The MakerEd 100 ‘Must Do’ List

Looking for MakerEd ideas for your makerspace? Below is an EPIC bucket list of 100 awesome activities, inspirational ideas and gigantic goals for making, along with links to instructions, tutorials and related MakerEd resources. This is my personal list that I’m currently working through. I use it for focus and inspiration. I hope that it will inspire you.


PS. Did I miss one of your favorite MakerEd activities? Leave a comment below and let me know!

The MakerED 100 ‘Must Do’ List:

  1. Host a Popsicle stick bridge challenge – Popsicle sticks (or ‘craft’ sticks) are an awesome medium for young engineers and makers to work and design with. A huge box is dirt cheap and will last you all school year.
  2. Build a Rube Goldberg machine – Is a giant marble track is running the length of your library wall? A stuffed monkey in a basket zip lining through the middle of your lessons? If so then you’ve discovered the joy and wonder that making Rube Goldberg machines brings out in students AND teachers!
  3. Do some collaborative teaching – Making is a great way to foster collaboration with your peers. My adventures building Rube Goldberg machines came out of a desire to assist another colleague with a unit on simple machines. What better place than a makerspace?
  4. Buy a robot – Just… trust me on this one. Your kids will love this one almost as much as you will!
  5. Have a robot battle! You could have competing bristle bots wage war in the arena of annihilation, or you could challenge students to see which team can pop the other team’s balloon. A great ‘how to’ tutorial for bristle bots can be found in The Big Book of Makerspace Projects by Colleen Graves.
  6. Chase your cat with a Sphero – I haven’t laughed this hard in years. Does this make me a bad person? 
  7. Play Robot Soccer – This video from Jon Trede is pretty awesome.

  8. Challenge another Makerspace! – Few things are better in life at bringing out the best in people than a little friendly competition. I recently read about one school makerspace challenging another makerspace to build catapults. They in turn were challenged to build an operation game with Makey Makey. Both schools then shared and celebrated their creations.
  9. Read a book like Laura Fleming’s ‘World’s of Making – If you’re new to the whole makerspace movement, then this book is a fine place to start. It was one of the first books on the subject that I read when I was just starting to dip my toe into the making waters.
  10. You could also read ‘The Art of Tinkering’ by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich. I’ve had a lot of colleagues recommend it to me and it’s the next read on my book pile.
  11. Robot tag? Yes, it’s completely silly and very, very fun.
  12. Enjoy a round of robot golf – Why wait till Sunday to hit the links? This week students will be transforming my library into a mini-golf course – complete with water hazards! The goal is to have students challenge their peers to program a Sphero Sprk+ to navigate the holes that each team has designed.
  13. Code your robot through a maze – Robots are a great way to teach coding, and tasks like this make the abstract challenge of coding much more tangible. Plus trying to get your Sphero SPRK+ through a maze is ridiculously fun…sphero sprk+ vhs maze
  14. Do some robot art – Building Littlebits doodle bots is a ton of fun, as is painting with your Shpero SPRK+ 
  15. Build your own ‘MakerED Learning Network’ – Jim Rohn once said: “You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” This idea is true in most areas of life, including making. Which making voices are you listening to on a regular basis? Who is inspiring you each morning and fueling your imagination with great ideas? Some fabulous MakerEd voices I keep in my circle include:
  16. Host a Makerspace Pro-D event – You don’t have to a MakerEd ‘Jedi Master’ in order to facilitate a discussion group. But by starting a discussion in your school district you can inspire others and help build a community of making.
  17. Host a Maker Meetup with Connecting with other makers is a great way to share ideas, information and get inspiration. has a great article about the benefits of doing this which you can read about here.
  18. Attend a Makerspace conference – Be prepared to make new friends, get new ideas, and have a blast.
  19. Visit a maker Faire
  20. Have a gear swap – lend and swap resources with other makers in your school district in order to create new making opportunities, test new resources and make your own budget go further.
  21. Have a school wide cardboard challenge – packing tape, glue and cardboard are all you need to create some epic builds and design awesomeness.
  22. Watch Cain’s Arcade. It’s inspiring.
  23. Have your kids build a retro game station – Remember those afternoon game-a-thons from your misspent youth? Even if years ago your gaming system made it’s way into a landfill (or recycling depot), recreating it is easy, using a Raspberry Pi and this tutorial.
  24. Become a Digital Maker – The worlds of computing and traditional crafts and hobbies needn’t be separate. Amazing things happen when you allow the traditional and the digital to overlap, like some of these examples of wearable tech from Make Magazine.
  25. Try some coding – If you’re nervous about coding then here’s some good news… coding has come a long way from when I was a kid. Visual languages like Scratch are designed expressly for teaching coding, are easy to learn, surprisingly powerful, and have a massive community of online users ready to offer ideas, inspiration and support. Scratch is free to use and has a wealth of well written tutorials that will get you and your kids coding in no time.
  26. Have your students code a video game – There are so many good scratch game tutorials out there One young man in particular with the YouTube name of McGuy is cranking out a number of first rate tutorials for games in Scratch.
  27. Build a Santa Catcher – Using Scratch and a Raspberry Pi you can prove that ‘jolly old Saint Nick’ really does exist!
  28. Build a high tech Raspberry Pi powered bird house
  29. Create your own pirate radio station – has a fabulous tutorial for this. With just a Raspberry Pi and a few extra bits your makerspace can be pumping out the hits over the airwaves!
  30. Turn your Raspberry Pi into a Weather Station
  31. Make the world’s cheapest green screen – Don’t break the bank purchasing a green screen setup for video. All you need is a little free wall space, some sheets of green paper, some masking tape, and one of dozens of  free apps and you are all set to have your kids do their video presentation against a background in France, or their report on outer space from OUTER SPACE!!
  32. Design some rockets – Using little more than a 2 liter pop bottle, a bike pump and this tutorial, you might just launch the next generation of aeronautic engineers and rocket scientists.
  33. Create some WOW! moments
  34. Launch a potatoe into OUTER SPACE! 
  35. Subscribe to MagPi Magazine. You can download the PDF for free or purchase the hard copy, which helps fund the publication. At the time I’m posting this, MagPi is offering a FREE Raspberry Pi Zero W with every subscription. Works for me 😉
  36. Host a science fair
  37. Hack some Lego !
  38. Have a paper airplane design challenge
  39. Make a Makey Makey banana keyboard – This is serious fun, and is the makerspace equivalent of coding ‘Hello world!’
  40. Why stop at 5 keys when you could build an 88 key piano!
  41. Try making a photo booth with Makey Makey or follow this tutorial from Colleen Graves to make your own candid camera.
  42. Hack some poetry
  43. Build a ‘Bookie Monster’ – An extra special thank you to Colleen Graves and the Makers over at Scotts Ridge Middle School Library Learning Commons for this wonderful idea. I have 4 young makers who are busy deconstructing this project and building a version in our own library.
  44. Have a laser maze challenge! Can’t you just hear the Mission Impossible theme…

  45. Build a musical staircase – It’s official. I’m not allowed to retire until I pull this off at my school.
  46. Take your Makey Makey to the next level – Check out Makey Makey Labz for project ideas, guides and a gallery full of MakerEd inspiring projects.
  47. Use Making to solve a real wold problem – My Vice Principal Jason came to me last week to talk about the challenge the school was having to get more students to use the outside recycling bins. We came up with the idea of modifying the ‘Bookie Monster’ concept to sneakily introduce recycling containers on the playground that ‘burp’ whenever a piece of recycling is deposited! More on this to follow…
  48. Have some fun with paper circuits!

  49. Explore conductive ink
  50. Get inspired by what’s possible – This project by Jie Qi  shows the beauty that can be created when we integrate art and technology.
  51. Go nuts with 45 Paper circuit projects from’s book ‘Paper Circuits for Makerspaces’ – The book is jam packed with great projects and easy to follow diagrams.
  52. Make your own squishy circuits
  53. Get in the habit of re tweeting and sharing great MakerEd content – If you see an awesome tutorial or an inspiring project then share it with the world!
  54. Host a guest maker – Within your school community you’ll have a number of parents and fellow teachers with some remarkable skill sets. Why not invite a carpenter, artist, engineer or coder to be a guest maker in your space?
  55. Let students take the lead – Many of your students also have some remarkable making skills. Why not encourage one to lead a making activity?
  56. Have an ‘I want to make…’ board – Beg borrow steal or buy a small bulletin board and let students post their ideas for making projects that interest them.
  57. Post project ideas in your makerspace and make building challenge cards – Often these can be a great way to get students started and spark some excitement.
  58. Build your own whiteboard tables – Take your old battered tables and turn them into inspiration generating machines. With just a little elbow grease, a product like IdeaPaint, and the willingness to bend a few school rules, my principal and I were able to turn several old tables into brainstorming design centers. The image from my previous article was actually drawn on one of these tables: 7 things I wish I'd known about starting a makerspace
  59. Film some white board animations
  60. Try making clay-mation films
  61. Give yourself permission to take some risks – We know that kids learn better when we eliminate the fear of failure. The same is true for teachers. The next time you have an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone – go for it! What’s the worst that could happen?
  62. Remember you are allowed to fail – Not all of your projects are going to work out. That’s OK…
  63. Value process over product – Most ideas take multiple attempts to be successfully realized. Celebrate and highlight the ideas, attitudes and efforts, not the outcomes.
  64. Explicitly teach the skills of collaboration
  65. Build a language of making – decomposition, iteration, prototyping… get these and similar words into your student’s vocabulary.
  66. Have a catapult challenge
  67. Have a Lego build off
  68. Make a Lego table – Cut base plates to size and then glue them to an old desk to create a designated Lego building center.
  69. Build an EPIC Lego wall – The first time I saw this I was over at Diana’s website She has a great tutorial for putting together your own Lego wall, and her site is one of the best places that a new maker could go to get ideas, information and inspiration for how to get their MakerEd journey started. 
  70. Share a Pep Talk – One of the things about my makerspace that I love is that in here we don’t just help people make things, we help make people aware of their own potential. Sprinkle a little inspiration in between your making activities, with something like this:
  71. Celebrate effort and Promote Resiliency
  72. Get creative with K’nex – Students can spend hours designing incredible inventions with this design toy. I even found a tutorial for this incredible marble track over at 
  73. Build the tallest tower – This challenge can be done with plastic cups, marshmallows and pasta sticks, playing cards, just about anything you can think of…
  74. Build a geodesic dome 
  75. Conduct a Pop Up Book workshop 
  76. Build a culture of creativity, curiosity and kindness
  77. Set up a public building station outside of your library or makerspace
  78. 3-D print something
  79. Build a paper roller coaster – There are great opportunities for learning principles of math and physics with this incredibly engaging engineering challenge. A wonderful set of templates can be purchased from
  80. Build a paper home for the 3 little pigs that can’t be blown over by the big bad fan… 
  81. Introduce Origami 
  82. Run a cartooning workshop
  83. Prank your principal with a little help from Silly String, a Blynk Board, and this tutorial from SparkFun:
  84. Start an after school maker club
  85. Subscribe to Make Magazine. This publication is loaded with excellent tutorials and gets me inspired to ask ‘What can I be doing in my space?’
  86. Make some magic! – There are literally hundreds of magic tricks that require very simple props that can be constructed as part of a makerspace activity. There is a lot of science and engineering behind magic, and a makerspace is the perfect place to explore it!
  87. Start a ‘Spy School’ – Host a maker unit around spy craft topics like codes, disguises and other spy gear!
  88. Make and break some codes – Getting students to make and then learn to break various types of codes is incredibly engaging and develops a broad range of problem solving skills.
  89. Conduct a ‘Turing Test’
  90. Build a ‘motion detection squirt gun’ using your Arduino and this tutorial from
  91. Create a laser turret with your Ardiuno and this tutorial from
  92. Try one of these 10 great Arduino projects for beginners from
  93. Make a musical instrument out of light (and an Arduino) 
  94. Write and share your own making tutorial – You have some special skills and interests, so why not share one of your projects with your fellow makers?
  95. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable – All the magic in life happens just 6 inches outside of your comfort zone, so why not commit to stepping just outside of your comfort zone at least 1 time per week and doing something new? Try it and amazing things will happen… Trust me, I know from personal experience!
  96. One way you could make yourself step outside of your comfort zone is to grab your copy of ‘The Big book of Makerspace Projects’ and flip to a random page. Whatever project you turn to, make that your goal for next week!
  97. Pinch yourself and realize how lucky you are to be having this much fun doing something that you are wildly passionate about!
  98. Make your own list – There is something powerful about writing out your own goals. Think of 10 things you’d like to make with your students this year, write them out and then post your list where you’ll see it every morning. I keep my list by my coffee maker, so I’ll see it every morning and keep my goals front of mind.
  99. Add a ‘must do’ MakerEd project to this list – leave a comment in the comments section below with your awesome MakerEd idea and if it sounds good I’ll credit you and add it to this list!
  100. This last space is for YOU! What ‘must do’ MakerEd project or activity would YOU suggest?

7 Things I Wish I’d Known about Starting a Makerspace

Are you thinking about starting a makerspace? The idea is exciting… but figuring out how to start can seem daunting, and it can be easy to talk yourself out of starting a makerspace before you even begin.

Below are 7 things that I wish I’d known about getting started with makerspaces back when I was thinking about first taking the plunge.

7 things I wish I'd known about starting a makerspace1. The best way to learn is just to just jump in.

“It’s difficult to learn to swim without getting wet. You can read about swimming, watch an educational DVD on water safety… but at the end of the day if you want to learn how to swim you really do have to get in the pool. Learning about makerspaces follows the same principle.”

Before I started the makerspace program in my library I spent several months on the edge of the pool trying to wrap my head around exactly what a school makerspace was supposed to be. But the best way to understand what a makerspace is would be to just take the plunge and start making things with your kids in your space! Trust me – you will figure it out as you go! This leads us to the next idea that…

2. You don’t have to be perfect – There are no makerspace police who are going to show up in your classroom and say ‘That is NOT how you are supposed to do a makerspace!’ I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a while to really understand this, and that this fear actually held me back.

3. You can just dip your toe in – Starting a makerspace doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing…’ You don’t have to make a big splash, plant your flag and declare to your school community that you are now running a designated makerspace program (although that’s certainly a fine way to go). You can simply start by saying to your kids: “Today I thought we’d try making something” and start slipping a few making activities in to your regular program. Grab a copy of Coleen Graves‘ excellent ‘Big Book of Makerspace Projects’ and have a look. You’ll find dozens of easy to teach makerspaces activities that will get you and your students excited about the possibilities of having a makerspace!

4. Start with what interests you – When you’re first getting started you might want to begin with activities that you really enjoy. Knitting, computer coding, crafts, paper circuits, Arduinos… it’s all good! Passion is infectious – if you are genuinely excited about it then there’s a good chance your kids will be to.

Pretty quickly you’ll find yourself branching out and confidently empowering your students to start making in areas that interest them, but there’s nothing wrong with leveraging your own expertise and passion and beginning with maker activities that keep you in your comfort zone. For me, I can’t be trusted not to burn my library down with a hot glue gun, but when I realized that I could take something I loved like coding with scratch to get kids excited about making, I started to see the possibilities!

Not sure what lights a spark in you? Why not head over to and see all the amazing projects that they share… you’re guaranteed to come away with several ideas to inspire you!

5. Seriously… it’s not about the gear – Yes, some makerspace programs have a kick ass maker lab. But other equally successful makerspace programs just use a mobile maker cart. This one just happens to have a bike attached 😉 but I started with a spare library trolley.









All the available gear out there is pretty awesome, but it’s easy to get distracted by all of the cool tech that’s available for making.

As Sylvia Martinez  correctly points out:

what making is and is not
















Yes, I’d love to get a space that looks as wonderful as Judy Bowling’s  (I LOVE her giant Lego bricks) but it’s what you do in the space that you have that counts.

6. It’s OK to turn them loose – I’m a recovering control freak, and the idea of a kids working on a dozen different projects does at times cause me to grind my molars. But here’s the thing… it’s actually pretty awesome! Amazing learning starts to happen when you turn kids loose in a guided culture of inquiry and wonder.

Yes, I often have specific making challenges. Sometimes I have making centers. But some day’s it’s completely student choice and that can make for some great opportunities for students to develop collaboration and design skills, problem solving and resiliency. You can be open ended in terms of projects and products while still being very rigorous in terms of helping your students to develop the skills necessary for success in the 21st century!

7. Your kids will have a blast – Makerspace activities are serious fun. If I’d known just how fun, I would have started sooner. Much sooner.


So how about you? What’s holding you back?


Makerspace Challenge: Big Bad Fan VS. the 3 Little Engineers

Grade 4 makers had a special makerspace challenge on Friday. Using only their wits and the scissors, tape, glue and paper found in each bin, they needed to create a ‘wolf proof’ house. The house needed to stand at least 1 meter tall and 20 centimeters wide.
makerspace challenge: the big bad fan vs the 3 little engineersHilarity ensued as teams attempted to plan design and then test their structures against the big bad wolf and his 3 breath settings:

  1. ‘Huff and puff’
  2. Hurricane
  3. What the Heck just happened to my library???

One of the things that I really loved about this makerspace activity (besides my wolf fan) was that the activity was a great way to teach revision and resiliency!

Too many of our kids simply quit or shut down when a task is unsuccessful on the first attempt. But with this task, the expectation is that your first attempt is probably going to get knocked over – and that’s half the fun!

This activity was inspired by:

  1. The fact that I have a giant fan sitting in my library. Up until last Friday I had no idea what to do with it, other than turn it into one of these in order to save money on holiday airfares…
    Early flying machine | Antique Scientific Illustrations
    Early flying machine | Antique Scientific Illustrations








2. I’d seen many other clever makers pull of similar activities using a hair dryer!

This then got me to thinking: “What other stories might make for some good Makerspace-literacy connections?”

Here’s a few ideas that spring to mind:








too tall houses














What books do you think would make for great makerspace activities?


Building a Geodesic Dome Reading Fort

Junior makers build geodesic dome structures:

What’s more fun than making a snow fort in your back yard? How about making a geodesic dome reading fort in your school library!

geodesic dome







We had a huge dump of snow this week and the kids were having great fun making snow forts on the playground.  This made me think about the cool project I found in ‘Make: Paper Inventions’ and I thought: ‘Why not build a fort in the library?’

This geodesic dome was constructed almost entirely by the grade 2 and grade 3 students visiting my library. Students built the struts out of tightly rolled recycled newspaper. They then worked in teams to assemble the triangles and piece them all together.

young makers







Big payoff for little cost:

One of the big payoffs of doing this project was the ‘WOW!’ factor that it brought to the students’ library visits. The kids were so excited to be a part of the building process. They’d keep poking their heads in throughout the day to see how the structure was progressing!

The other big payoff was the teamwork and resilience that my students needed to Develop. A makerspace provides a great environment for kids to learn to take risks without a fear of failure.

teamwork and resilience







A safe place to take risks:

Too often in the classroom, students are afraid to try something new for fear that they might ‘get it wrong’. But a makerspace is such a safe place to explore that students are often shocked to discover what they are capable of achieving.

Having a makerspace really helps build on the mantra that ‘every student can be successful in the library.’ We wound up with an awesome learning experience that culminated in an impressive structure.  We also had one of the more memorable story times that we’ve had in a while!

My biggest challenge with this project had to be getting the roof on. I had to balance it on my head like a hat while the edges were secured with tape! Thankfully I was the only person with a camera…

Now I’ve just got to figure out what to do with all of the library furniture that’s been pushed to the side!

10 Strategies for Funding Your School Makerspace

10 ways to find supplies and increase your makerspace budget!


Are you new to makerspaces? Are you wondering how to find funding and supplies? Have you gotten your feet wet in the makerspace pool and are now looking to dive in to the world of robots, Arduinos and 3D printers, but need funding?

This article contains 10 proven strategies for finding resources and funding; including one strategy that recently helped raise several thousand dollars of funding for technology innovation at my school! This is intended to be a comprehensive guide – these strategies range from the quick and simple to the utterly audacious!

Feel free to scan the headers and then delve into the strategies that seem most interesting for you. And if you’ve got a second, thanks for leaving a quick comment about which strategies you intend to try!

Happy Making!



  1. Start with what you’ve got

There’s a common misconception amongst people new to the maker movement that you need impressive equipment like a 3-D printer or a laser cutter in order to start your own makerspace.

Not true!

I love high tech gear, but some of the best makerspace activities need only materials that we already have in abundance in our library and classroom spaces – like paper!

Right now I’m doing an origami unit with a grade 4 class. The kids are having a blast as they ideate how they can use the simple folding strategies I’ve shown them to develop their own creations. You can find my first origami lesson here.

2. Think ‘Dollar Store STEM’


You can generate a whole lot of awesome yet remarkably inexpensive makerspace activities with just a quick Google search for ‘dollar store stem ideas’ or ‘inexpensive makerspace projects’.

If you’re a parent of young children, then you’ve probably had that experience where on Christmas morning your child was having more fun with the box that a gift came in than with the actual gift… This really emphasizes the point that makerspace activities don’t require expensive gear to be engaging.

Just yesterday I found some impressive dollar store stem activities in my twitter feed. Have a look here.


3. Ask fellow teachers and staff for help

“Never underestimate the power of asking!”


This September I acquired several hundred dollars’ worth of K’nex and Lego in just a few short days simply by asking the staff at my school if they had any in their classroom or at home that they’d be willing to donate. Many people have boxes of these types of resources stored away (and grown up kids off at college) that they will gladly share with you… if you ask!

4. Garage Sales and Craigslist


If you don’t have a lot of dollars in your initial budget to spend but are willing to invest some of your time, garage sales and Craigslist can be a fine way to find some of your initial makerspace resources.

A few weeks ago I found a 20+ pound tub of Lego for sale for $25 on Craigslist. Considering that used Lego tends to sell for upwards of $10 per pound, I categorized this under ‘major score’!

The real cost associated with ‘garage sale’ supplies is your time, but here are a few quick tips to help minimize your time commitment and get the most ‘bang’ for your buck…

Quick Tips:

Invest your time wisely – I’ve found time that not all neighborhoods are created equal when it comes to garage sale hunting. I live in a nice neighborhood, but my neighborhood has a large senior demographic. Investing my Saturday mornings garage sale hunting close to home doesn’t often yield what I’m looking for. But if I drive for 15 minutes to a nearby middle class family neighborhood, I usually come home with some great finds for my makerspace!

Your time is precious – when garage sale hunting, be sure to invest your time where it is most likely to yield results.

Use Craigslist Alerts – Anyone can view items for sale on Craigslist, but by taking 2 minutes to set up a Craigslist account you can set up daily email alerts to let you know when desirable items come up for sale in your neighborhood. There are some very good deals on Craigslist, but good deals tend to go quickly to the first person who responds to the ad. Using alerts helps you snap up some of those bargains.

Note: If you do use Craigslist alerts, I find it helpful to make them specific so I don’t have to sift through too many alert emails. ‘Bulk Lego’ or ‘assorted Lego’ is more specific to my desired search and keeps my mailbox from getting filled up with less relevant results.

Bonus: I also make alerts for common misspellings like ‘Knex’ instead of the correct ‘K’nex’. This can result in some great finds.

Negotiate price – If an item is fairly priced, it’s usually better to just pay the asking price rather than risk losing out on a good deal. However, I have found that often I can get a better deal on an item that’s a little too expensive simply by asking! I know not everyone enjoys haggling, but here’s a very simple formula for negotiating a price that seems a little high – without confrontation:

  1. Pay an honest compliment
  2. Explain your position
  3. Tell them what your budget is

It really is that simple. When I see something that has been for sale on Craigslist for a while that I like but where the price seems a little out of reach, I’ll often contact the seller with a note like this…


Hi [person’s name],

I saw your ad on Craigslist listing an [x] for sale. It seems like a very nice item and your price seems reasonable. I teach at [school] and I’ve got some awesome kids in my classroom that would be over the moon if we could get an [x] in order to help them do [y]! My classroom budget is modest but I’m able to offer [$amount]. I do hope that you get your asking price, but if for some reason you don’t, thank you for keeping my students and I in mind.  🙂

Wishing you the very best!


Teacher Librarian at Canyon Heights Elementary


Often this approach results in an email back with a substantially better offer!


5. Ask your school parent group

Your school staff members are not the only ones with toys and materials tucked away that their children may have outgrown or failed to show an interest in. By asking your school PAC/PTA to include a mention in their monthly newsletter letting people know what you are looking for you may find yourself inundated with supplies!

6. Arrange a ‘gear swap’ with your fellow makers!

An awesomely equipped makerspace isn’t created overnight – it’s usually acquired one piece of awesome gear at a time. But how many times can you use the same awesome equipment before it starts becoming a little less awesome?

What if, after using your Makey Makeys (or Littlebits or Arduinos), instead of shelving them and letting them gather dust, you swapped them for a few weeks with a fellow maker?

Maybe I loan you my Makey Makey set and you loan me your Arduinos! Not only does this help both of our budgets go further, but we also get a chance to try out some new gear out with our students without having to dip into our budgets!

You probably already have inter-library loan network within your school district for things like novel sets and other resources. So why not make use of that network to help your makerspace resources go even further?

7. Present to your parent group

Why not ask to do a presentation about makerspaces at your next PAC/PTA meeting? I know presenting can feel a bit scary, but sharing your excitement for making with the parents in your community can be a great way to gain allies, discover resources and acquire funding for your makerspace program!

At my school’s last PAC meeting I gave a 20 minute presentation on makerspaces to school parents, and after the presentation I experienced the following results:

  • The PAC voted unanimously to launch a school innovation fund of several thousand dollars for supplies like robots, Arduinos and other high tech items that we makers all dream about!
  • A member of the grade 7 legacy gift committee asked if they could possibly purchase a set of Raspberry Pi for the school!!
  • Parents around the school are now talking about and generating a buzz over makerspaces!!!

Never done a presentation before? Not sure where to start? Here’s a few quick tips to make your presentation a success:

Ask to be at the beginning of the meeting – People are a lot more engaged at the beginning of a meeting, and tend to be nearly comatose by the end, so try to be first on the agenda. This also helps so you don’t have to waste valuable presentation time with setting up an activity, which leads us to our next tip…

Start your presentation right out of the gate with a quick ‘hands on’ making activity. Think of something fun with minimal setup that will get people engaged right away and set the scene for your talk about making.

I set up some laptops with Makey Makeys and different challenges each printed on a brightly colored card of paper. I gave no instructions – I just let parents discover and play, sharing the occasional hint or comment of encouragement! I then asked people who were really engaged to share how they found the activity, before I launched into my formal presentation.

Keep your presentation short and to the point. When it comes to presentations, less really is more. Allow 10 minutes for people to engage with your activity and no more than 10 minutes for you to make your case. The longer your presentation goes, the more people you will lose, so keep it short.

Skip the PowerPoint – for every 1 presentation that is improved by a slideshow, 99 more are turned into excruciating digital death marches. I know it’s comforting to have a bunch of slides to remind you of what you are going to say next, but asking people to sit in a dark room while you spend 20 minutes reading off of a bunch of slides on a screen is like inviting your audience to slip off into the sweet sweet land of slumber… Instead, try this:

Share a story that comes from the heart. Facts and figures wash off of people like water off of a duck’s back. But a short heart-felt story about why you are running a makerspace and how it is impacting kids’ learning will touch the heart of your audience. Some of the best heart stories come from those moments within our own classrooms, where we got to witness student success, and had that ‘Aha!’ moment about the power of a makerspace.

My own heart story came from my very first makerspace activity. I had a class engage with 5 Makey Makeys and they were totally enthralled. And after the lesson was over at 3:00pm, I couldn’t get them to leave the library! They kept coming back in, actually dragging other kids from other classes into the library to show them what they were doing!! I had 2 students run all the way home and then race all the way back to the library again, shouting: “Mom said we could stay!!!”

That was the moment I really understood the power of a makerspace to engage students, and that’s the moment that I like to share.

Avoid technical lingo and teacher jargon – Just talk to people in plain English with sincerity and conviction. People often use jargon in an effort to elevate their own authority. But what usually happens is that excessive lingo and jargon winds up excluding your audience and they fail to connect with you or your message.

Spend your time showing your parents how making is helping their child to experience a fundamental joy of learning and academic success.

When you end your presentation, paint a brief picture of where you’d like your makerspace to go next, and let parents know you’d be grateful for any help that anyone would care to offer for making your vision happen.

When you do this with sincerity you’ll be surprised by people’s willingness to lend a hand!

8. Find your champions


In every school and district there are individuals with have a vision and a passion for innovation. Find them. Connect with them. Share your vision and show them how your vision can help promote their vision.

At my school, my principal has a vision for innovation. She immediately saw the value of a makerspace and has become a champion in promoting a makerspace at our school!

Within my school district we have technology leaders who are working to promote innovative uses of technology including areas like coding and robotics. These wonderful people are natural allies and are proving to be invaluable in helping to bring my vision to life.

Often school and district champions may be aware of available but little known funds and resources that can help you with your vision. They might be able to connect you with other people who can help your cause. And they are often invaluable in helping to get rid of roadblocks on the path to making your makerspace a success.

9. Available Grants – Money is out there! Spending just 5 minutes on Google I came up with the following grant possibilities for Canadian teachers:

Your first grant proposal may take a bit of time. But I find that once I’ve written one, the rest go a lot faster. It’s not a sure thing, but for the amount of time and the potential payoff I think it’s worth the effort.

10. Reach out with your story

Sometimes the best place to find resources and funding are in places where no one else is looking. If you were interested in say… getting a class set of robots to help your students learn coding, why not make a list of 20 local and national coding and robotics companies that might be interested in being a benefactor, and then reach out to them with a short email, letter or video?

Concisely share your story, passion and vision. Be creative! Let them know that you are looking for organizations interested in helping to develop the next generation of great innovators!

This strategy is a longer play and requires the patience to do a little research and then periodically reach out to potential candidates. But when this strategy pays out it can pay out in a big way, with big benefits for both your makerspace program and your benefactors!

Summing it up:

It doesn’t take much to get a makerspace program up and running. With a little creativity many people can and do run a makerspace on a shoestring budget. But once you want to go beyond garage sale supplies and dollar store stem, the health of your budget will in large part hinge upon your willingness to connect with others, share your vision and express your passion!

Tell people what you are doing!

Inform people that you are looking for help!

Share your story about the joy of making!

And most of all… lead with your heart!!!


Easy Makerspace Idea #1 Origami Book Marks

Looking to do your first makerspace activity? These simple origami bookmarks by Red Ted Art are a great choice for grades 3 through 7.

The basic folds for these origami bookmarks are simple very simple techniques for students to  master, but what they choose to do with their bookmarks once they’ve completed the folds is where the real creativity happens!

I started this lesson by first showing one example of an origami bookmark – an easy to decorate book mark monster. I then showed them a second bookmark designed to look like a minion. We talked about how the folds for each book mark were the same. I then held up different coloured sheets of paper and asked them ‘What could you create if the paper was Pink? Green? Red? What are some of the different ways you could decorate it?

I asked them to generate ideas that they might be able to turn these book marks into.

I stressed to students that it was ok to make mistakes. I explained that my second attempt at origami bookmarks was much better than my first, and that my third attempt was much better than my second. We talked about how the power of revision and repeated attempts helped me to improve my final creation.

I then stood back and let them work. They were totally hooked and this is just a small sample of what they came up with:


A few days later I was seeing these origami bookmarks appear in other grades and classrooms. Students had been teaching other students. My paper bookmarks had gone viral in the school!

This simple makerspace activity could be a great launching point for a makerspace origami unit where students select their own origami projects and make amazing paper creations.

Please leave a comment and tell me what you think!

PS. Please be sure to check out Red Ted Art. They have some wonderful project ideas and well explained tutorials. You might also want to check out the Red Ted Art book.

A Lego Literacy Connection

Question: How do you promote literacy using a bunch of Lego?

Answer: You create a Lego invitation for a virtual author visit!

Last week I was in the middle of sorting out a large donation of Lego that I’d just received for my makerspace. Lego has so much potential for making, but I couldn’t decide what I was going to do with it first. Just then, 2 books from the ridiculously popular ‘The 13 Story Treehouse‘ series slid back across my desk, and I was struck with the following idea:

The Challenge…

What if we had a school wide open ended challenge for students to help build ‘The 13 Story Treehouse’ out of Lego?

I found a table by the library entrance,  put a 20 pound bin of Lego and a grey base plate on it, set up the  following message, and then just stood back…

Lego challenge - build the 13 story tree house

After a few minutes my first students came trickling into the library. They read the message. They looked to me but I made myself scarce.  A debate ensued. Were they allowed to to use the Lego? What were they supposed to do? How were they supposed to do it?


A few students began to build…


Then a few more…


More classes came in to the library.


More building…


The students started to get pretty creative.


Over the next few days the build got pretty impressive


Things fell down, were improved upon, revised, changed…


Wonderful details were added from the story.


More stories were added.


We felt frustration as things frequently fell apart.


But ultimately something impressive began to emerge.


The students started talking about ideas like ‘support’ and ‘structural integrity’.


I even caught some parents coming in to look …and add pieces!



Ultimately the students created something where when students would come into the library they would stop and say ‘Wow!’

Beyond the Lego Build…

We had several conversations about what it was like trying to build a 13 story treehouse out of Lego, which then led to pages and pages of questions being generated by students about how author Andy Griffiths and illustrator Terry Denton were able to create their best selling treehouse series.

We then used a tripod and an iPad mount to set up a video station in the library where students could film themselves asking their questions to Andy and Terry!

Once we finish filming next week we are going to be sending Terry and Andy our questions along with a picture montage of our Lego 13 Story Treehouse build and see if they will send us a video message back!

I wonder what discussions and activities around other stories could be kick-started with student imagination and some Lego? What would you and your students build?


Understanding the makerspace movement

What the heck is a ‘makerspace’?

Late last year I became intrigued by the idea of putting a makerspace into my elementary school library. I’d been hearing about the maker movement over the last few years, but  last June during some professional development I attended an informal talk on the subject and at the end of the day I went home with a nagging desire to somehow get involved with this whole ‘makerspace’ thing.

Over the summer I spent a lot of time researching makerspaces – I wanted to know exactly what a makerspace was (or was supposed to be). The results of my research were both tantalizing and infuriating – it seemed like there was no concrete definition out there that I could point to and say “This is what a makerspace is!”

Clearly a makerspace is about making stuff. That part seems obvious. But what else is a makerspace about? I continued my research I started looking for similarities and common features between makerspace programs. What I found was an incredible array of diversity….

The findings:

It seems that some makerspaces happen in churches and community centers, while others makerspaces are private establishments or happen in colleges, universities, public libraries and even in high schools.

Some makerspaces use textiles while others use circuits. Some are arts and crafts oriented while others have an emphasis on technology. Some promote computer programming while others engage in sewing and soldering…

This seemingly wide open nature and lack of clear focus left me feeling a little like this:

student created statue made in a makerspace
(Incidentally, this statue was made in a makerspace by students at Casa Grande High School)

It was only when I stepped away from my computer screen and lay down on the couch to ponder things that I realized I was thinking about makerspaces in the wrong way.

Common characteristics of a makerspace:

A markerspace isn’t about the specific tools, activities, layout or physical location. A makerspace is about providing a place where people:

  • imagine
  • choose
  • plan
  • create
  • collaborate
  • risk take
  • learn new skills
  • problem solve
  • revise
  • present

… and experience the intense feeling of personal satisfaction that is derived from being the creator of something that is truly awesome.

After all, there is something deeply satisfying in the act of making. That’s why so many of us have hobbies. It’s why so many of us like to tinker. And the thing with hobbies is that you have a meaningful say in what you make and how you make it. That’s why hobbies are so enjoyable!

I like to joke at parent teacher interviews that school is in large part made up of an army of conscripts, not volunteers… and it’s true! Very few students have a choice in whether or not they come to school each day. And when they do step into our classrooms, too often from the students’ perspective, they have no stake in what they are learning, how they learn it, or why they should be learning it in the first place!

And yet, over my 12 years of teaching I can recall each of the lessons and units that I’ve taught where I had incredible buy in from students, where we experienced deep learning and even years later former students will stop me and say: “Hey Mr. C, do you remember when we… That was incredible!” And the truth is, the students are right. Those were great lessons – they were incredible moments. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that almost all of those memorable lessons had some key things in common.

Common traits in awesome learning

These lessons:

  • were highly engaging
  • had a purpose that was meaningful to the students
  • often centered on real world/authentic tasks
  • allowed for a large degree of student choice
  • were hands on
  • involved independent exploration and problem solving
  • didn’t feel overly teacher controlled – students had a lot of say in how things unfolded
  • were audacious – we dared to dream big!
  • had a sense of wonder

… and more often than not these lessons were just plain fun!

So what should we take from this?

For me, the essence of a makerspace is about creating an opportunity for kids to create and explore around topics that are meaningful to them. It’s a chance for kids to be creative, to probe deeply, to collaborate, problems solve and share. It’s a place to celebrate the wonder of learning and experience the deep satisfaction from setting bold personal goals, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and producing something truly awesome!