Last week I set out to put a LEGO wall in my Makerspace. I contemplated a lot about where to put it. My principal had originally bought 50, 10" x 10" LEGO baseplates. My first thoughts included, "Does it make sense to put LEGO baseplates all the way up to the ceiling?" We tried to decide how to put the LEGO baseplates up so that they would get the most student use. Because I am in a K-6 building, I needed it to be closer to the ground for my younger students.
Step One: Tape out the dimensions of the LEGO wall and decide if it makes the most sense for student use and for the space.
Step Two: Buy your materials.
There were several things we needed to buy in order to successfully put up our LEGO Wall:
Step Three: Use the concrete screws to drill your plywood to the area on the wall where you would like your LEGO Wall.
Step Four: It is the most important that the first LEGO baseplate that you put on is level- If it's not, the entire LEGO wall will be crooked. Take your LEGO baseplates and put Liquid Nails adhesive on the back of it, then put adhesive spray on it as well, and then place it in on the plywood.
Note: When you are placing LEGO baseplates, make sure the little LEGO logo is facing upright.
Continue placing the baseplates on the plywood until the wall is complete. Make sure you place LEGOs over the spaces between the baseplates, so there is the appropriate amount of space in between and it creates a cohesive wall.
Give the LEGO wall at least 24 hours before using. This should be enough time for the glue to dry. Then you can take off the LEGOS and give the students freedom to play and create structures off your new LEGO wall!
Here's what our LEGO wall turned out like:
Special thanks to Diana Redina and her blog post about an Epic LEGO Wall that helped guide our process.
I feel it's safe to assume that this question probably stops most people from beginning the process of creating a Makerspace or STEM Lab. But please... Don't let it stop you! Try not to be scared of the idea just because you went to visit a school with an unlimited budget to building their STEM Lab. Your students still deserve a space to explore, invent, and create. You can fund a Makerspace or STEM Lab! Here are some ideas to help you along the way:
Start by picking one or two pieces of small technology that you think students would really enjoy and teachers can make a clear connection to curriculum. Put these items into your DonorsChoose project and email it out to all of your family and friends. I know, it seems annoying, but it's also a tax-deductible way of people to support education. Some of your friends and family will be happy to contribute to a good cause. Here's my example project.
Look into some grant opportunities that would support the development of a Makerspace or STEM Lab. The TeacherGeek website compiled a list of possible grant options for STEM, STEAM, and Makerspace areas. They are worth looking into and finding out of these grants could fund your vision for a Makerspace/STEM Lab at your school.
3. Reach Out to Community Businesses / Organizations
Connect with some owners or managers of businesses within your community. Some businesses are happy to support education if they see a value in your vision. I was lucky enough to get connected with a manager at a local cellular town who let donated 25 refurbished phones and virtual reality goggles to our school. I had to pilot the program and sell him on the benefits, but because of his generosity our school was able to travel virtually all around the world and really live our learning! Some other businesses that may help support your Makerspace or STEM Lab vision could be Walmart, Kmart, Ace Hardware, McDonalds, Hardees, movie theaters, ice cream shops, or local coffee shops.
4. Ask for Donations from Parents/Guardians
At the beginning of my Makerspace project, the first thing I did was create a poster that we could send to parents asking for any old or unwanted supplies. These could be a great (free) start to your space. There's so much you can do with just cardboard!
5. Create a Fundraiser
Be creative! Think of ways that your community can help support your Makerspace or STEM Lab dreams. Some ideas that come to mind include...
Be Okay with Starting Small
You will never feel completely ready to start your Makerspace or STEM Lab. If you're beginning the journey with materials that students can use to create and invent- You're on the right track. Take your time and research the items that will best fit the needs of your students, teachers, and school. Remember, this is all about doing what's best for kids!
My goal is to have my elementary school Makerspace fully developed within three years. To be more specific about my definition of a 'fully developed' Makerspace, here is what I envision...
This Thursday I was lucky enough to visit a Makerspace and STEM lab that has been successfully running for over a year. Dain (@DainElman), 'STEM Lord' within his district, showed me around these unique spaces. The rooms were both strategically developed last year after the entire library was cleared out and redesigned.
The Makerspace created at Dain's school came from a space that was previously the librarian's office. The newly designed area gets digitally checked out every day by teachers. This space been used to create models of cells by science teachers, recycled art by art teachers, and even rock climbing holds by the gym teachers. I grew intrigued to hear how each different subject area in the middle school had used the space in a unique way. The area Dain used for his Makerspace definitely didn't have a shortage of supplies to spark creativity for students or teachers. When I first walked in, I noticed the piles of cardboard, recycled materials, wood, beads, glue, tools, and tiles. Anything you could imagine that could be used to create something was in this space. Dain had acquired many donated materials from an outside organization, but he mentioned supplies was also regularly dropped off from teachers after they were done cleaning their basements. I couldn't help but feel like this Makerspace was basically a workshop. The area exuded the possibility of creating anything- What a great space for students to create inventions and projects in their own personalized and creative way!
The STEM Lab was across the library and filled with technology and creative spaces for students to produce work. This area stored Makey Makeys, Spheros, LEGO Mindstroms, a Green Screen kit, 3D Pens, LittleBits, a 3D printer, and so much more! Dain shared with me that the space doesn't get used as much as the Makerspace, but the technology classes regularly use this space and give students time to explore new technology. I loved the amount of space that students have within this room to collaborate and work. Dain also had a neat display of older technology (pictured below) that students could observe. There's an old Macintosh computer, dial-up phone, older televisions, and typewriters.
I gained some great ideas from my visit and started to contemplate if I want a hybrid -Makerspace/ STEM Lab at my school. My visit to Dain's school gave me a much clearer vision of what I think I'd like at our elementary school. The feedback and reflective data that Dain had accumulated over the course of the year was powerful to consider while continuing on my journey.
As I work through redesigning and rethinking the library space, there are times when I need some motivation. In order to get some library space inspiration I look to my PLN to give me some drive. Here are a couple of blog posts and websites I've used to keep thinking outside the box:
Looking for some library furniture inspiration? These sites made made my furniture wish list quite a bit larger:
I've also put a lot of time into reading peer-reviewed articles on collaborative learning spaces and libraries. The Teacher Librarian journal always has some great reads.
Learning about other teachers/schools and how they renovate their library space to intentionally fit the needs of students gives me high aspirations for the new developments at our school. I hope these resources can help you as much as they have inspired me!
Hyman, S. C. (2014). Planning and creating a library learning commons. Teacher Librarian, 41(3), 16-21. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.cuw.ezproxy.switchinc.org/docview/1504427625?accountid=10249
Steele, R. (2015). Learning commons or maker space?: Don't forget the library.Teacher Librarian, 42(5),19-20.Retrievedfrom http://search.proquest.com.cuw.ezproxy.switchinc.org/docview/1701883683?accountid=10249
Photo by Unsplash.
In order to find a sufficient spot for the makerspace, I really had to rethink some of the areas in the library and how they were currently used. One corner of the library was used to store professional texts for teachers. My before pictures aren't the best, but it does show how the area is closed off from the center aisles of the library.
Goal: My goal for this area was to make it more open and conducive to student learning. Secondly, I wanted to put the professional texts in a different location that was out of student's reach. Furthermore, I thought it was important to move the shelving to create a makerspace area and leave room for a LEGO wall.
Assessment: I had to assess the library and find a new spot for the professional texts to go. I was lucky enough to find an empty built-in shelving unit for the books to go. I thought this would be a better place for the professional texts because they could be closed off from students, but still open to staff members.
Once I was able to move the professional texts into this built-in cabinet, I was left with TWO empty book shelves... We had a TON of professional texts. Some of them were outdated and need to be started through, but for now the goal was to find a new area for them. This shelf was not being used and solved my space problem.
As soon as I cleared off the shelves, we were ready to move the space around. Here are some pictures of our moving process:
The Finished Space:
These books and DVDs were previously on the front and backside of this shelf. I put all of the contents of this shelf on one side. This saved space on the other side for makerspace materials.
We are planning on putting our LEGO Wall in this space. There was an outlet on either side, so I am still thinking around how we want to deal with that.
Overall, I am estatic with how the makerspace area turned out. I'm also impressed with how much room we have for technology and makerspace storage.
However, I'm starting to realize that redesigning the space may have been the easy part... I still have quite a bit more to accomplish with this library. Here is what's left on my goal sheet:
Thanks again to my husband and his extremely strong friend for their heavy lifting!
In order to truly develop new library spaces I had to get the all of the books off of the shelves and strategically think about this redesign. I cleared out the books and just looked at the shelves to help give me an idea of how I could move them to best fit the needs of the students.
Goal: My goal was to create open spaces for students to read and collaborate in this area of the library.
Assessment: I assessed how many desktop computers were in the space and how they were used. There were previously seven desktop computers on one edge of this area. The staff and principal confirmed that these computers were rarely used, considering their is a lab right next to the library. I also had to assess how the plugs and ethernet cords could be stretched to create a new design. In addition, I created several open layout designs that would fit the students' collaboration needs.
Problem: These shelves proved to be extremely HEAVY. I thought that my husband and I would be able to move them, but I grew to learn that I wasn't nearly strong enough to move those shelves.
Solution: Luckily, my husband has extremely strong and kind friends. His friend showed great patience while I came up with a plan based on how the shelves looked when they were moved.
Problem #2: I also ran into a problem when I found out one of the shelves was bolted to the wall.
Solution #2: I had to redesign a space and keep that shelf where it was originally.
Here are some of my 'before' pictures:
The picture below was taken once I stripped all of the bulletin boards and posters. This was the original layout of the Easy Fiction section of the library.
The picture below shows the original fiction shelving layout. This is one of the first places library-goers see when they walk in - The back of a shelf! My goal was to open this area up and have it be used for a reading area with flexible seating and an area that promotes collaboration.
The slideshow below shows the process in which we moved these shelves. We had to clear off all the books and I had my super strong helpers do the heavy lifting!
I left the library feeling more accomplished than I have throughout this whole library redesign process... We rebooked the shelves with the new library design layout for fiction books. It looks PHENOMENAL. I even had some teachers come in and compliment how open and inviting the space looks from the doorway!
Here are some pictures to show our progress:
After finishing the redesign of one section of this library, I have to say... There is a reason these shelves have not moved for so many years... They are SO EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to move- mostly because of their length. The double sided shelves were nearly impossible to move without having scooters and strategic thinking. Overall, I'm so happy with the way these shelves have been moved to create an inviting feel while you are walking into the library.
A special thanks to my husband and his friend for their help moving these library shelves and make my vision come to life!
One conclusion I've come to since talking to numerous people about their makerspaces is that no two makerspaces are alike. In my opinion, the most daunting part about schools and teachers taking on the implementation of a makerspace in a school is that there does not seem to be a clear cut definition of what one looks like or consists of.
Makerspace Materials. Some of the makerspaces I have seen include mass amounts of technology, some include just scrapbooking materials and crafting supplies, some include power tools... Some of the makerspace areas seemed complete and several seemed like their collection of supplies was growing.
MakerSPACE. In addition, the spaces in which these maker spaces exist can depend on the school, library, or facility. Several I went to don't even have a space! One makerspace included mobile technology that teachers can check out or use around the school. Here are a couple photos of examples I've seen:
The more I look into the process of implementing a makerspace into our library, the more I realize that the school defines the purpose of the makerspace. My school needs to decide what they want out of that space. Is it a place to play? Is it a place to complete challenges and problem solve? Is it an area that teachers can check out interesting technology? Is it an area that students come to on their free time? There are so many possibilities!
In order to analyze the current library design I had to go to Google Sheets and create the current library design. This gave me a birds-eye view of the space I have and how I could potentially move things to create the spaces our school desired out of the library.
On the second tab of the Google Sheet, I wrote down comments about where I wanted to move things in the library. Additionally, I wrote down ideas I had on how the space could be used.
I recently obtained the position of Librarian/Technology Specialist at a K-6 elementary school. Through this position change I inherited a large, beautiful library. While thinking through my library redesign there were a couple questions I needed to ask myself before I created a plan.
1. How would the school like to use this space?
Answering part of this question is simple: Obviously we use this space to store a collection of books that inspire students to read. I also want space for students to read comfortably. In addition, there should be an area for teaching lessons and a reading corner. It is my hope that we can also use this large library to create a Makerspace in one corner of the room and some collaborative work spaces for students.
However, I cannot answer this question alone. I need to talk to students and staff about what they would like to use the library space for as well. (More to come on this!)
2. What are the goals of this library redesign?
Through this library redesign I would like to create a place that inspires a love of literacy. I want the library to be an area of technology exploration and creative, design thinking. I know the students must be yearning for a more 21st Century feel to this area. Furthermore, it's important that the library is a place where students can come work together on projects.
3. How can we get funding and support for this redesign of the library?
Our school is starting with essentially no technology for our makerspace. We can get donations from parents and community members to start our makerspace projects. These donations could include cardboard, legos, pipe cleaners, craft sticks, modeling clay, beads, and pom poms. In addition, grants will need to be written for more technology options and some collaborative library furniture.
After thinking through the larger parts of this library redesign, it seems more likely to generate a plan over the course of three years in which the library will be fully developed and redesigned. However, through this process I am certain that I can create a purposeful and collaborative space in which students are excited to read, explore, and learn!