Today's guest blog post comes from Cathy Evans, Director of Libraries at St. Mary's Episcopal School in Memphis, Tennessee. St. Mary's is a pre-K through 12th grade school where academic excellence and the well-roundedness are both critical goals for its all-female student population. As the school's headmaster writes:
"We know how girls learn best and have a community of caring adults who want each girl to reach her potential. Girls here are smart in many ways--academically, creatively, athletically--and success at St. Mary's therefore is as individual as each girl. Our dedicated faculty provide the students with habits of mind and academic tools to thrive in their future: core knowledge, collaboration, creativity, and the desire and ability to keep learning as an adult."
This fall, on a listserv for school librarians, Cathy shared her idea for how to make making-on-the-fly happen in her library in a way that merged the library's goals with the creative impulses of her students. I was intrigued by Cathy's posts because our Michigan Makers inventory includes an old-school electric buttonmaker, which we pull out at the start of the year as a low-risk, enjoyable way to achieve early making success while also providing us with reusable name tags that help build community.
Cathy's story is a reminder that making doesn't have to start with a custom-designed space full of the latest gadgets. It can begin in simple ways that welcome in makers so that they can engage and become planners in the future activities of the makerspace. Enjoy Cathy's post!
- Kristin Fontichiaro
* * *
In our library, we are always looking for new and creative ways to promote the love of reading and make the library a really fun place to be. This year as we were brainstorming about how to increase awareness of Banned Books Week, we came up with the idea of making buttons. A very simple idea to be sure and one that we were a little doubtful about but thought we would go ahead and take the plunge. Over the summer we took the wall out between two computer labs in the library which gave us enough space to create a maker space in the library. It has concrete floors and columns painted in chalk paint. We sort of took the approach of build it and they will come. During in-service and as part of our professional development we have been promoting the idea of making across the curriculum. Making something as simple as buttons seemed a quick and easy way to promote the idea of making.
We ordered a z225F Fabric Button maker from American Button Machines. It came with enough supplies to make 500 buttons. With shipping the cost came to $405.00. After receiving the machine we quickly realized that cutting out circles is a real time suck, so we went back to American Button Machines to order a punch that cuts the circle to the exact size needed. This added another $160.00 to the overall cost—worth every penny!
Making the Buttons
We made an announcement about making buttons for Banned Books week and set the machine out in the library. From there it took on a life of its own. We showed the first few students how to use the maker and then they showed other students, and it continued in that manner. We also put a very simple step sheet out on the table and tossed out some colored paper, markers and colored pencils and let them go with it. In addition, we sent an e-mail to all of the students in grades 9-12 encouraging them to participate. Attached to the e-mail was a template that the girls could use to download images and create more sophisticated and professional looking buttons. This required a much more sophisticated skillset. The students in the design class asked their teacher if they could make buttons and she told them they could but only if they used the template. One of the students in the class was very savvy with the process so she ended up teaching the class how to do a graphic design project. The teacher was very glad for the impromptu learning experience.
At first the students stuck to making Banned Books Week buttons but then their imaginations took over. We just let them run with it at that point and they were able to be as creative and they wanted to make whatever kind of button spoke to them.
The way in which the students responded to making buttons came as a real surprise to us. They were making them every chance they got. I overheard one student say, “I would miss my whole lunch period just to stay in here and make buttons.” We asked the students for feedback; here are some of their responses:
“It was fun to accessorize our backpack, clothes etc.”
“I loved the freedom we were given.“
“ It was really great seeing everyone’s personal creations.”
“I loved the “Fandom” themed buttons.”
“ It was so easy and persona.l”
“There are so many things we can do with this, who knows? The button maker has endless possibilities.”
We are already thinking of ways to use it in the curriculum. One idea we have had it to do a button “book report.” The name of the book can not be on the button , only and image and a few words that really capture the essence of the book. The 5th and 6th grade teachers are already on board with this idea.
* * *
What kinds of activities in your makerspace do you use to welcome new makers and stoke their enthusiasm for future projects?
Photo provided by Cathy Evans