5 Ways to Get Your Makerspace Ready for a New Year

5 Ways to Get Your Makerspace Ready : A new school year means new opportunities to get your makerspace ready for students.  Here's some tips and tricks for sprucing things up and starting the year off strong.

It’s that time of year again – the first days of the school year will soon be upon us (and for some of you, it may already be here).  Getting ready for the year means pre-planning meetings, making photocopies, arranging class schedules and all the other good stuff that comes in August and September every year.  If you have a makerspace, part of that preparation should also include getting your space and supplies ready for students eager to create. With a little planning (and maybe a few trips to IKEA), you can get your makerspace ready to go on day 1.

5 Ways to Get Your Makerspace Ready for a New Year

Organize Your Supplies

I recommend doing a purge and re-organization of supplies at the end of every school year.  That’s when what you used (and didn’t use) is fresh in your mind, making it easier to clean things out.  If you didn’t do that (or even if you did), spend some time before the school year takes off going through all of your supplies.  Toss things that aren’t usable. If there are certain supplies that your students didn’t connect with that you don’t have space for, see if other teachers or schools can use them.  Tidy up your supply bins.  Make sure that it’s easy for students to quickly see what supplies and tools are available. Having your space organized on day one will set your students up for success.  Bearing in mind of course, that it’s going to get messy pretty fast.

Need some tips on makerspace organization?  Check out my post on creating organization that actually works.

Create some inspiration

Sometimes, students need a little push to get started.  Try creating some half-baked prototypes (idea from Ryan Jenkins) to encourage their creativity.  The idea is to start a few projects but not quite finish them and leave them out for students to tinker with.  This can spark students’ curiosity to try to complete the project themselves or to create a new project inspired by it.  Displaying finished student projects from the previous year can be another great starting point for students. Make it a point to display finished projects in a location that students can reach, so that they can get a closer look at them.

Update Your Signage

Great makerspace signage can help your students to have a more successful creation session.  Now that all your bins are tidy (see tip #1) make some new signage to make it clear what is stored in each bin.  Ideally, use a combination of words, pictures and colors. The pictures can help your ELL students, who might not know all of the vocabulary of makerspace tools and materials yet.  Add signage for different procedures and rules for different areas – i.e. how to use a hot glue gun station. Add signage highlighting student project displays. If you have an in-progress storage area, add signage about how to store projects and consider creating labels where students can write their names while they store their projects.

Plan out a few design challenges/collaborations

The year is going to start moving fast before you know it.  Now’s the time to go ahead and start planning your programming.  Will you do any design challenges in the first semester? Maybe you’ve always wanted to do the Cardboard Challenge but have never managed to get around to it.  Start planning these now.

Get in touch with your teachers and start the discussion about potential collaborations in the makerspace.  We often have good intentions, but get so busy that things like this fall through. There are so many ways to bring hands-on maker learning into your class collaborations.  Take advantage of early planning to make them happen.

Shameless plug: If you’re needing a little more help planning out design challenge ideas, you might want to get a copy of Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace.

Ask your students what they want

Once the year kicks off and you see your students again, get them involved in the planning.  Ask them what types of tools and materials they’d like to tinker with this year. Find out what projects from last year (in your makerspace or projects they did elsewhere) were their favorites and what they could do without.  It’s vitally important to get your students involved in the process of planning your makerspace. You could have the most amazing space with all kinds of tools and materials and programs.  But if it isn’t what your students are looking for, it could fall flat. 

This kind of thing can change from year to year and from one school to the next. I once tried tech-take apart at my old school and it was a disaster. That group was all about the LEGOs and the K’nex and the cardboard. When I tried tech-take apart again this past school year, it was a huge success and my students wanted to keep tinkering with take-apart for three weeks straight.  Figuring out what’s going to work for your makerspace will take a lot of trial and error.  Getting your students involved early on could save you a few headaches along the way.

A digital survey can be a great way to poll students on what they want – check out my post for tips on creating an effective survey.

Getting your makerspace ready – Just get started

All of these tips for getting your makerspace ready are great and will help you towards having a successful maker year.  But none of that is any good if you don’t just get started. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed – don’t let that stop you.  Your makerspace doesn’t need to be Pinterest perfect for students to have amazing experiences there. Preparation is good – but don’t let a desire to be over-prepared stop you from getting started.

What do you do to get ready for a new school year in your makerspace?