The journey of building and maintaining a makerspace in our school is never-ending. Less than one year ago, we opened the doors of our Learning Lab Makerspace to our students, who have since experienced creating, tinkering and play. While still in its infancy, our Learning Lab has gone through a major transformation into the makerspace and yet has still continued to change based on our students’ interests and needs.
We have built the maker mindset from the ground up in our school, with teachers finding new ways to use the space to empower students to solve problems and with students finding their creative side as they tinker and explore. The space has grown in materials and ideas and even our parents are intrigued by what happens in there, bringing donations of supplies so that our students can continue to make.
Even though our makerspace has seen its changes, there are materials that have become staples. Some of our must-haves are consumables, where students create ideas and projects in the art station. Other must-haves are not consumables, but are always in use. Here is our top ten list of elementary makerspace must-have materials.
What would a makerspace be without cardboard? Large boxes or small cardboard scraps are always in use, from creating small stencils to building large projects, our cardboard is never fully stocked since it is always in use. What is even better is that cardboard is free! We save boxes around the school and our parents are always donating shoe boxes and other smaller boxes for our students to use.
2. Duct Tape
Without tape, we cannot hold our objects together. Duct tape does more than just holding projects together, it can create too! Some students create their projects with just duct tape. The bolder the design, the better! Gray duct tape is a thing of the past with all of the colors and designs that are available. The problem is that these bold designs can become expensive. Therefore, we rely on the clearance aisle at our nearby stores, finding last season’s designs and colors. To our kids, they are the best colors and designs out there!
3. Scotch Tape/Masking Tape
Duct tape cannot do it all. Sometimes, we need a different kind of tape to hold it all together. Scotch tape and masking tape fall into a different category of must-haves because these two kinds of tape are in constant demand. Elementary students use these types of tape like water—if duct tape isn’t the right fit, then another tape will hold it together. There are just certain creations where scotch tape and masking tape do a “better job”, making them must-haves for a makerspace. Since we go through a lot of tape on a daily basis, a local dollar store is the best place to find what we need.
4. Empty Toilet Paper & Paper Towel Rolls
The best donation ever to come to our makerspace was a bag of empty toilet paper rolls. Our students found these to be great basketball hoop posts, bug creations and even decorated pencil holders. The list of what has been created with these empty rolls is endless. We often run out of these items before another donation will come in. The beauty of this material is that it is free.
5. Blocks & Lego
Our students love Lego and blocks. They loved them so much that we built a Lego Wall. Even better than that, we have so many different kinds of blocks, from cardboard bricks to wood blocks, that our students have created towers, obstacle courses, tunnels and designs using the blocks. Furthermore, Lego blocks and otherwise have found no age limit. From our kindergarten students to our 5th grade students, they are building with blocks and Lego. We have found more sophisticated Lego kits, such as the Lego Mindstorms, to be intriguing, as now we can incorporate coding into our makerspace.
6. Fabric, Felt & Ribbon
To a maker’s eye, fabric, felt and ribbon are a designer’s dream. These can be cut to any shape or length, cover any cardboard and can add a touch of finesse to a project. Again, these materials are based on donations, we have never had to purchase any!
7. Recycled Containers
I never would have thought about it, but recycled plastic and small glass containers are a hot commodity in the makerspace. Students have created magnetic utensil holders for their desks, flower vases and other neatly decorated containers for other functions using these recycled containers. It all started with a donation of Crystal Light plastic containers and from there, recycled containers have become a must-have in the makerspace.
8. Odds & Ends Craft Supplies
The art station is constantly in use. Most of the must-haves are found in this station. When we brainstormed the art station, we thought of all the cool art supplies, such as pom-poms, feathers, pipe cleaners, clothes pins, beads and googley eyes. While these are wonderful to have, what we didn’t think about right away were the essential items, such as scissors, rulers, pencils, markers and crayons. These may seem like automatic materials essential for every makerspace, which they are, however they are often overlooked because of all the other “flashy” materials. It is imperative to have A LOT of scissors, rulers, pencils, markers and crayons. You simply cannot have enough of these essential items!
9. Little Bits
We began our makerspace with little bits and still today, they are a must-have. These little parts teach students about circuits, making light, sound and objects move. At first, little bits were a novelty. Now, our students are thinking about how to build projects with them instead of just creating loud noises. We were fortunate enough to be able to purchase the Pro Library, giving us access to so many different little bits, as well as the Makey Makey kits. However, any size little bits will do when getting kids excited about building on a different level than before.
10. 3Doodler Start
Our newest addition to our makerspace has already solidified its place in the must-have list. With this pen, kids can draw in the air, making objects from a plastic filament, designing on paper. The 3Doodler Start is a new item, coming out just this past summer. The best part is that there are no hot parts so kids won’t get burned using the device. Students can use the pre-made designs or create their own, designing unique 3D objects. We only have three pens and I am already looking to order more!
The makerspace is always evolving, always filling with more materials and more ideas. This list is definitely not exhaustive of all of our materials, but these have easily become our must-have materials for kids to make, create, tinker and play. As our makerspace continues to evolve, so will this list!
What materials are your must-haves in your makerspace? Let us know in the comments section below!
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, f3nd1.