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3 Great Ideas for Your Elementary Makerspace that will be a HIT with Young Students!

3 Great Ideas for Your Elementary Makerspace that will be a HIT with Young Students!

In my Makerspace, I get to work with grades PreK-6. This means that each week I am prepping for a wide range of abilities and interests, and I work hard to make sure my youngest makers get lessons that are just as amazing as my most mature students.

Don’t dumb down ideas for younger kids, just make the tools more accessible, and make sure they have enough pieces and ideas to get started.

I introduce a process of making early. We get inspired, we plan, we build, we test, we rebuild. I don’t put the process on the wall. I don’t worry about hitting every part of the process every time. We always plan before we build.

Our Process

We Get Inspired

A story, a short video, a long walk by a table piled with materials, a challenge: all ways to get ideas going. I like to use a couple of these each day to make sure every student can find an idea of their own.

We Plan

Even a really simple drawing can be a plan. I always want the kids to have a plan so we have something to look at when we run out of ideas. Also a plan gives you something to talk about when you finish.

We Build

Tape, glue, sewing, and stacking; we use so many simple tools of arts and crafts to develop skills with scissors, and glue sticks. We learn how to safely handle rubber bands and how to wash paint off of our shoes.

We Test

Once we are done building, we test it. Does it work? Could it work better? Is there room for glitter?

We Rebuild

What are we going to change or add before we test again?

We Share

We can talk about how what we build matched or developed from our plan. We can take pictures of each and put them side by side on seesaw, we can make a narrated movie, we can post the planned the follow up pictures in a slide deck.

How do we get inspired and what do we build? Here are 3 fun examples.

  1. Read “Muncha Muncha Muncha” but stop 1/2 way through the story and have the kids design a solution for keeping the rabbits out of Mr. McGregor’s Garden.  I like to use paper plates and strawberry baskets along with play dough. The kids usually design model gardens. I usually have at least one student that inspires a discussion of harmless traps. Be prepared to talk about the realities of animal control especially if you are in a rural area.
  2. Create a bird! The materials on this were some thin sheets of foam, craft sticks, masking tape, and tissue paper. We set up a windtube (link to Exploratorium PDF) and laid out the materials on many tables. The students had the pieces to make a simple bird and then cut the other pieces they wanted to add. The wind tube is always a chance to practice waiting for our turn and working safely around fans and cords.
  3. Read “Can Somebody Please Scratch My Back” by Jordy John. This can be connected to a discussion about different types of animals, students design a back scratcher for an animal (or for themselves). Our class use pool noodles, masking tape, and upcycled toothbrushes and salad tongs.

How do you inspire your youngest students?

Maybe the better question is “How do you stay out of their way?” Let’s chat about the tricks we use to keep kids answering their own questions and working towards their own purposes.

About the author, Sam

Sam is Makerspace coordinator at Echo Horizon School, the nicest little school on Los Angeles' West Side. In the classroom since '02 Sam has taught grades PreK-12. Every lesson is a writing lesson.