Tag Archives: makerspace

Alien Invasion! Using STEM programming as teambuilding

One activity that I have had so much fun with is my “alien invasion activity.”This activity could be done with any STEM challenge, it’s more focused on teambuilding and communication

“Knowing your strengths”

Students are put into groups and told to assess their strengths, they can choose to be tactile (good with fixing things) or verbal (good at explaining). The group should be half tactile and half verbal.

<cue plot twist>

The aliens are not friendly. If you want them to leave you alone, you must fix their spaceship…but the verbal people cannot speak, and the tactile people cannot touch.

Fixing the Spaceship

Each student gets a manila folder with a spaceship outline, a battery, 2 wires with the ends stripped, tin foil, a Christmas light bulb, and electrical tape. They have to make a circuit that goes around the perimeter of the spaceship and gets the bulb to light.


The finished product!

In Reflection

Using your weakness can be difficult, but it’s something we have to do in life. Not only does this activity teach about circuits, conductors and insulators, but encourages students to grow as a learner.


Silent STEM!

One of my favorite activities involves everyone ending at different times. Instead of having students do busy work, one option I use is “silent STEM.” I have supplies in baggies and students are given an end result instead of directions.

This edition of “Silent STEM” involved baggies of Little Bits. We had the bits to make a flashlight. The students had the option of using a supply table if they needed more parts (to make the outside of the flashlight).

I loved that everyone’s results were slightly different, and it gave students another chance to be hands on without distracting from the first activity of the period.

Reflection: Makerspaces Year 1

Every librarian struggles with imposter syndrome. We never feel ready enough, prepared enough, equipped enough. Imposter syndrome can keep us humble, can push us to find more professional development, to keep looking for more resources, BUT it can sometime prevent us from taking the leap when we want to try something new. This year, even though I didn’t feel prepared enough, I started my makerspace.

clean makerspace

Our clean Makerspace

Starting Slow…

I worked with one of the teachers assigned to supervise a study hall to outline our plan of attack. My activities were designed to be an incentive for students who finished early. They were a treat that didn’t have to happen everyday (depending on my schedule). I made sure that my first activity was a fun one that made them want to come (duck calls out of straws). I had a group of enthusiastic students who started a project so large, we had to work on it during lunch. This success during lunch motivated me to open it up to running a club for all during lunches.

Finding Resources

Makerspaces have become synonymous with 3D printers and high tech tools. It’s very hard to ask for those things without an established program. We started our program with simple activities from straws, popsicle sticks, manila folders, beads, and yarn. Yet, with those tools, we covered binary code, morse code, the thought process behind anamatronics/muscles, potential/kinetic energy and a variety of other topics.

We then used Donors Choose to get a Makey Makey and a small set of Little Bits. The kids enjoyed them and we’ve actually been able to share our resources with a science class.


I was really grateful to do 2 Skype sessions for our students. In February, we Skyped with students who had a successful maker program. My kids were in awe of what this school had built their program into. In April, we Skyped with Michael Hayward from Schlow library who spoke about how to make an App. I really enjoyed bringing a fresh perspective to my students.

Moving forward…

Next year I am considering how I arrange my library to allow for a better flow. I think the makerspace will be moved to an area that has more storage for supplies and in-progress shelves.I also am going to think about putting procedures in place to make sure that I can have more students working independently on projects when they have time and to use our homeroom time.

Having conversations with other librarians have helped me so much throughout this process. Sometime the best resources are Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and face to face conversations with colleagues. We are all lucky to have each other. I am lucky to have everyone who helped me make my makerspace a great part of my library program.

Maker Monday

We’ve had to take a month off from Maker club due to scheduling issue, but this week we were back with a BANG! After a succesful Skype visit with another school in February, we rewarded their good behavior. They were able to make Jolly Rancher Roses.

How to make Jolly Rancher Roses


Some of our examples are above.

Supplies needed: Jolly Ranchers, Hot Water, Sticks (we were cheap and used popsicle sticks, wasn’t the most ideal), plastic to wrap the finished product in (plastic baggies), gloves, pot to store hot water, slotted spoons, and wet wipes.

Our thoughts:We loved this activity! I should have brought more than one pot for hot water. We learned that you should only take the jolly ranchers out of the water one time. If they harden too quickly, we were able to throw them back in the water.

PDE Standards: S8.C.1.1.2 Use characteristic physical or chemical properties to distinguish one substance from another (melting points)

Morse Code Activity

Instructions: Find a printout that translates Morse Code. Explain what Morse code it/how it developed. Looking for a way to introduce this? Here’s a funny video that has Morse Code being used in a prank (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWCQgLLtM_w). Students are then challenged to write a secret message in Morse Code.

Then, students can put their secret messages into the translator (http://morsecode.scphillips.com/translator.html) and their friends can try and guess the secret message.

Supplies needed: Printout with Morse Code language, computer, paper, pencil.

Our thoughts:Overall, it went very well. We focused on figuring out the first letter of each word in order to figure out the message successfully. We kept our messages to 3 words, because if they were longer it became to hard to figure out.

PDE Standards: 3.4.3.E4 Recognize that information and communication technology is the transfer of messages among people and/or machines over distances through the use of technology

Maker Monday

As my library embarks on its journey in makerspaces, I’ve noticed that there is a lack of activities tagged as “maker” activities. I am documenting our successful activities and posting our thoughts. In addition to that, I’ve also provided Pennsylvania state standards to help teachers and librarians starting their maker voyage.

Maker Monday.jpg

~~3D Book~~

Instructions can be found here: http://de-tout-et-de-rien-caroline.blogspot.com/2012/01/comment-fonctionne-le-tridimensionnel.html

Supplies needed: Red and Blue Markers, paper, 3D glasses

Our thoughts: I thought this activity would be too simple for middle school and they would be bored, but the kids loved it! I just put the markers out and told them that I wanted them to draw a 3D picture. Once their drawing was finished, I let them put on the glasses. Then, once they saw their finished product, they all asked to draw another picture to accentuate the 3D effects.

We had luck if they drew a picture in one color and then outlined it in the other color.

PDE Standards: 9.1.8.A Know and use the elements and principles of each art form to create works (form/shape)

3.4.7.C2 Explain how modeling, testing, evaluating, and modifying are used to transform ideas into practical solutions.


~~Simple Robotic hand~~

Instructions can be found here: http://www.aclassofone.blogspot.com/2013/12/apologia-anatomy-physiology-unit-three.html

Supplies needed:Cardstock (or manila folders), string, straws, tape, scissors

Our thoughts: This was an activity where I showed them the finished product and talked about animatronics that are often used in Disney rides and basic robotics. Some of the early versions that the kids made were to stiff, they did a great job of working together to fix each others problems.

PDE Standards:10.1.6.B Identify and describe the structure and function of the major body systems. (muscular and skeletal)

More Makerspace Activities

Looking for some more low tech Makerspace activities for your kids? Here are some that we’ve had luck with!

~~Code your name~~

Instructions can be found here:http://www.mamasmiles.com/stem-fun-for-kids/

Supplies needed:String, 3 different color beads.

Our thoughts: We really enjoyed this activity. I found a handout to help students write out the code for each letter of their names and figure out what it would be in binary code. The kids loved it. They had the choice to make a necklace or a keychain!

PDE Standards:  3.4.6.E4

Illustrate how communication systems are made up of a source, encoder, transmitter, receiver, decoder, and destination.

binary beads.JPG

~~Foam stamp blocks~~

Instructions can be found here: http://onegoldenapple.blogspot.com/2010/06/blog-post.html

Supplies needed: Blocks, scissors, styrofoam plates (or foam, but plates are significantly cheaper), masking tape, and paint.

Our thoughts: We had fun with this. The students made stamps and we worked together to make mosaic-like tiles as a class. Our first instinct was to make detailed carvings and used a lot of paint on our plates, but we discoved that a simple carving with a light coat of paint worked very well.

When I introduce this activity, I use this opportunity to introduce the history of the “arts and crafts movement” and the Roycroft Artisan Community (http://www.thecraftsmanbungalow.com/elbert-hubbard-roycroft-campus/)

PDE Standards: 9.1.8.A Know and use the elements and principles of each art form to create works in the arts and humanities. (color • form/shape • line • space • texture)


9.2.8.C Relate works in the arts to varying styles and genre and to the periods in which they were created


Makerspace Activity Ideas

The maker movement is taking off in our library, and I wanted to share some activities and resources that have been successful for us so far. I present my makerspace as “maker challenge” time. I provide the resources, a description or picture of the end product, and let them go with minimal instruction. The kids love puzzling through these challenges.


  1. Making a duck call out of straws.

Instructions can be found here: https://sciencebob.com/make-a-simple-duck-call/

Supplies needed: Straws and scissors

Our thoughts:We love this activity! The kids had a blast thinking of ways to get the straw to make the necessary noise. A lot of creativity came out and a lot of teamwork resulted from this.

With one of our groups, the music teacher popped in to relay a message. Once he realized what we were doing, he quickly made one successfully and gave the kids some hints based on what he had taught them about instruments in music class.

Science connections:S7.C.3.1 Explain the principles of force and motion


2. Catapults!

Instructions can be found here: http://makeitatyourlibrary.org/play/easiest-mini-catapult-ever#.VnCRctIrKPQ

Supplies needed: Rubber Bands and Popsicle sticks

Our thoughts: I loved all the innovative designs that our students came up with.We began with the challenge of having students use the supplies available to create a catapult that can send a small item the farthest. Once we were ready to test their designs, we show them the ideal design and test theirs versus the design above.

Science connections: Simple machines. Standard – 10.5.6.E  Identify and use scientific principles that affect basic movement and skills using appropriate vocabulary.


3. Popsicle stick throwing stars

Instructions can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQyGDKklVPU

Supplies needed: Popsicle sticks

Our thoughts: This was an activity found by one of our 8th grade students. It was extremely well recieved and much harder than expected. Even with showing the instructional video, it took a while for students to successfully even make a simple star. It was incredibly entertaining to see the stars fall apart when they hit the hard target.

Science connections: 3.2.8.B2 Identify situations where kinetic energy is transformed into potential engery and vice versa.


Standards included come from PDE SAS (pdesas.org)