can set up a very nice elementary makerspace for $200-300.
Also, one thing we started doing was sending kits of materials home for kids to work on over the weekend. We give the parents the option to either return the kit to us or keep whatever their child makes for $2. We always get the $2.
Have you integrated your OverDrive library into your makerspace?
We have Chromebooks set up nearby while working on a project. We have instructional books like how to make things with duct tape, or if a student can’t come up with something to build, we have tons of books to provide inspiration and ideas. We’re also getting into coding for the elementary students, and we have content for that.
How do you connect the makerspace to your curriculum?
We’ve been able to tie it directly to our math and science curriculum. As an example, one project we did with cheap LED lights and batteries naturally fit with calculations and electricity.
Any other tips for schools looking to set up a makerspace?
Ask for donations. You can almost always come up with free materials to use, and in addition to cardboard, we’ve had fabric, Legos, and games donated.
Also, it might be helpful to start with younger students. So far we’ve done projects with elementary and middle school students, and we’re going to expand to high school soon. The younger students get more excited about it at first, and then when they get to middle and high school, they’ll be equally excited to use “cooler” materials. Also, with elementary students you can say, “You can make anything you want.” Older students are used to being told what to create/how to do it, so it’s good if you can instill that creativity at a young age.
OverDrive is here to help service your makerspace! You can contact your Collection Specialist for help in finding content to support it, and below are some online resources.