How to Build an Amazing Makerspace

How to Build an Amazing Makerspace

The maker movement is the idea that kids need to get more hands on in their learning. It is about nurturing creativity and making stuff (If you aren’t sure why creativity is important in 21st century learning, watch this amazing TED Talk!).

The act of making teaches that failure *is* an option, that we learn from our mistakes, that failing is ok because it is part of the design and prototyping process.

Makerspaces help put the ‘A’ in S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math). Everyone at EduHacking loves the idea of makerspaces in schools, particularly elementary schools. In fact, the school we previously attended had an amazing makerspace built by yours truly, me.

Access to a makerspace doesn’t have to be limited to public school, however. Create an area for making in your home;  it isn’t as hard or overwhelming as you might think.

Create a List:

Write a massive list of every possible item you could include, regardless of price. Unless you have a limitless budget, you will have to pare this down later and move some items to a future wishlist. Wishlists are ubiquitous in makerspaces — there is ALWAYS something coming off Kickstarter that you will need/want! Be sure to include a variety of items from electronics, building toys, robotics, and tech to cardboard construction, hand work items, art supplies, and engineering tools. Some makerspaces include things that were once found in Shop Class, like a drill press, soldering tools, and circular saws. Our school was K-6 so we omitted those. They still had kids shoving marbles up their little noses – enough said.

There are some super handy lists on the net here and here. The one I wrote for our school is below. If you want to download my list in a pdf version, you can do so here. We’re all about convenience here at  EduHacking 😉

Craft-y Stuff:

  • Perler beads, an iron, and some sort of pad to protect counter/table from heat – I had never used Perler beads before. I did not know that we would also need this,  this, and a few trays for kids to work on. Live and learn.
  • Kinetic Sand, trays, and molds – Out of everything we put in our school makerspace, my 1st grader was most excited about the Kinetic Sand! Who knew that kid was so easy to please!
  • Playdoh – Like Kinetic Sand, kids love Playdoh. Adding it to your makerspace is fairly inexpensive, too. Totally random side note, but we have a stash of Playdoh to celebrate National Playdoh Day next fall! How fun is that?!
  • Rainbow Looms – You remember that Rainbow Loom craze from a few years ago? Well, it’s a perfect addition to your makerspace! You can buy new, but we had parents have decent luck hunting them down on local Facebook garage sale pages. Just type the name of your city or area and the words ‘garage sale; in the FB search bar to see if there is one in your area.
  • Duct Tape – Be sure to make these. I also highly recommend getting a book to keep with the duct tape so kids have a starting point. We bought this one, but there are tons out there. You can even rummage through Goodwill-type stores for one.
  • Button maker and supplies – We budgeted for this as part of our annual Maker Fest (post coming soon). Kids LOVE making buttons – almost as much as we loved collecting and wearing them in the 80s.
  • Paracord bracelet supplies – If you aren’t sure what a paracord bracelet is or how to make one, watch this or use this jig to make your life easier. I only learned of them from seeing one at a Maker Fest, but Boy Scout parents are quite familiar with them. You can buy bulk supplies wholesale, or you can order a smaller kit from Amazon that includes the cord and buckles.
  • Beading supplies – Beads have magical powers. We have set a giant tub of beads on a table with string and children are instantly quiet as they dig and dig and dig through the tub looking for the perfect bead. Be sure to include lots of letters and charms as well. You could organize your beads in a divided container, like this, or you can just use a plain tub.

Art Supplies:

  • Crayola Melt & Mold Factory (plus, bin for broken crayons – see our post on storage bins here)
  • Crayons/Markers/Pastels/Colored Pencils
  • ‘Adult’ coloring books – You can buy them on Amazon or at Target. You can also download free printables online. They don’t always print right so it is time-consuming, but if you are on a budget, it works!
  • oversize coloring pagesOversize coloring pages – The picture to the left is one of these awesome prints adhered to an old, metal teacher’s desk that the school said we could have. I just used a can of spray adhesive and trimmed the excess with scissors. Super easy! Kids color on it every day! When this image fills up, I have four more that we can just glue down over it. The paper is thick enough that you won’t see through. I expected it to fill up quickly, but kids color one or two items and then move on to other areas of the makerspace, which is perfect. I have 4 cans of pink, glitter spray paint/primer (yea!) that I will be using over the summer to spruce up the boring gray-green desk. And, I have to say, we have a lot of cool things in this makerspace, but this is one of my two favorites!
  • Hot glue gun (did you know that hot glue guns came in a cool-to-the-touch version? Genius!)
  • Scissors –  regular, fabric, lefties, decorative edge craft scissors (Fiskars). If you hit parents up for these in August, when they are out there buying school supplies, you will get a bunch donated.
  • Glitter – I have one PTA mom that won’t enter our makerspace due to the glitter. It *is* annoying. Think this one through before you take the plunge. You will be constantly cleaning up glitter. In our TechFetti life, with three daughters, we are pretty used to the ubiquitiousness of glitter.
  • Card stock – I buy white cardstock in bulk packs of 250 at Walmart and Target. It’s way cheaper than buying single sheets.
  • Construction paper
  • Glue sticks, glue sticks, and MORE glue sticks (squirt glue works, but we use gobs of glue/paste sticks)
  • Pipecleaners
  • Google-y eyes – because a world without google-y eyes is just sad.

Electronics:

  • Snap Circuits – We love Snap Circuits in our house and have for years. My oldest got her first set when she was in 2nd grade and went through every experiment with her dad. In 4th grade, her class had a unit on electric cricuits and, I kid you not, she ended up leading the class for the teacher. Now, I’m not saying it was 100% due to Snap Circuits — she’s a smart cookie — but the two sets we have sure helped lay the foundation.
  • Chibitronics – This product is genius. Pure genius. Think electronic circuits turned into cool little stickers. Mind-blowing. Mrs. Grossman’s has nothing like this! (That was a 1980s reference, forgive me) These neat little stickers combine with copper tape for some great learning fun. Check out their video, or just go buy some from Amazon.
  • Teknikio – Like Chibitronics, Teknikio takes learning about electronic circuits in a different direction by combining circuits with either origami or sewing. Imagine making an origami swan and adding circuits to make the wings flap — it IS possible!
  • Bare Paint
  • Circuit Scribe
  • LED lights and lithium batteries (CR-2032 3V) – ***These batteries are a choking hazard*** We keep them in a separate cabinet for teachers to access , as needed. There are so many fun experiments you can do with LED lights and batteries. Heck — I am making an angler fish Halloween costume for a certain ocean-loving, seven year old and we are making the blinky light on the fish from an LED and a lithium battery.

Robotics:

  • Cubelets & MOSS Robotics – Modular Robotics makes both of these cool, yet very different toys. The Cubelets are the very next thing on our Wish List;  I am mulling over how we can raise money to add these to our makerspace A.S.A.P. The MOSS Robotics are awesome, too, but they are for slightly older kids so they will wait until the next school year. Check out the video here.
  • Little Bits (awesome TED Talk) – If you have never heard of Little Bits, watch the TED Talk. Trust me. If you have, you know that Little Bits are like building blocks for robotics. You can snap different pieces together to do different things. Each kit — from the Base Kit to the Pro Library — comes with a mini book with a few projects. You can also buy this book for the more advanced learners and, of course, kids like to come up with their own ideas, too. Side Note: Little Bits rarely go on sale. I’d watched them for over a year before we made purchases for this school. However, Black Friday 2016 saw a -20% off sale!! If your budget it tight and you can hold out, wait to see if they run another sale!
  • Dash & Dot – From Wonder Workshop, this is another cool robotics toy for your makerspace that is geared to a slightly younger crowd. It is so much easier to see these in a video than to try an explain to you why you want one yesterday!
  • Sphero – We have one of these bad bays and are currently brainstorming ways to buy more. In the makerspace, having just one is fine because there is so much else to do. It would be nice, however, to have 10-15 Sphero robots, which could be ‘checked out’ by teachers for use in their classrooms. It runs on a tablet so budget for that purchase as well. And, as we found out the hard way, make sure your room has a decent WiFi signal. Without getting into too much technical detail, the IT team had to adjust the ‘points’ (???) to ensure that the signal covered our makerspace room and not just stop in the hallway outside our room!

Hand crafts:

  • Sewing machine & fabric – I really wanted a sewing machine in the maker space. The one above was purchased with help from a Costco gift card donation and another one is being donated by a parent. Yea! Fabric scraps, however, were a really easy donation! We have 4 plastic tubs of scraps for kids to use.
  • Hand sewing kit – I bought a fishing tackle box (above) and put everything you would need to sew by hand – needles, thread, scissors, fat quarters, tape measure, pins, pin cushion, buttons, and safety pins.
  • Knitting and crochet gear – My middle child loves to knit, crochet, and needlepoint. She’s taken classes at the local fabric store and always asks for kits and supplies for her birthday. I figured that other kids would be interested, too. Due to budget constraints, I initially concentrated on the sewing supplies for our makerspace, but plan on adding a tackle box for finger knitting next.
  • Loom – When I say ‘loom’, people either think of those plastic, potholder looms we had in the 70s or they think of ginormous, commercial looms that fill a room. I had no idea that weaving looms existed that allow kids to make things with little assistance, like thisthis, or even this. Melissa & Doug even make a traditional loom that is great for a makerspace. Adding this feature is on my wishlist and will probably be added to the makerspace next fall.

Tech/Coding:

  • OSMO
  • GoPro & tripod
  • Portable green screen and lighting
  • Tablets (with Otter Boxes – hello!) w/audio-video capabilities
  • Cubetto
  • Makey makey & assessories

3D Printing:

  • 3d printer
  • 3Doodler

Cardboard Construction:

Mr. McGroovy’s – Ever since Caine’s Arcade, building stuff with cardboard is super popular and why not?! It’s fun, creative, and cheap! Mr. McGroovy rivets are a super easy way to hold your masterpieces together. Plus, you can re-use them over and over!

Make.Do cardboard kit – Like Mr. McGroovy, Make.Do (It’s a (dot)do, not a (dot)com) has rivets. They are located in Australia and shipping is kind of pricey. What makes it worth it, however, is the super awesome cardboard cutting tools that cut cardboard and not little fingers!

Stash of cardboard, empty toilet paper rolls – This is a really easy way to start a makerspace in your home. We all use toilet paper, right?! We have several recycling bins along one wall filled with donated ‘treasures’!

Bubblewrap – Hello?! Who doesn’t love bubble wrap? We have a whole recycling bin full of the stuff!

Clothespins, rubberbands, wine corks, paper clips, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners – You can grab this stuff from the dollar store and just keep it in open tubs. You never know what you need when you start creating 🙂

Paper Projects: 

  • Origami book & paper – I have no patience for origami. making in homeschoolNone. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Kids, however, can sit quietly and follow along with the pictures in a good origami book.  Also, you can’t use just any paper. I had NO idea! Origami paper is a thin, slippery paper that is very different than just simple copy paper. It is also smaller, usually coming in six inch squares.
  • Star Wars thumb doodles – As a Star Wars fanatic, I seriously love this little thumb print kit and the origami paper below. Star Wars anything is always super popular!
  • Star Wars origami – Again, it’s Star Wars. Plus, you can MAKE the Millennium Falcon! Make. The. Millennium. Falcon.
  • Stamping/card making supplies – We had an amazing grandma decide she needed to part with her entire collection of rubber stamps and card-making supplies so our makerspace has close to 200 rubber stamps, which we love! I have a feeling this will come in handy for at least one class at Mother’s Day.
  • Doodle books – I hate to admit this, but I have been a fan of Ed Emberley’s books since the late 1970s. My kids have been using them since they were about four and STILL love them! I put several in the makerspace in a tub with some gel pens and markers. I also am desperate to get my hands on this doodle book that teachers you how to draw the United States! Maybe I am just a geography nerd, but I think its awesome!
  • Bubble lettering and fun gel pens – Remember making your letters into cool bubbles when you were a kid? The more loopy and creative the better, right?! This book and this one both let kids practice different (and fun) lettering techniques. I put the book in a tub with some scented, Smens pens and some composition notebooks that I got on clearance for .25 cents! Perfect – kids can just grab the tub, take it to a table, and go to town!
  • Cricut machine – The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a beauty and on our Wish List. You can upload images and the Cricut will cut it out for you! Too cool! Plus, the Explore Air 2 works wirelessly, which means the machine itself can be in a quieter area with more adult supervision 😉 I bet our teachers will also love sneaking into the makerspace to use this Cricut machine when we get it!
  • Laminator – We happened to have a laminator from our business that was sitting in a box so I donated it, but every makerspace should have a laminator, just be sure to get one that heats up quickly or you will be sitting around forever. Our favorite project at home is drawing pictures, laminating them in business card size pouches and then attaching a magnet to the back. Voila! Fridge magnet!
  • Book Binder –  A different school we attended had a big poetry unit in 3rd grade and made ‘hard’ book covers out of cereal boxes and contact paper. It was a PITA to cut all that out by hand, if you were a parent volunteer. There are a ton of different options on Amazon for spiral and coil book binders, but they all use an element of heat. This one is similar to one I used for years at a real estate office, and does not involve heat. You ‘crank’ the handle up and down multiple times to crimp the cover tightly onto the paper. Kids can’t pull the pages out and, more importantly, can’t burn themselves! It’s on our Wish List, and it’s another item that I am sure I will also love to use.
  • Paper Cutter – The kind with the big, guillotine handle always seems rather dangerous; we have this one instead.
  • Sticker Machine – This is on our Wish List for next year, but I don’t think I can go another day without being able to turn random images into stickers!

Books & Magazines:

  • Books – Most of these projects/stations work best with a nearby book on the subject. While you want the kids to be creative and to explore on their own, some kids just need a starting point. I wrote a separate post on which books we included in our makerspace — and which are still on our WishList here.
  • Magazine Subscriptions & Display Rack-  To many kids, magazines are easier to flip thru for ideas and inspiration than a book. If you have the budget (or if the school library does), order these: Makershed, Makezine, Stringing, MAKE, and Cardmaker magazines. There are soooo many more to choose from!
  • Printables and engineering challenge cards – I am working on creating some of these for our home makerspace and will post when I do. They are not essential, but would be cool additions for specific dates, like a Halloween engineering challenge or printables to help celebrate International Day of the Dot, Hour of Code, Pi Day, or even Intergalactic Star Wars Day (May the Fourth!)

makerspaces for homeschool

Building Toys:

  • Legos – You pretty much can never have enough LEGOS – ever! You can buy used ones off eBay, hit up garage sales all summer long, and order new, ‘no brand’ versions off Amazon. A Lego stash can never be too big. The white cart on the left side of the picture is mobile so kids can wheel it up to a table, or they can pull a tub of LEGOS off the shelf and carry it where they need to go. Be sure to add some extra fun pieces from Flexo and Brixo – two cool products currently on Kickstarter!
  • Tinker Toys – We had a giant tub of these classic toys donated  by a parent. They are used in various build and engineering challenges. You can buy new ones off Amazon.
  • Goldie Blox (our favorite-ist TED Talk EVER!)
  • Roominate
  • K’Nex
  • Lincoln Logs (making — old school)
  • IO Blocks
  • Tegu Blocks (our family’s personal fav!!)
  • Rigamajig Jr.
  • Q-Ba-Maze marble runs
  • Dominoes
  • Rigamajig – Many Children’s Musuems have these – can you imagine how awesome it would be to have at home?!?

Misc. Decor Items:

  • Magnetic Marble Run – We have this hand-made set from Etsy! We attached a 30″ x 30″ metal sheet ($18) from the local hardware store to the wall. It could be bigger, but our budget was exhausted. Eventually, that whole white bulletin board (above) will be covered in the sheet metal. It is very popular with the younger kids – just watch those noses 😉
  • Idea Paint – (white and clear whiteboard paint) We have two old-fashioned chalkboards that run the length of both sides of the room. Idea Paint is a tad pricey so it had to be moved to my Wishlist. This summer I will probably paint one of the chalkboards with the clear Idea Paint so it still looks like a chalkboard, but the kids can write on it with dry erase markers! The other chalkboard will be left ‘as is’ and is currently stocked with chalk. Maybe Idea Paint will see me tagging them in this post and decide to donate a few cans?!
  • STEM posters –  We downloaded these free ones from the Dyson Foundation and had them printed at Office Max/Depot.
  • Tables and chairs – I added lots of tables and chairs in different shapes and sizes. Partly because it is what our budget allowed, and partly because it felt more creative. Some of the tables have no chairs so kids can just stand and work. We plan to add for Hokki stools (wobbley stools) to the room next year. Amazon sells them in a variety of heights, but the 13-15″ heights works best for elementary kids.
  • Rugs – While some kids are going to sit at tables, others will opt for the floor. We have two fabulous rugs from FLOR; they have amazing carpet tiles that you can combine to make all sorts of awesomeness AND you can pop them up to rinse them off in the sink! How cool is that?! You can see a corner of one in the photo below.
  • LEGO table – I loved this LEGO wall, but I was afraid that making for homeschoolers1) little kids wouldn’t be able to reach well, and 2) I didn’t want to attach plywood to the walls! Instead, we covered a donated table with LEGO base plates and it is AWESOME! We just used a thin coat of Liquid Nails adhesive and smaller LEGOs to space out the base plates properly while the adhesive set. If you need to trim them to fit, just score the backside with a razor blade and the excess snaps off. Oddly (or obviously), this picture was one of the most popular posts on our PTA FB page. Dads who had never interacted with us on FB before were asking when they could come in to the school and play?! ETA: Since posting this, I received another donation of LEGO base plates. They are kinda spendy so I decided to cover a 48″ x 48″ bulletin board with them and add another LEGO surface. The bulletin board is part of an old school chalkboard that runs the length of the room and is a few feet away from where this table sits. I will post more pics when it gets finished.
  • Shelf/Contact paper – Our room came with built-in shelves, which was great, but they were that gray-green, industrial metal and did not lend a creative air to the space. << that’s a really nice way of saying they were hideously ugly! We grabbed some rolls of really cool shelf liner paper from Home Depot and lined the shelves. They are not at every store, but are totally worth it to order online. It added sooooo much color to the room! The entire room has a mismatched, rainbow color scheme that is very cheerful and — hopefully — encourages creativity. In fact, I was originally going to use school colors in the space, but I decided against it. I wanted this room to feel like anything, BUT school! You want kids to enter a makerspace and forget about school and just explore, create, build, right?!
  • Broom, dust pan, and vacuum – between the Rainbow Looms and the glitter, you will need to clean up – a lot!

So, that’s it – HA! Everything you’d ever need to know on how to build a makerspace! Check out this post to see how we are now translating all of this into our home.

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making for homeschool