Making opens up a world of infinite possibilities for our students. According to Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Those words have never been truer than in the world of making. Students are inventing, designing, and creating prototypes to solve real world problems, today. Making gives every student the opportunity to discover their own genius and share it with the world. Help them do this by starting a maker club on your campus.
Start With the Logistics
When would be the best time to hold a maker club? Since the majority of my students ride the bus home or participate in extracurricular activities, I needed to find time within the school day that was open to all students and inclusive of all ability levels. Lunch time was the perfect solution! Students voluntarily bring their lunch to the library and can participate in coding, robotics, 3D design, and circuits and even have the opportunity to connect with special guests. As your club grows, you may need to find a larger location or create a schedule for your students. In my case, I have over two-thirds of the student body in our club; therefore, I rotate grade levels on different days to ensure everyone has time to participate, including me.
Developing a calendar of maker activities allows you to plan for needed supplies, instructions, and time. If you are just starting out, you may want to offer some low-tech options for your students such as arts and crafts.
- Cardboard challenges are an innovative option to start your students designing and problem-solving with chain reaction machines, mazes, prototypes, and more.
- Duct tape has become an art form unto itself, and you can find a wealth of ideas for makers, parents and educators on the Duct Tape website.
- Paper crafts, such as origami, are more popular than ever. Challenge students to create works of art inspired by the American Museum of Natural History’s origami exhibition.
High-tech activities add a new dimension to a maker club, and below are three of my favorites.
- Tinkercad is a free option to explore design thinking and the 3D printing process for students who have no previous design experience. Students can enter the TCEA 3D Design Student Contest and share their creations.
- Makey Makey is a design lab in a box. The Makey Makey Labz offers lessons and inspiration on every subject for incorporating Makey Makeys into your club.
- Stop Motion Animation films are easy to produce and give your students the opportunity to write, direct, and plan a production. Films can be incorporated into all content areas
Just remember, even “the best laid plans of mice and men go awry” and problems may arise during an activity, but be flexible and ready to adjust. Many times our mistakes turn out to be our greatest learning experiences.
Need Funding for Your Maker Club?
Funding is always a top concern when implementing a maker club. My best advice is to be creative!
- LEGOs, material, cardboard, Playdoh, and much more can be donated by parents and community members to help stock the makerspace. Most schools have social media accounts that can be utilized to ask for donations. In my experience, the community takes pride in helping our students.
- Donors Choose, Limeades for Learning, and other philanthropic organizations offer help in funding your maker initiatives. (Here’s a great blog on how to get such projects funded.)
- Many public schools have education foundations that offer grants and funding for teacher programs. The volunteers that serve on education foundation boards are committed to providing the best possible resources for our students.
Maker clubs can have a far reaching impact on our students. By providing a space that fosters creativity and innovation, we provide a culture that values the genius of every student.
This is a guest blog by Michelle Cooper, who is the library media specialist at White Oak Middle School (east Texas) and the Area 7 Director for the TCEA Board. She is a co-founder of #TXLchat on Twitter which provides a forum for Texas librarians to create collaborative connections, share educational resources, and foster lifelong learning. Michelle is the 2016 TCEA Library Media Specialist of the Year, the 2016 Tech and Learning Leader of the Year, a Wonderopolis Wonder Lead Ambassador, a Makey Makey Ambassador, a Certified Google Educator, and has been awarded the 2016 TASL MVP Honorable Award for Excellence. You can learn more about her and what she does in her library here and follow her on Twitter here.