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Creating a Space for Makerspace

by on November 11, 2015

In in a July 15th article on Edutopia.org, “Fostering Creativity with Makerspaces,” high school English teacher Nicholas Provenzo describes the perfect home he found for a makerspace, the library, and his 4-step process to make it happen. A lifetime lover of the creative process, Provenzo has always worked with his students to pursue ideas and make amazing projects over the years.  Facing the challenge to replicate this experience for students outside of his classroom, he found the maker movement fit the bill.

If you don’t have a hard-wired makerspace incorporated into your public library building, can you follow Provenzo’s 4-step process to create makerspaces where you are?  His recommendations:

  1. Find the Space: Provenzo found the perfect place in his school’s library:  an always open, dedicated space where students could go any time before, after, and even during classes.   Since it was not a shared space, students did not have to pack away equipment and projects between visits.  Many public libraries—like the Nashville (Tenn.) Main Library, San Francisco Public Library’s the Mix, and the Fab Labs at DC Public Library’s Central MLK Memorial Library—have carved out similar space in existing buildings to make high-tech havens for teens and other interested in the maker movement.  However, you can have success with makerspaces in swing space or pop-up space in your library.  Joslyn Jones at the Bowie Branch of Prince George’s Public Library converted the branch’s meeting room into a teen space during after school hours and has incorporated makerspace activities partially by joining Google’s Maker Camp program at www.makercamp.com.  She received free supplies, weekly guidelines, and updates on projects she could make with her group.  Similarly, Sara Morse, Manager at the Nashville (Tenn.) Library’s East branch has a maker closet full of library supplies equipment that the kids pull out during makerspace time after school.
  1. Find the Money: You will need seed money.  The amounts are dictated by the space needs and type of projects planned.  Provenzo highly recommends writing as many grants as you can with the student’s help to supplement any funds that might be available through the school or organization.  Crowdfunding like that on Edutopia’s site is another funding source he recommends.  Public librarians have found funding support through the library, Friends of the Library groups, Library Foundations, schools, and other community partners.
  1. Find the Tools: Provenzo recommends the Makerbot 3D printer brand and found it provided an extra option for “stretching their creative muscle.”  Ideapaint, a special paint that turns regular walls in the white-boards, is recommended for the walls to allow users to write plans directly onto walls.  He noted that Makey Makey got the kids thinking about programming and making something new out of everyday items.  Finally, Provenzo invested in Chromebooks for his school’s makerspace which gave kids ability to access Code.org, TinkerCad.com, and other STEAM web sites from home in the makerspace.
  1. Find the Students: Word of mouth helped Provenzo drum up interest in the makerspace.  Many students began hanging out in the library as soon as they heard a makerspace was coming.  They also advertised in the school newspaper, on announcements, and fliers around the school.  Maker contests helped spread the word, too.  Once the equipment and some students made the space home—the rest took care of itself.

All are ideas any sized-public library can use to bring more teens, kids, and creativity into our spaces.   I’m looking forward to the challenge; my home system DCPL, just approved pop-up makerspaces at branches around our system.