Monday, May 16, 2016

Maybe My MakerSpace Isn't So Miserable

Making things feels so good. This past weekend, I worked on creating my annual Forest of Reading themed outfit that I'll wear to the Festival of Trees celebration at Harbourfront. Usually I decorate a hat, but this year, after being inspired by a conversation with Sarah Oesch, I decided to try and create a cape or scarf. The material was thin so I had to double-side the images. I feel so productive and accomplished!

Red Maple and Blue Spruce book images on!

Arts and crafts supplies at the ready

While I was busy experimenting with this project, my teen daughter was working on her visual arts assignment - a sculpture. She chose to go in a slightly different direction than her original plans and tried using fabric from my mother's vast collection to clothe her woodland nymph. She's not completely satisfied with the final results, but she has a lot of "next time" ideas for improvement.

Woodland nymph by my talented daughter

I've also been hard at work on my school's yearbook pages. We make them using Photoshop. I'm collaborating with the incredibly talented Andrew Li, former Agnes Macphail P.S. student and now McGill University scholar. We send files back and forth with Google Drive and consult each other through Twitter DMs. 

I'm not the only one making things. The Red Maple Marketing Campaign Team from my school has been in the library almost every single recess this week preparing for the video they'll be filming. I wish I took pictures of their behind-the-scenes work because I was blown away by their attention to detail. The team was working on refining makeup techniques, to make students look much older and/or appear as if they've been in a fight. Their "guinea pig" really looked like he had a black eye! (I hope someone can share with me the photos they took documenting their experiments. They have a Prison Boy Facebook page if you're inclined to like it and support their efforts. The photos aren't up there yet but I hope they will be.)

Seeing these things and experiencing them myself makes my heart a bit happier - because when it comes to my school library MakerSpace this year, I've been seriously discontented. Last year, I launched my MakerSpace and it was small but active and growing. In fact, I helped co-host a TL Virtual Cafe session on the topic. 

Without going into too much detail or placing too much blame, my Library MakerSpace derailed. It had to close and change. The revamped MakerSpace didn't attract the same amount of traffic as before. Other educators heard about my forays into Library MakerSpaces and wanted to visit my location, but I turned them down. I wasn't proud of what I had. It wasn't nearly what and where I wanted to be. I steered people to other, more vibrant Library MakerSpaces in TDSB, such as John A Leslie P.S. or Cliffwood Jr. P.S. I talked with others to see how I could revitalize the space, and Ray Mercer's after-school workshop helped clarify issues relating to my MakerSpace "crash".

I was discouraged, despite the fact that Library MakerSpaces, like school libraries themselves, are all unique and reflect the community.
Seeing my intermediate students rushing in on their free time, with their own supplies, to tinker as they chose, made me relieved. Maybe my MakerSpace isn't as much of a failure as I believed it was. Maybe I was too busy comparing it to the fabulous (but intimidating) examples I've seen online. I need to remember Melanie Mulcaster's words from the previous Tweet, and recognize the successes when they happen, even if they are smaller than others. Our Minecraft Club adventures can be considered a creation frenzy, and even the tinier, tidier MakerSpace that I have now is used and enjoyed, albeit by a smaller group of students less frequently.

Marble pathways MakerSpace exploration

Student-led, student-directed making in action

MakerSpace Minecraft style - building a basketball court to use

Individual Minecraft Making projects exist, like this tower
So I'll try to be less hard on myself but still challenge myself to provide opportunities for students to make things that they want, in their own ways on their time. After all, I've felt the benefits that self-directed building/creating/making can elicit, and I hope my students can experience the same emotions and abilities: pride in flexing their creativity and problem-solving, learning as they go.


  1. Yes, indeed you are a success! I do the same thing ... compare our makerspace to others and have to remind myself that no two makerspaces should be or are alike. We all need to tailor for the needs of our students - and it should evolve according to their readiness and interests. Because it's not what's in our makerspace that is important - it's the voice behind what is in the makerspace that counts.

  2. I too, have the nasty habit of seeing tweets on Twitter and asking "Why can't our kids do that?" I need to stop comparing my space to others. No two makerspaces should be alike because our schools all have students with different needs and interests. The tools in our makerspaces are no where near as important as the voices behind what put them there in the first place.

  3. Absolutely true for all of us I suspect, I do the same! This year our space has taken a turn again, wooden puzzles and the take apart station rule, but virtually no 3D printing this year (takes a lot of time commitment to learn and produce). We call ours the Incubator now, hoping to generate more ideas.