5 Makerspace Projects for Teen Tech Week: Be the Source of Change
The American Library Association’s Teen Tech Week (March 5–11) is a favorite event in many libraries. This year’s theme, “Be the Source of Change” invites many amazing possibilities for activities and events. Here are 5 different makerspace projects you can do in your library for Teen Tech Week this year:
1. Maker Service Learning
The theme “Be the Source of Change” offers an excellent opportunity to practice compassionate making and build empathy in your students. Get students involved in supporting a cause or charity by making something. Ask students what causes they’re interested in supporting, and then connect with a local charity to see how students can help.
Here are a few possibilities:
- Design and construct a Little Free Library for a local neighborhood.
- Sew and decorate pet blankets for a local animal shelter.
- Work with a local veterans’ home or retirement home and plan and design an improvement for their space, such as planting a garden, repainting a common room, etc.
Bonus: For more on the concept of compassionate making, check out Gina Seymour’s fantastic article.
2. Maker Supply Drive
Supply drives are a common way to source supplies for your makerspace. But for Teen Tech Week, instead of planning a drive for your own organization, organize one for someone else. Gather supplies like LEGOs®, K’NEX, Snap Circuits, etc., and donate them to a local homeless shelter or women’s center. Or partner with a local school that doesn’t have access to they types of resources that your school has and help them kickstart their makerspace.
3. Change Agent Design Challenge
This project is a great way to combine history and social studies with making. Challenge students to create a project inspired by someone in history who’s made significant changes in the world. Students will research their figures to come up with their project inspiration. When students have completed their projects, have a video conference with another school where students can share their projects and what they learned about the figure. Bonus points if you collaborate with the school as a joint design challenge where both schools are creating a project around the same themes.
Here are some examples of what students might create:
- A 3-D-printed bust of a historical figure
- A LEGO stop-motion video of an important event that brought about change
- Perler bead pixel art depicting an important figure of change
- A Scratch game that takes you through an important time in history
4. School Improvement Design Challenge
Students can have strong ideas and opinions on how they could make their schools better, and their voices often aren’t heard. For this project, use the design thinking process to have students build empathy, find a problem in the school, and brainstorm ideas of how to fix it. As students work through their ideas, they can create prototypes of the solutions they’ve come up with and test and reiterate their designs. When students are ready, have them present their solutions to your administrators (and maybe even the school board). This gives students a fantastic opportunity to practice their public speaking skills and to make their voices heard. They can be the source of change in their own schools.
Stumped on what kinds of improvements students can brainstorm? Consider these:
- Redesigning a classroom to make it more flexible and student friendly
- Designing a school garden
- Transforming an unused room of the school into a student lounge
- Improving a common practice in the school, such as signing students out, marking tardies, bathroom passes, etc.
Got littleBits? Challenge students to use them to design a device that could help save energy. This project could also be adapted to other materials, but adding the aspect of hands-on electronics can really help students to bring their concepts to life.
Using the Engineering Design Process (slightly different from design thinking) students can plan, design, and create solutions. At the end of the design session, have students share their solutions in a pitch session with the rest of the class in the style of Shark Tank.
In the version of the design process that I use with my students, these are the steps that they take and how they relate to this challenge:
- Identify the Problem: What is a problem that we can solve to help save energy? Using too much water? Lights being left on? Leaving a phone on a charging station?
- Brainstorm a Solution: What could we do to fix this problem?
- Design and Build: What will our design look like? What bits or other materials will we use? (Note: Be sure to include some other materials to use the bits with, such as LEGOs, K’nex, cardboard, arts and crafts supplies, etc)
- Test and Evaluate: Does it work?
- Redesign: How can we make it better?
- Share a Solution: Pitch your design to the class.
- Reflection: What went right/wrong? What can we do better?
Bonus: Check out my littleBits lesson plan for more details as well as the standards that align with this activity.
- Design Thinking for Educators
- Design Thinking for Libraries
- The Engineering Design Process
- Hack the Environment with littleBits
- littleBits, Design Thinking and Design Challenges for Libraries
- Teaching the Design Process in Makerspaces
- Teen Tech Week’s Website
- STEAM + C: Adding Compassion to the Makerspace Because Nice Matters