How to Make Plans for Your Makerspace Over the Summer
Summertime is a wonderful time of the year. It’s a chance to relax and recharge. The school year can be so chaotic that it’s often hard to find the time to try new things, brainstorm big ideas, or do the research on ideas you want to try out.
While it’s important to take some time for yourself over the summer to rejuvenate, it’s also a good idea to spend some time getting ready to make the next school year awesome. And that can include making plans for your school makerspace, whether you already have a great program going or you’re hoping to get started for the first time. Here are some ways you can get ready and make plans over the summer:
Look for Ideas and Inspiration
Summer is a great time to start doing research for your school makerspace and getting ideas and inspiration. Books, blogs, Twitter, and visiting makerspaces in real life are all great sources for getting the gears in your head turning. There are so many great sources of inspiration out there now that it’s hard to fit them all in one post.
Learn Through Books
When I first began researching to start my makerspace at Stewart Middle School, there were only a handful of maker books geared toward schools. Now there are so many more. You can find great books with different focuses that can help you with whatever your goals are. Here are some of my favorites:
- Invent to Learn: The classic. This is the first maker book I read, and I still consider it one of the greatest. The authors just came out with an updated edition.
- Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces: Nick Provenzano’s book is a fantastic guide for both first-timers and seasoned makerspace veterans.
- The Big Book of Makerspace Projects: Do circuits intimidate you? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to learn more about 3D printing. Colleen and Aaron Graves’s book is a great way to find new maker projects to learn about and try out. This is also a great resource to make available to students; we keep a copy on our resource shelf in the IDEAlab.
- Makers with a Cause: Want your makerspace to make an impact outside of your school? Want to engage in service learning in your space? Then check out this book by Gina Seymour.
- Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace: I wrote this book in collaboration with Colleen and Aaron Graves to help you to amp up engagement in your school makerspace with design challenges. It includes examples of design challenge prompts for all grade levels.
Find Inspiration on Blogs and Twitter
There are plenty of fantastic blogs out there and tons of educators on Twitter sharing what they’re doing in their makerspaces. The amount of information can sometimes be overwhelming. Don’t try to take it all in at once — find a few sources and focus on those first. For social media, start by following hashtags like #makerspace, #makered, or #elemaker (for elementary makerspaces). These hashtags can be great ways to find new people to follow, and they can also work for questions you want to ask the hive mind. I have a list of some of the #makerspace and #makered folks that I follow on Twitter; it is by no means exhaustive, but it can be a great place to start.
Here are a few great blogs to check out:
If there are any local makerspaces in your area (or makerspaces where you might be traveling), you should definitely visit them this summer. Take a class. Try new tools. Ask lots of questions. Let them know what you’re working on in your school. I connected with Tampa Hackerspace in the early days of my school makerspace and they were happy to help out. They came to our early Maker Fests as special guests, and some of the members donated to my early crowd-funded projects.
Also, be sure to check out your local museums. Science, art, and children’s museums often have makerspaces or maker-type areas, and they often have great summer programming. Even if they don’t have a makerspace, you can observe the types of exhibits and displays they have to get ideas.
Make sure to also look to your local public library system, as more and more public libraries are getting into makerspaces and are happy to help out teacher librarians.
Research Different Maker Products
Makerspaces are not about the stuff — they’re about the experiences. But the stuff can help enhance those experiences, so it needs to be considered. The summer is a great time to start researching different maker products that your students might like. What kinds of things are your students interested in learning? What tools or products could help them? Read reviews. Look at options. And if you can, try some out yourself.
Do a Maker Test Drive!
To teach makers, we must become makers. So during the summer, do some maker test drives. Buy a maker tool you’ve been considering for yourself and play around with it. If you have kids (or nieces or nephews or friends’ kids) around your students’ ages, try out the tool with them and get their perspective on it. This can be a great way to familiarize yourself with a new tool. It can also help you develop a rationalization for purchasing more if you feel it would be of benefit to your school makerspace. Don’t forget to do maker test drives at your local makerspace and science museums too. They often have great maker tools that you can try out for the cost of admission.
If you’re looking for some project ideas to try out, make sure you check out the Demco MakerHub. It has lots of great project ideas that you can search by product, subject area, and grade level.
Bring It Back to School
As you go through your maker test drives, make sure to take lots of notes. Think about which products and tools would work well with your school. Start developing lesson plan ideas and look for ways you can connect these items to your curriculum. Your ideas don’t have to be fully fleshed out or perfect yet, but they’ll help guide you in planning how you can bring these items back into your school makerspace to use with your students and teachers.
Brainstorm Larger Changes You Want to Make
Summer is a great time to dream big and think about the larger changes you want to make. What is a big goal for your makerspace that you never have enough time to work on? Maybe you need to research grants to fund some new tools or changes to your space. Or maybe you’ve been eager to begin collaborating with your science teachers and bringing their classes into the makerspace. Perhaps you haven’t started your school makerspace yet, or if you have, it hasn’t quite had the results you hoped for. It might be good to spend some time planning how you can build a maker culture within your school.
Whatever the larger change is that you want to make, take some time to sit down and write it out. Break down the bigger change into smaller, actionable steps that you can take over the summer.
Here’s an example of a bigger goal and how you might break it down:
Goal: Collaborate more with science teachers
- Reach out to science department head.
- Get copies of the various science curriculums and standards used at your school.
- Read over them and highlight portions where you think time in the makerspace could be an asset to students and teachers.
- Pick one curriculum connection (preferably early in the school year) and create a rough outline of what the lesson might look like.
- Reach out to science teachers who teach this unit and ask to work on collaboratively developing the lesson once the school year resumes.
And while you’re brainstorming ideas and working on your goals, don’t forget those smaller, more doable changes. Maybe what you really need is better storage and organization in your space, and spending a few hours with some helpers putting up a pegboard will make your makerspace that much better. Or maybe the issue is that you never labeled all your storage bins because there was never time. Summer is a great opportunity to catch up on smaller, nagging projects that you just don’t get around to in the school year.
A Summer of Learning
Take advantage of the relaxed, slower pace of summer. Get some rest, have new experiences, and start to dream about the future. If you plan ahead and spend some time reading, researching, trying out new tools, and making big plans, you’ll be well prepared for an awesome school year ahead.