Out of the Box Approach to Planning Makerspaces

Don’t think outside the box…Think like there is no box. ~ Unknown

One of the most rewarding experiences in writing my second book (The Kickstart Guide to Making GREAT Makerspaces, Fall 2017) has been having the honor of being able to highlight and showcase GREAT makerspaces far and wide. In doing that research, I discovered some unconventional spaces that clearly have taken an out of the box approach to planning their makerspaces.

Despite the many space out there that are essentially exactly alike, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning a makerspace. Makerspaces should as unique and meaningful as the communities they are in. It is my hope that the links and spaces below can a new and unique perspective on what makerspaces can be. Each space described below is unique, emphasizing different skills or themes. Although some of these spaces are not in K-12 schools, there certainly are things we can learn and apply to educational makerspaces.

The Scrap Exchange

The Scrap Exchange’s mission is to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse. Since 1991, they have been collecting materials from local businesses and residents and distributing these reclaimed materials through a variety of programming.

Textiles Makerspace

This Rutgers Makerspace for textiles allows makers to make apparel, curtains, handbags, E-textiles, pillows, and much more.

Fashion Makerspace

Fashion Makerspace is built to bring back the culture of DIY & dressmaking skills back into the hands of the designer. They are a one-stop-shop combining community, fashion design and dressmaking. A cooperative setup for kids, teens & adults to pick up new skills, upgrade and sustain their love for creating clothing & accessories, Fashion Makerspace envisions building a space where people can come together to mend, create & bond through knowledge & craftsmanship.

Community Service

Check out this Maker Care program…STEAM + C for compassion…created by Islip, NY Library Media Specialist, Gina Seymour. Gina dedicated a portion of their space to compassionate making. Their MakerCare program provides opportunities for their students to make a difference in the community through making. Each maker project benefits a person or a community agency.

Makerspace for Seniors

On the S&S blog, they make a case and outline a plan for creating makerspaces that serve our older population, in nursing homes or assisted living communities.

Disney Internal Makerspace

Disney has a makerspace and it might not be what you think. The purpose of this facility is to help spark creativity for its workers by fostering collaboration and bridging the gap with the tech community.

Meteorology Makerspace

Meteorology proved to be a relevant and authentic theme in the lives of young Oklahomans who survived the devastating 2013 tornado in Moore, so the Irving Middle School Library Makers’ Club adopted a meteorology theme. Students learned some fundamental concepts on meteorology, acquired digital and technology skills, and collaborate on students-driven projects. It is the hope that the ideas generated by the students in the space will benefit themselves and their community.

Storytelling Makerspace

The New Hanover County Public Library created Story Place, a storytelling makerspace in the Children’s Department of the irMain Library in downtown Wilmington, NC. Their space is equipped with cutting edge technology and manipulatives for parents to explore with their children while creating stories. It promotes family interaction through storytelling and reading at several different stations:

  • Music Recording
  • Film Making
  • Animation
  • iPad station for story creation, printing, and reading
  • AWE Early Literacy Station with Educational Games
  • Flannel Board Station
  • Puppetry
  • Interactive Panels
  • Reading Nook

Religious Makerspace

Joy Berry, a professional religious educator in Asheville, NC, suggested that through makerspaces, religious education can be as hands-on, innovative, and creative as possible and that perhaps the best way to do that is to hand them tools now and give them the opportunity to grow knowledge and skills, becoming problem-solvers who really can change the world.

Health and Wellness

Ever consider a conscious consumer angle to makerspaces? The MakerNurse community provides nurses with tools, platforms and trainings to create solutions that address their needs or their patients’ needs. This article pushes this idea a step further and suggests: What if the hospital makerspace wasn’t just open to the nurse, but to a patient who has an idea that will benefit his own care?

For Profit Makerspace

Igniting an entrepreneurial spirit in our students, is part of the power of having an makerspace. New Jersey educator, Chris Aviles, leveraged this students lack of exposure to entrepreneurship, brought entrepreneurship to his students by creating a for-profit makerspace. At the center of this initiative is Gizmos, an online shop in which every student has their own online store. Students are in charge of every aspect of their store: they can name it, design it, stock products, create coupons, host sales, advertise, and do everything else an entrepreneur needs to do.

Humanities and Cultural Data

Curtin University Library Makerspace hack and make with cultural data.They even held a Curtin Cultural Makathon, which was a collaborative one-day event between the School of Media, Cultural and Creative Arts, and the Curtin Library makerspace, that brought hackers and makers together to hack cultural datasets and heritage information. The brief was to use government and institutional research data, gallery, library, archive and museum information as data sources to experiment with data to create something accessible or beautiful and/or useful using craft, games, augmented or virtual reality, apps or something else.

Book Makerspace

The Minnesota Center for Book Arts is dedicated to leading the advancement of the book as an evolving art form. It aims to advance the book as a vital contemporary art form, preserving the traditional crafts of bookmaking and engaging people in learning, production, innovation and creative expression.

Digital Humanities

Like culinary, design, art, farming? The DH Makerbus in London Ontario is all Digital Humanities, which blends digital technologies with traditional humanities subjects like literature, anthropology, and the history. The MakerBus was created as an expression in their shared interested in the digital humanities and their shared desire to create meaningful change in their community.

Nature Nook

One of my personal favorite spaces is the Nature Nook of Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. This outdoor makerspace began with students transporting natural materials from the woods into this space to be able to build and create. The space evolved into a multi-sensory nature-based play area, complete with a water pump, shovels and a range of natural materials with which to build and create.

Don’t be afraid of taking and out of the box approach to planning your school’s makerspace. For more on uncovering a makerspace that is unique and meaningful to your school community, check out my book on makerspaces, along with my course, Creating Spaces for Students to Make.