ALA Midwinter 2015 Masters Series Session

A few weeks ago,  I attended the American Library Association’s 2015 Midwinter Meeting. Although there were several maker related sessions, I was only able to attend  the ALA Masters Series session, “Mechanic Institutes, Hackerspaces, Makerspaces, TechShops, Incubators, Accelerators, and Centers of Social Enterprise. Where do Libraries fit in?”


The presentation was by Mita Williams, the UX Librarian at the University of Windsor.

Mita Williams.jpg

I won’t spoil the talk, but in short, she gave a brief history of the ‘hackerspace’ as a concept, from it’s origins to the current iterations, especially the ‘makerspace’.


She touched briefly on the lack of diversity in the “main stream” face of the maker movement, i.e. Make Magazine, but did not dive as far into the issues as I would have liked (mainly due to lack of time). However, the Q&A session after her talk broached this issue when someone asked if anyone knew of any makerspaces that were not geared towards the white upper-middle class demographic (MB does!)


Protip: it’s easier to get funding when building a makerspace than it is for an hackerspace!


Watch the entire talk in the video below! The presentation is also available in a text format on Mita William’s blog.





Questions or freedback? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @makerbridge!




Black History Month & Black Makers: An Update

Last year, during Black History Month, we highlighted a number of groups and individuals working toward greater representation of black people in the maker movement. Many of these are still active and relevant, so if you missed our list last year, be sure to have a look.

Diversity in the maker movement is still something we’re very passionate at MakerBridge, so we wanted to continue this tradition and draw attention to even more people and groups working to support black makers and innovators.

Of course, same as last year, this last is by no means comprehensive, and we would love to hear about resources we may have missed! Leave them below in the comments or tweet at us!



African-American Women in Technology  - AAWIT is an organization dedicated to supporting African-American women and helping to advance their technology-based careers and personal development.

Blacks in Technology - BIT’s mission is, as they put it, “stomping the divide.” In other words, they work toward changing the perception of black people in the technology community, encouraging their achievements and participation in the field.

CodeNow - Ayla mentioned this organization before on our blog, but they’re worth talking about again. CodeNow focuses on teaching computer science to underrepresented high school students, such as women and people of color.

iUrbanTeen - This organzation’s target demographic is male youth of color--including African American, Latino, and Native American young men--but it strives to be inclusive of all non-traditional STEM learners, including young women. iUrbanTeen provide mentoring, training, STEM industry tours, internships, summits, and more to help youth of color succeed in STEM fields.

#YesWeCode - #YesWeCode is an initiative aiming to help low-opportunity youth learn coding and technology skills in order to become high-level computer programmers. Last November, they hosted MBKHack, My Brother’s Keeper Hackathon.



Black Girls Code Hackathons - Black Girls Code, an organization we’ve talked about before, sponsors a series of hackathons; they held a total of three last summer. The hackathons are open to girls of all experience levels and give attendees the chance to work with mentors and with each other on teams.

Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking - Both a global day of advocacy and a hackathon, the DDCH this year was headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and had participating locations in Lagos, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; Washington, DC; Oakland, CA; and Atlanta, GA. The DDCH works to bring together people working to combat social issues and technical challenges that affect a number of organizations supporting Diaspora communities.

HBCU Hacks - This is a series of hackathons aimed at students at HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) presented by Black Founders, an organization working to increase the number of black entrepreneurs in technology. These hackathons give students at HBCU the chance to come together to share and improve their coding and design skills.

Women of Color STEM Conference - Planned this year for October in Detroit, the Women of Color STEM Conference is an opportunity for professionals and students to network, find mentors, learn from leaders in the field, and attend seminars to help their professional growth.



Black DIY: Making and Sustaining - On her blog Lifestyle30, Kellea Tibbs writes extensively about black DIY, including interviewing a number of black women who design.




Defining Makers

Photo of girl holding up custom-designed "Happy Christmas" t-shirt made with template cut on Silhouette Cameo at Michigan Makers group


A few weeks ago, Sharona blogged about Debbie Chachra's "Why I Am Not A Maker" essay for The AtlanticThis is one of those articles that has gotten passed around in communities I travel in. Chachra makes a provocative statement: that by setting up the world into "maker" and "not a maker" categories, and privileging one more than the other, we downplay those in our society whose roles are to be nurturers, educators, and supporters. On a traditional, binary level, it can boil down to "stereotypical male behaviors are good" vs. "stereotypical female behaviors -- which make it possible for those stereotypical male behaviors to exist -- aren't valuable."

But that all comes down, I think, to how we define makers. I have always used it to be an inclusive term and a part of the human condition: feeling productive and impacting the world around us is what makes making making. 

Chachra pushes against this, saying:

"I am not a maker. In a framing and value system is about creating artifacts, specifically ones you can sell, I am a less valuable human. As an educator, the work I do is superficially the same, year on year. That’s because all of the actual change, the actual effects, are at the interface between me as an educator, my students, and the learning experiences I design for them. People have happily informed me that I am a maker because I use phrases like "design learning experiences," which is mistaking what I do (teaching) for what I’m actually trying to help elicit (learning). To characterize what I do as "making" is to mistake the methods—courses, workshops, editorials—for the effects. Or, worse, if you say that I "make" other people, you are diminishing their agency and role in sense-making, as if their learning is something I do to them."

Is making solely about artifacts? Sometimes, artifacts are means to another end. When my fifth graders refashion clothing, they often step into worlds of imaginative play, up to and including class- and curriculum-based skits. (One created a lab coat out of an old mock turtleneck and promptly decided he was ready to begin coding.) Does that count if the artifacts are a means, not an end? A pathway and not a destination? Does the photo above "count" as making? Do I count as being in the maker world if I facilitate that learning? Or only if I facilitate factory production of hundreds of those shirts, not just this one-off?

Or are we outgrowing "making" as a term? If it can be used to describe innovation-and-production hubs in China, pottery guilds in the Midwest, open-ended crafting and engineering activities for kids, the woman with the life-sized loom at a Maker Faire, coding practice for adults working toward new career opportunities, new factories and manufacturing hubs established by the Obama administration, and a parent and child hovering over the open hood of a vintage car, is "making" becoming a word that means something? Or nothing at all?

- Kristin Fontichiaro




One Expert is Never Enough: Surviving when your 3d-printing expert leaves

SUNY Oswego's Penfield Library has had a Makerbot Replicator 2 since 2013. There's a pretty great article about it over in Computers in Libraries, and everything. We offer 3d printing as a service: People send us files they'd like printed off, and we print them in the requested color, charging 20 cents per gram. Although students get priority, anyone can ask us to print something. We've printed everything from class assignments to model skulls to birthday gifts.

Penfield Library's 3d Printer

The 3d printer was paid for with a small grant, and since the beginning, our library had only one 3d-printing expert: our Learning Technologies Librarian (LTL). There were a few other interested librarians who stepped in from time to time to handle routine prints, but most of the work fell on our one expert. This was particularly true of maintenance and troubleshooting, since we didn't get any kind of support plan when we purchased our printer. Just about all of the maintenance fell on the shoulders of the LTL.

Eventually the 3d-printing workload got to the point where it was interfering with the LTL's other responsibilities, so we brought in a student worker to help out a couple hours a week. Life was good! Then, soon after, the LTL was offered a really fabulous job at another university, and announced that she would be leaving us.

Before leaving, she did everything in her power to prepare us to carrying on 3d printing without her. She worked intensively with the student worker, teaching her the ins and outs of the printer. The LTL also trained every librarian she could get her hands on, had us all practice printing independently, showed us where to find documentation, and answered every question we could think of.

Then our LTL left us. It was smooth sailing for a couple weeks; our Head of Reference stepped up as point person, and between him and the student worker, things seemed to be going well. Then we hit winter, the student worker left campus for break, and we got pounded with a rush of 3d-printing requests that people wanted done in time for the holidays.

The Head of Reference was still on point with the 3d printing, but now I was playing backup. My 3d-printing experience was pretty minimal, but because my office is in easy earshot of the printer, I was tasked with listening to make sure nothing went wrong. You can tell a *lot* about how a print is going based on how it sounds! When one job finished, I would start up the next. Piece of cake.

This worked out well until the day the Makerbot stopped printing. Makerbot support recently started charging for their services, and we weren't yet prepared to pay someone else to troubleshoot--so we were on our own. The two of us spent most of a day poring over the machine, taking it apart and putting it back together, trying to figure out what was wrong (and what order the pieces went back together in).

I spent a lot of time bonding with Google, looking up problems that other people had and how they solved them. There's a lot of helpful material out there in the form of tutorials and teardowns. Unfortunately, when we were nearly done disassembling the thing, there was a part (I want to say it was the drive block) that every tutorial showed just sliding out effortlessly. Ours was stuck, but no one was talking about conditions under which it might stick. Things were complicated still more by there being a piece in our Makerbot that didn't match our user manual. Some material online had it; some didn't. We weren't sure what effect that was having on our ability to take the machine apart.

We did eventually get through this. It turned out that plastic from the extruder had somehow leaked into places it was not supposed to go, and we had to clean it out. We also had to unclog the extruder, but after the other battle, that felt like a piece of cake. The extra piece on our drive block? It was an extruder upgrade that the LTL must have installed herself after the printer was purchased.

That's the worst problem we've faced so far, but lately we've also been plagued with a series of failed prints where the Makerbot just stops midway through for no apparent reason. I don't doubt that we'll figure this out eventually (or break down and pay Makerbot support). In the mean time, though, it's a time-suck that's hard to afford when we're short-staffed.

My point with this is not just to recount an epic battle trying to get our Makerbot to play nicely, or to complain about the added work. I actually enjoy dealing with the 3d printer, as a break from my normal tasks. What I am trying to say is this: When a librarian leaves, you already know things are going to be hectic for a while because you're short-staffed. Being at the bottom of the 3d printer's learning curve at the same time, while trying to maintain this popular service, is an added burden. If I could do it all over, I would look for ways in which we could have had a second expert from day one. Really mastering the 3d printer while the LTL was still around always seemed like it didn't deserve priority over all my other work tasks. It was a time commitment, and one I didn't think I needed to make. In hindsight, it would have been better to put in that time while we were fully staffed, instead of waiting until the LTL left.

Has anyone else out there kept their 3d-printing program alive after the expert left? Do you have any advice you'd be willing to share?


Why I AM a Maker and Proud Of It

While considering my blog post for this week, I came across this Atlantic article by Debbie Chachra, in which she declares she is not a maker, going on to describe what she feels are the flaws of the term “maker”--and, by extension, maker culture, which she sees as exclusive, tech-focused, and even elitist. I have to say, I was somewhat surprised by this article, and wanted to share my own take on it.

I don’t think everything Chachra says is inaccurate. The tendency of maker culture to be exclusive is something we at MakerBridge have talked about, too, as we’ve advocated for greater diversity in terms of gender, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and even in terms of the type of activities and skills that are celebrated as part of the movement. As we have in the past, she also touches on the gendered aspects of making, and the way traditionally feminine tasks or roles can be viewed as inferior.

I do feel, however, that Chachra’s definition of making--the one she defies and takes umbrage with in her article--is not everyone’s definition, and in fact is not fully representative of the maker movement. Although making is an act of creation and production that results in artifacts, whether physical or digital, for me it has never been about these artifacts; they are peripheral to the true purpose of making, which I see as very much based in learning, sharing, openness, and collaboration. This is a view I believe we have been discussing at MakerBridge for a while now, and I know we’re not the only ones who feel this way.

I understand where Chachra is coming from--it’s easy to get excited sometimes and become fixated on the stuff involved in making, whether that means the tools or the creations. I have had to make the point before that a 3D printer itself does not transform a place into a makerspace, just as no single tool or even collection of tools can do so. But just because we sometimes need these reminders doesn’t mean maker culture is solely involved with things at the expense of valuing education and human beings. In fact, the entire function of a makerspace--at least in my eyes--is to serve as a place where people have the opportunity to work together, learn from each other, and form a community, something very people-focused, and very much in line with the caregiving that Chachra laments as being overlooked or even downright scorned by maker culture.

I think, ultimately, that Chachra is arguing against a definition of maker that, yes, some may embrace, but that I don’t believe is the dominant one. At the very least, it’s certainly not the only one. However, I do worry that this is the way maker culture is perceived, that non-makers see the movement as privileged and obsessed with tech toys and gadgets. I think making has so much potential for empowerment, for education, for inspiration, for moving away from a consumerist culture obsessed with stuff to a DIY culture in which people not only value their possessions more due to having created them, but also value the skills they’ve learned in the process. This is the maker culture that I see and that I’ve always seen. This is the maker culture that I think schools and libraries are embracing. This is the maker culture that I see spreading rapidly. I only hope we can find better ways to convey this view of making, so Chachra and others like her will one day be able to call themselves makers and be as proud of it as we are.


Silhouette Cutter in Our Makerspace ... and Betabrand's Design Studio

A couple of summers ago, we heard that some maker groups were having success having a Silhouette Cameo in their makerspace and that it was helping to attract more girls into their K-12 maker project. We bought one for Michigan Makers, because we thought it might help us bridge between the physical making to which many of our elementary students were attracted and the digital making that was more closely aligned with our school's mission. At first, we did small projects like learning how to arrange letters in order to "weld" them into a single sticker cut from Con-tact paper. This year, we tried out freezer paper stencils cut on the Cameo. You find freezer paper near the aluminum foil in the grocery store for about $5 a roll (and that roll will last a very long time). One side has a light plastic coating on it. Place it face down on a garment and apply the heat of an iron, and the plastic will melt just enough to adhere to the shirt for a stencil that won't move. We bought lots of $1 thrifted clothing (we have enormous thrift stores here the size of grocery stores that run "5 for $5" on merchandise that has been hanging on the racks for several weeks) -- all kinds of knitwear and, as we saw how popular they were, various jean jackets and blazers, adding a few new choices to the big pile from which kids could choose. We prepared these handouts to help students design their own custom garment:

  • T-shirt design template (we only had one Cameo, so this let some students think in advance with pencil and paper while they waited)
  • Sample shapes to use in the design (these were preloaded on the Cameo after having been pulled from The Noun Project, Microsoft Clip Art, or Cameo's built-in images; as they get more experienced, we can open up more choices to them and also let them draw and import their own art ... it's always important to remember, when we do more controlled work in makerspaces, it's in service to them having more agency and independence -- because they have more practice and skill -- later. The long view matter here.)

We used Tulip brand puffy fabric paint, though we sponged it on in thin layers instead of squirted it from the bottle, so it was only a little bit dimensional. (Hint: bring paint shirts!) We also brought in a hair dryer to ensure that all the garments would be dry before kids put them on or took them home. You can see our very first creation below. What I love about this is that the maker applied the paint very thinly, giving it an aged or antiqued look.While it takes a long time to get this project started, because you need stations for planning, layout and cutting on the Cameo, ironing the freezer paper to the shirt, stuffing and painting the shirt, then drying it with a hair dryer before peeling off the paper, it's also really satisfying to watch grow, because as our 4th and 5th graders got into the routine, they were able to start teaching each other (except for the iron ... that is one scary tool to them!). And it's a reminder to me that making is really, really, we're not kidding, a process. And that means you have to build in manpower and time and patience as you develop skills in kids. That can be hard to balance with just one or two adults ... but it's worth it in the end, because suddenly you step back and see them doing it without you (again, except for the iron). This was a project they could not do unassisted the first time. But the second time? They're already chomping at the bit for their next turn, and we got some smaller Silhouette Portrait machines for $100 during Black Friday, so we're going to have more stations that allow more kids to work simultaneously. Meanwhile, the Silhouette company posted this video about how Betabrand is using the same tool to prototype new clothing. They use Silhouette's iron-on materials more than stencils, but the idea is the same: customizing a one-of-a-kind stuff. If we really want our makerspaces to reach all kids, we need many modalities and kinds of project. You might think that using a scrapbook cutting machine to make t-shirt stencils is a girly activity ... but boys have been equally engaged with it. (The big difference? Girls tend to like blazers; boys like t-shirts.) Which just goes to show that if you plan for everybody's interests, you'll discover interests you didn't know some of your makers had. Here's the Betabrand/Silhouette video. Maybe it will give you some ideas, too.



Apparel Prototyping: Betabrand and the Silhouette from Silhouette America on Vimeo.

- Kristin Fontichiaro

This post originally appeared on the Active Learning blog


ISTE SIGLib Webinar with Laura Fleming

Our future school and youth librarians at the University of Michigan are big fans of Laura Fleming, the librarian at New Jersey's New Milford High School. From her work with transmedia storytelling to her current work nurturing maker culture, she brings thoughtfulness and depth to her work with her students.

We thought you'd enjoy this archived conversation between ISTE school library special interest group chair Elissa Malespina and Laura Fleming. As many conversations between school librarians go, the conversation covers a range of topics, with the conversation on making beginning about 14 minutes in.

What's your New Year's resolution for making in your community?

A Chat with John Burke, Author of Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians

This week's post is an inteview with John Burke, Library Director and Principal Librarian at Gardner-Harvey Library at Miami University Middletown. John is the author of Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians, has conducted a survey on makerspaces in libraries, and has created a number of other resources and presentations on the topic of makerspaces and libraries. Be sure to visit his website to find out more.


MakerBridge: Tell us a little bit about your day job and how it led you to being interested in writing this book.

John Burke:

I am the library director for a small academic library.  In that role, I end up involved in all sorts of different library activities, including a lot of technology support for patrons and staff.  My daily work keeps me interested in tracking and writing about library technologies, and that is how I came across makerspaces (in their various forms).  I talked about it with an editor I had worked with on previous books, and the opportunity to write about makerspaces came together.

You interviewed a wide array of library maker leaders for the book. What common threads did you find in what they shared?

Something that the majority of the library makers expressed to me was the importance of getting their community of makers and prospective makers involved in the planning process as early as possible.  They believed that would lead to real expressions of interest in particular making tools or media, rather than trying to fit people into a model created by the library.  As I dug into the motivations of the library makers further, I found emphases on encouraging patron learning, modeling and inspiring collaboration among community members, and a desire to provide people with access to equipment and skill training that they could not get on their own. The makerspaces were all very different in terms of the community served or the exact makeup of equipment or activities, but these goals were found throughout.  

Can you tell us about any particular makerspaces that you see as particularly well-connected to their communities?

I'll mention two makerspaces that stand out and that also have distinct ideas of who they hope to reach.  The Richland Public Library in Columbia, SC, is very focused on serving teens and providing them with digital and physical making opportunities.  They have done a great job of involving groups from beyond the library in providing equipment and mentoring (a technology company and a theatre group) and then also doing extensive outreach in the local schools and networking with teachers.  

The Johnson County Public Library in Overland Park, KS, began its making activities with a focus on serving small businesses and people working from home with the digital technologies they need to communicate their ideas through websites, high quality images, and combined audio, text, and video projects.  Once they started working with those patrons, they realized that other audiences could use these and other technologies.  They opened up their initial media lab to other users, and added 3D printing, electronics, and other forms of making to connect with a wide array of ages and backgrounds.  The main library was their primary setting when they started, and now they are responding to demands to bring mobile making activities out into their branches and reach even further into the community.

Is there anything that seemed to be a common "rookie error" among library makerspaces? If so, what was it, and what did people learn from it?

I think there is a great urge when you start a makerspace to enable many types of making at once, which in theory will lead to lots of interesting collaborations.  This can lead to libraries buying a "set" of making tools and equipment, without first seeing if anyone in their community is really interested in using Tool X.  Libraries need to realize that there is not a required list of making technologies that you have to have in order to be a makerspace.  They need to support the making and discovery activities of their community, and follow community interests.  Some things can be bought to inspire people to attempt a given type of making, but there is not a need to overwhelm the community or the library with a woodshop or a recording studio that are not in demand.

How has this research impacted your day job at Miami?

When I started the book, I was interested in the idea of library makerspaces, but I could not see where this activity fit into my daily work.  In fact, while I was extremely curious to know what libraries were providing for people to make, I was not sure I could see a makerspace fitting into my own library.  I learned a lot from a large number of very kind and sharing makers who took time to talk with me, and that led me to being convinced that making was something I should offer to my campus community.  There has been interest from students, faculty, and staff, and we are growing our making offerings.

President Obama has indicated that making could be a way to revitalize American manufacturing. Do you see this promise unfolding in the libraries you studied? If so, how? If not, what would it take to make it happen?

I think that the maker movement and access to making skills and technology in libraries can really inspire people to learn how to make things with their own hands and how to design items and products.  I am not sure that this will lead to mass manufacturing efforts, or lead today's middle schooler to become tomorrow's robotics operator or engineer.  I can imagine makerspaces creating the opportunity for lots of smaller manufacturing operations, given the decreasing costs of some automated making tools (like 3D printers or laser cutters).  I am also interested to see how people's abilities to design and make their own objects might alter the current mass-produced culture.

Where do you hope the making-in-libraries movement will be in five years?

I hope that library makerspaces will very much be the norm, with making activities seen as an expected service in libraries.  To get there librarians and makers will need to keep sharing their ideas and approaches to guide and inspire new people to get their libraries involved.  More than that, I hope that the opportunity for making continues to bring more and more individuals and groups into the library and let us see the amazing things they create.


Webinar: Makerspaces in Academic Libraries

Sorry, everyone, for the missed post last week! Thankfully, I am finally over being sick, and this week I want to share with you a webinar I recently presented on the top of makerspaces in libraries, with a special focus on academic libraries.


Makerspaces are finding their way into more and more libraries lately, but the majority of these tend to be located in public libraries, and these ones often get the most attention. Academic libraries and makerspaces can be a great fit for each other, though, and there are a lot of ways that a makerspace in a higher ed environment can be beneficial not only for students but for the whole campus community.


What are these benefits, and what are some great things academic library makerspaces are already doing? What are some important things to think about and some first steps you can take towards your own makerspace? Check out the webinar hosted by the SLA Education Division (and you can download my slides as well).

Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in the comments below, or let us know on Twitter!


Guest Blog Post: Buttonmakers as Pop-Up Making

Photo of a badge with a retro image of a woman reading a book. On the book is written, "Accessorize with a banned book."

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

* * *

The Idea

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.  


The Supplies

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.  


Student Response  

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