Our library at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, CO is an active hub for extracurricular activities. We host an Anime Club, monthly Poetry Slams, and Book Buddies, but I felt like we could do more. I wanted something that I could tie to student learning which would promote inquiry, giving students opportunities to solve problems and find answers to questions.
My assistant and I began looking at innovative library programs and community partnerships. Many of the teacher librarians in my professional network have been expanding their libraries by adding makerspace opportunities, classroom collaboration, and even 3-D printers. I used these folks as inspiration. Libraries across the country are doing what libraries do best: continuing to explore and reinvent the purpose of the library and what they offer to their patrons.
Makerspaces are a natural evolution for libraries. We need to make the resources available to our students that will help guide their inquiry and exploration. Who can predict what our students will create when given the space and tools necessary?
No need to reinvent the wheel
We have great models to guide us as we select the equipment to purchase and the procedures to follow. I was lucky enough to have the cofounder of the very successful community makerspace, Tinkermill, volunteer in my library. He encouraged me to visit their campus several times to see their woodworking and metalworking labs and their huge 3-D printer area. Most importantly, through this, we started to grasp how individual creative ideas could grow into an invention or huge collaborative effort fed by resources and very smart people. We garnered lots of advice and initiated some great partnerships. We even had Tinkermill members donate to our makerspace. They, along with other librarian colleagues, helped us figure out the resources we needed to acquire, experts to contact, and a direction to pursue as we begin to set up a makerspace within our library. While we are still very much in the planning and early implementation stages, things are coming together. We are in the process of setting up a workable location, have ordered supplies, and have begun promoting our program.
Where to get the money?
There are several online fundraising sites to help raise funds for our venture, such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe.com, and adoptaclassroom.org. You can even sign up for online fundraising with PayPal. We chose to use DonorsChoose.org and I’m glad we did. DonorsChoose has a great model for fundraising. They walked us through what we needed to do to be successful. For example, we briefly described our students and school, wrote about our project, and pitched the sale. A quick online shopping trip filled up our cart, and then we began promoting our project. As people donated money, we wrote immediate thank you notes, and before we knew it, our project was funded, which was a pretty big deal. We also received a grant from our district and local school education foundations to help us purchase a 3-D printer. Each funded grant added up and now we have a solid initial toolkit to offer our students.
This week we will receive our first purchases. To launch our makerspace, we decided to start with the following tools: the Arduino starter kit, Snap Circuits, light and motion kits for simple circuitry concepts, Cubelets, the Sphero Robotic Ball, and a Makerbot Replicator2 3-D printer with supplies. We will soon begin our student-centered Makerspace club, guided by community volunteers and myself. It is amazing how interest grows and new connections are made. Several volunteers come from Tinkermill, while others were grant readers or donors for our project with interest in its success. Others just started showing up, hearing about the project through word of mouth and local press. These Makerspace volunteers will assist with mentoring, training and learning, and recruiting other experts to work with our kids. As we grow, student projects will inform how we move forward. Their interests will direct who we seek out to collaborate with and the tools we’ll need to acquire to meet their needs.
Embarking on this journey has been, and continues to be, an incredible learning experience for all involved. Neither my assistant nor I are experts in this field, but we refuse to let that stop us. I fully anticipate that our students will be kind as they teach us what they discover, and what they hope to create.
Phil Goerner is a teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School, Longmont, CO.
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