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!