Makerspaces: A Quick Guide

Makerspaces: A quick guide

What is a makerspace?

Maker spaces are spaces for students to invent, create, and build. Every group has a different style of running their programs. Some folks think makerspaces are a place where there is a variety of technology and supplies for students/patrons to use and build. Others will do more structured programming to get the most usage out of their space. These spaces encourage students to practice coding, use different STEM skills, and crafting. The goal is for students/patrons to design their own learning objectives based on their interests.

One model that helps clarify the goals of the maker program is the uTEC model. This model helps educators assess the effectiveness of their makerspaces, and adjust their programming to empower learners to become more independent.

The uTEC model

U Using Students use the technology that someone else created, and follow directions but don’t manipulate or experiment Least involved
T Tinkering Students take someone else’s model and adapt it to meet their needs
E Experimenter Students adjusts different projects based on past successes and failures
C Creator Students design a novel project Most involved

Obviously, not every student can be a creator, but the goal is for students to expand their horizons and branch out from being a user to something more. The goal that schools and libraries have when creating these spaces is for students/patrons to increase their independence. In life there are no directions, just resources and a problem. These spaces are designed to stretch critical thinking muscles.

SMAMS Library’s take on makerspaces:

Every program is different. In our library, we have been working with 7th grade study hall to start with. We are beginning to branch out into a lunch club for 7th and 8th grade students. In other libraries, they do what works best for them. In some districts, they will integrate their makerspace into library and classroom stations and present their activities as challenges. In other districts, they provide a space that is more of a “sandbox” for students to design projects.

In our program, we have “maker challenges.” These challenges can range from STEM activities to doing coding activities with Scratch ( and codacademy. In most of the challenges, students are given minimal directions and told what the final product should be. In some of the harder challenges, they are given more support. Once they get the hang of the activity, they can tinker with it to see if they can get a better result.

I’m low tech, what can I use?

Some teachers/librarians use various crafting and STEM activities with the resources they have available. Here are some resources that I’ve found useful/other librarians have found useful:

*Christmas lights-Christmas lights can be cut apart to use the lights to be used as lights for circuits. The extra wire can be used for circuits and other projects.

*Flextangles-These are flexible geometric manipulative. I have not used these, but others have had a lot of luck with these. Here’s the link with more information: (

*Crafting-Some groups will encourage crafting because it promotes critical thinking.

I’m going to focus more of this on the high tech, because there are a variety of ideas on pintrest and twitter for the low tech. If you want a list of what we’ve tried so far at SMAMS, please email me.

I’m high tech, what can I use?

*Scratch ( I know some elementary teachers use, this is very similar but slightly more advanced. It integrated the coordinate plane more than and uses the logic of coding without forcing student to use the language of coding.

*code academy- ( This site gives step-by-step tutorials on various coding languages

***For the next 2 items, I have not used these personally, but I know others who have had luck with these.***

*Rasberry Pi ( This is a mini computer without the fancy packaging. This allows for students to see how a computer functions and manipulate it into different projects.

*LittleBits- ( These are like electronic legos. They hook together super easily to form circuits. These are a great tool to practice electricity.

Other resources

Gwyneth Jones’ The Daring Librarian ( This blog talks about how she was able to get a vibrant maker space up and running.

Joyce Valenza’s Never Ending Search: ( This article has a variety of activity ideas.

Leslie Swope at the Saint Marys Public library is open to helping anyone interested in the maker movement. She has had some maker programs at her library, and taken a library field trip to a 3-D printing company in St Marys. She is aware that I’m mentioning her as a resource and is available by phone or by email (

Make it @ your Library ( I get a variety of great ideas from this site

Milton Elementary School ( –Karey Killian integrates makerspaces in her elementary library stations. This site has a variety of resources and ideas.

YALSA’s “Making in the Library Toolkit” ( a best practices guide to makerspaces


Loertscher, D. V., Preddy, L., & Derry, B. (2013). Makerspaces in the school library learning commons and the uTEC maker model. Teacher Librarian, 41(2), 48-51.



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