I never used to think of myself as an early adopter, but over the years, I’ve come to realize that’s exactly who I am. I also suffer from a condition known as FOMO, fear of missing out. So, when Makerspaces started getting more attention, I went all in. I wrote a successful Donor’s Choose project and acquired all sorts of materials. Most of which have seen embarrassingly little use.
I did it backwards. I got all the ‘stuff’ without thinking about how it would be used in my elementary library. (Btw, I’m sticking with the term library. I don’t think we help ourselves with our frequent name changes. Just as an athlete’s role changes when he/she transitions from professional athlete to broadcaster, so too can the library’s role evolve with the times. Shaq didn’t change his name. I’m not changing mine.)
Anyway. I got the stuff. I cleared the space. The kids came and… played.
I questioned whether they were learning anything. I so wish I had explored this ‘Thing’ before I dove in. This SLJ article in particular addressed my concerns and helped me realize that not only is it okay to have stations that require some direction from me, it’s advisable. I had been operating under the idea that a true Makerspace should be wholly student driven. I provide the materials. They provide the ideas. This might be more realistic in middle and high school, but not for my building. As anyone could predict, giving elementary kids rolls of duct tape and scissors results in sticky scissors and wads of duct tape that make fun projectiles. I appreciated Laura Fleming’s approach in having different types of stations to accommodate both the free form creation and more directed type, especially at my level.
This year our library clerks were cut and my principal decided that classroom teachers would be required to stay in the library with their classes. I felt a lot of pressure to make sure that my lessons contained content that wouldn’t seem like a waste of time to the teacher forced to stay. Sadly, the makerspace just didn’t seem to have a place in this model.
I have high hopes that next year will be different. I still won’t have a clerk, but now I’m armed with research. I also attended a fantastic conference session called “Engineering Through ELA” by Clay Nolan that presented some really cool options for integrating STEM and literature. I think my teachers will appreciate this novel approach. I’m undecided about whether I’ll include the STEM challenge as part of the lesson or as a choice activity, but I definitely want to get back to giving the kids some hands-on building and making activities. I think it’s an important way to include all different learning styles.