More and more, teachers are looking to empower their students to be creators, makers, and engineers. In the land of open-ended problem-solving, few things are more enticing than creating a makerspace. But what exactly should go in a makerspace? What would a makerspace look like if you spent less than $200 setting it up?
The first question is the most important: what is your makerspace for?
Makerspaces are for creating, tinkering, and experimenting with materials. They exist to give students a chance to transform their ideas into three-dimensional prototypes. Makerspaces are a place for a child’s imagination to meet up with their goals to make an idea real.
With these initial observations, we can begin to start equipping a makerspace, staying focused on remaining under the $200 budget for durable supplies.
The first must-have in a makerspace is materials to create with. I strongly recommend collecting cardboard and clean plastics en route to being recycled. These materials are easy to find, and everyone using the makerspace can frequently contribute a paper bag worth of materials each month. To help wrangle in the materials, consider using two extra-large moving boxes (available at Home Depot for $2.38 a piece) or two 64 quart latching storage boxes (available at Home Depot for $9.98 a piece). I also strongly recommend using one plastic shoebox per student to store projects in process. These boxes can be easily acquired at the Dollar Store for a dollar each. Additionally, you can buy 4 additional plastic shoeboxes to store your tools and smaller consumables. For a class of 24 students, a plastic storage solution will run $50. Containers with lids make for easy stacking.
The next must-have items are tools to create with.
It is impossible to overstate the value of high-quality scissors and hot glue guns. Additionally, having a collection of Phillps head screwdrivers enables students to punch holes. A wire cutter is another good investment. I strongly recommend Fiskars Duck Edition Scissors ($13.99 apiece) as these scissors are excellent when working with duct tape. Student scissors should have a visible screw that can be seen from both sides as plastic joinery can fail easily. Staples carries the Fiskars Student 7.1” Stainless Steel scissors for $6.29 each. Hot glue guns should call for low-temperature sticks; you can find hot glue guns for under $4 apiece at many craft stores. There are diverse screwdriver sets available for under $15, and you can find a wire cutter for under $8. I typically recommend a ratio of 1 pair of student scissors and 1 glue gun for every 3 students. Additionally, it’s good to have two longer handle scissors and 1 screwdriver set per class. With these ratios, you should be able to get tools for 24 students for under $140.
Regarding other consumables, it’s always good to keep an eye out for sales on duct tape and hot glue sticks. Additionally, rubber bands, pipe cleaners, wire, and yarn can be a valuable addition to your space.
Of course, you might be reading this and thinking “Hot glue guns? Really? With my students?” That’s a fair observation. It’s also a sign that your students might not be ready for a consumable-driven makerspace. If you are uncomfortable with your students using hot glue guns, I strongly advise that you use LEGO in your makerspace. And it’s still possible to set up a LEGO makerspace for less than $200.
Managing a LEGO makerspace well means providing students with open-ended prompts rather than a focus on providing directions. It’s amazing what students can create when you challenge them to make a submarine, a fireplace, and a car. To maximize your investment, I recommend purchasing 3 “Bricks Bricks Bricks” kits from the LEGO Classic line (https://www.lego.com/en-us/product/bricks-bricks-bricks-10717). These sets are $59.99 each. I suggest dividing the pieces amongst 8 to 12 plastic shoebox containers to facilitate pair-based creating in the classroom. Measuring out pieces with a measuring scoop can ensure maximum variety across each bin.
When starting a makerspace, remember that your students’ creativity is the most important component. Happy creating!
Want more on engineering, check out Lindsey’s site all about engineering education – Opportunity Unlocked.
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