Creating in the Elementary School Library Makerspace

Tammy Pretz (elementary school librarian) writes on the elementary school library makerspace, a selection of stations where students can create freely with a variety of resources. 

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Our elementary school library makerspaces offer students a wide range of open-ended exploration opportunities in an informal, cooperative learning environment. The makerspace areas throughout our library provide students with educational and social experiences that allow them to extend their learning collaboratively in whatever direction and way they choose. Students are always identifying problems and creating solutions. Making in our library also encourages a growth mind-set that tolerates risk and failure. It is not about the stuff and it’s never quiet in our library— the space is always buzzing with activity.

The library makerspace began about two years ago, but grew significantly near the beginning of this school year. It features various stations where students can make and create and we are constantly adding to our existing stations, creating new stations and mixing up old materials with new materials.

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In our engineering area of the library we sponsor a monthly LEGO design challenge. Some challenges this year included: create a marble maze, build a pinball machine and engineer a moving amusement park ride.  At the “tinkering table” students have taken apart old equipment, repurposed plastics and used scraps to make new creations, such as toys, robots, jewelry and more. In the crafting area students are always thinking of ways to use materials and make something for a specific purpose and audience.

When posed with the problem of what to make using clothespins, washi tape, hot glue and cardboard, a group of students decided to work cooperatively to design and build a cardboard dollhouse and clothespin dolls for our kindergarten students to use during library classes. Pipe cleaners have been used to make finger puppets for a play students wrote during recess. Students have used scrap cloth and yarn to learn to weave on the cooperative weaving loom this year and then created their own cardboard looms to design their own bookmarks. Recently, a group decided that they were making yarn pom-poms with no real purpose, other than they were fun to make. After doing some research on crafting with pom-poms this group of students decided they could all work together and make a pom-pom rug for the library.

The new stop-motion station has become a favorite place to create and collaborate with other students during recess this year. There is never a dull moment during recess in the elementary library makerspaces and we’re always keeping it fresh. Marc L’Heureux (elementary school principal) says that the library’s makerspace “is a starting point for kids to become creative entrepreneurs, thinkers and problem solvers. The goal with design is for kids to see it as an everyday thing to do on a regular basis.”

Next year we will be adding more opportunities for students to tinker with circuitry, new building and crafting materials, as well as a new video/sound production area.