Creating a makerspace – what are the next steps?

We are working our way through the steps we will need to create a makerspace or innovation center at our school.  This week, I was asked to respond to a number of questions that may allow us to get some funding for this project.  I am adapting my responses into a blog post to keep a record of the steps we will need to complete to come up with a successful model.

What you are trying to accomplish

We want to develop a center for innovation at St. Anthony School.

Every day more is written about makerspaces and the benefits these centers offer students. We have experimented with Makey Makey kits and littleBits in the past, but now we want to take a more comprehensive approach.

Our idea is to create a center for innovation in our school for the use of our students and the wider community. The components of this center are certainly up for discussion, but the important idea is to create a space for creativity and innovation in our school and a concept that can be shared with other schools in the years to come.


How will  integrating “making” into the classroom contribute to developing a new culture of learning?

This is a segment from the first blog post I read on Maker Spaces written by Eric Sheninger, the author of Digital Leadership.  This is the post that got me first thinking about how to develop a makerspace in the school.

Over the past couple of months, the staff at New Milford High School has been diligently creating our own unique learning environments for our students. Building on the success of our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative and with the addition of a new, innovative staff member two noteworthy advancements have been made since September 2013. That new staff member is Laura Fleming and she has done nothing less than blaze a trail since joining the NMHS team. She embraced the autonomy that she was given in a position that functions as a librarian, media specialist, and educational technology integrator to push the envelop. Lucky for her, NMHS already had many innovative teachers on staff and students yearning for changes in how and where they can learn since NMHS is an ancient building (i.e. 1928).

LED stools at the Little Bits bar at NMHS
LED stools at the Little Bits bar at NMHS

Creating Our Own Unique Learning Environments

One of the most amazing transformations that has taken place at NMHS is the creation of the Makerspace in what was our traditional library. A space that could once be compared to a barren wasteland is now a thriving learning metropolis where students flock to tinker, invent, create, collaborate, work, and most importantly, learn. When I hired Laura I basically told her what her budget was and that she had complete control of how she wanted to use the money. I could never have imagined how quickly she could radically transform this outdated space, using money that in the past had always been spent on books, magazines, and electronic databases. Some quick highlights include the following:


For a comprehensive listing of important articles on Makerspaces, Luc Lalande from the University of Ottawa – one of our partners – has provided these reference articles:

 The Maker Movement and the Rebirth of Constructionism

Meet the Makers

The DIY ethos has spilled into schools, reminding educators how much students can learn when they use their hands.

The maker empowered student: Activating agency with a sensitivity to design

What can educators learn from the maker movement?

Innovation Spaces: Supporting individual actionmaker 2

Maker Education: A “Good” 2013-14 Educational Trend

Why the Maker Movement matters to educators

3D Printing Will Be Adopted by K-12 in 5 Years

I would add another article that I read today:

 How to Turn Your School Into a Maker Haven

one quote from the article:


Kids want to make an impact on the world and very often they are more motivated by contributing to the common good than to anything else. Many kids will design and build incredible things, but then put their templates online so someone else can improve on it. Those are the qualities educators should try to nurture in students. “All we have to do is open up the classroom doors a little bit and let them change the world,” Martinez said. “Because they want to.”


 What is the value of the project to kids & community?

The most important idea is empowerment, this is expressed best in the Mind/Shift article:

“Perhaps one of the most inspiring results of the Maker Movement is the creative confidence young people are developing. “The best thing that happens is a student completely exceeds your expectations,” Martinez said. And when students do things they didn’t realize they could do, they feel empowered.”

Who are your  partners?

This is one of the great joys of this project – we are bringing people together from many different sectors – there is a great creative synergy within this group!

Luc Lalande – Director of University of Ottawa Entrepreneurship Hub

Tracy Crowe – Assistant Director, University of Ottawa Faculty of Education

Marlaina Loveys – Blockheads Learning

Allison Burnett – Algonquin College

Rick Alexanderson – St. Peter High School Personal Robot Teaching Environment


The link to the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education is especially important as we are expecting to recruit student teachers who want to work on and develop the innovation center at St. Anthony.

One important idea – we feel we will need a Maker Week to introduce this concept to teachers and students. Our partners will help us to develop a ‘Maker Week’ where various aspects of maker culture are introduced to students and staff over a five-day period.

One of our partners, Marlaina Loveys has come up with a wonderful way to jump start our Maker Week:

I have been giving some thought to what type of fun event we could do to get everyone excited about the Innovation Centre.  I would like to propose that we select a theme – LEGO Stop Action Movies.

I am envisioning each class have the opportunity to be inspired by previewing some LEGO stop action movies (I can pull together a bunch from You Tube) then the teachers/students (I would love to be there too 🙂 brainstorm to decide on a theme or ideas for their Stop Action Movies.  I would provide all the LEGO for a hands on activity where they build the scenes and we could use the school IPads and either the LEGO movies, Stop Motion or Windows Movie Maker software (all free) to create the movies.

watching lego movies?
watching lego movies?

Then, we could have a school movie “night” where the whole school could watch the movies.  We could incorporate a lot of other maker/entrepreneurial activities into the movie night event.  For example:

  • Students create posters and tickets for the event
  • Make it a drive in theatre theme and use cardboard boxes for students to create cars.  Goes with the idea Allison had about cardboard creation.  I will send a separate e-mail with some pics I found on Pinterest of these types of creations others have made.
  • Maker Junior – maybe she could come up with some sort of wiring/lighting maker project to add to the movie night
  • Concession stand to sell popcorn/juice, etc. which could be an entrepreneurial project for the older students which links back with Luc

These are the kind of ideas that will make this such a special project!

I will continue to use this blog to record the progress we are making towards the innovation center.  What, I wonder will be the next step?







Developing a makerspace for our school

This year I have read lots of interesting posts on makerspaces and I think it is time for us to just jump in.   I love the idea of creating spaces at school that encourage kids to be creative and innovative.  From the little we have done so far it is amazing to see how engaged the students are when they are given the opportunity to innovate.

We started out with one piece – a 3D pen.  The pen can make all sorts of 3D shapes, the design of these shapes is limited only by a student’s imagination. Yesterday, one of the grade 4’s showed me a fishing rod she made with the pen.  The primary students were fascinated by this creation and immediately wanted to know when they could try it out.

our first ‘maker’ tool – a 3D pen!

We then purchased a bunch of Makey Makey kits.  These were an immediate hit with the junior students.  They were totally caught up with all the different things they could try out with the kits.  The students catch on very quickly and are quickly inventing new ways to use the kits for a whole variety of purchases.  It is really interesting to see what can develop from the use of these kids.  One of the grade 4 students remarked to his teacher that because of the kits he had experienced a great day.  When asked why he said that he felt valued in the class because others were asking him how to make the kits work.



makey makey kits 1




Our makerspace is portable so we are now moving it from class to class – today the grade 5’s get to try it out.  They were already asking when they would get a turn with it yesterday.

We have added two chromebooks to the space and today we added two Spheros to our collection.  The Spheros will allow students to develop some programming skills for the two sphero ‘robots’ that we have purchased.  The grade 4’s have already started to research how they can use this new tool.

We also plan on picking up three littleBits sets.  These sets will allow students to create with circuit boards and craft materials to make new creations.

The terrific thing about all these new tools is that it squarely puts the students in the driver seat.  They are able to use their imagination to explore new inventions.  This is very exciting for the teachers who are experimenting with the kits.  They see the value in using these new tools as a way to encourage their students to try out new things.

Ultimately, we hope to get a 3D printer to complete our makerspace.  With help from community partners we should be able to get one soon.  We don’t have the funding for this machine, but we have developed a crowdfunding proposal that we hope will allow us to raise the money we need to get one of these printers.

What will be the end result for our students?  The sky is the limit!  We are all very excited about the future of our new space – who knows where are students will go with their new inventions.


makey makey 2


one of our new Sphero kits
one of our new Sphero kits

     The grade 4’s work with the makey makey kits


Enhanced by Zemanta