As we are contemplating and experimenting with Project Based Learning we are running into a few issues. My thoughts turned to the Maker Space. From another conversation I had with our librarian, it sounds like it is not being utilized. Based on our classroom needs I wanted to offer a few thoughts that might help teachers in their efforts to do projects and encourage "hands on" and exploitative learning–the ideal of the maker space movement.
Lending Library of Tools: As libraries move to expand beyond books, I have read about ones that lend tools. It makes sense–I use my post hole digger about once every five years; if the library had it I’d still have access and so would the entire community. I have a box of 10 saws and a few hammers in my classroom from our long-gone tech program, but no one in the school knows it, thinks about it, and if they did borrow it I’d worry they’d never come back. Still, I only use them a few times a year–they are an underutilized resource. Put a bar code on them and now they are public, in the database and tracked.
There are so many tools classroom teachers search for; glue guns, longer tape measures and Phillips screwdrivers, are always in demand. These are not tools most classrooms would need on a regular basis, but when you need them, you need them. Put them together and bar code them for inventory control.
Depot of Free Consumables: When a teacher needs cardboard, shoe boxes, yogurt containers and such the all-staff email goes out. In that one week window a whole classroom project hinges on our ability to consume and remember to bring in a certain number of 2 liter bottles. While teachers could do a better job of planning, when we respond to student needs we often need to turn on a dime–suddenly, shoebox dioramas make sense. There are constant (cardboard) and perennial (yogurt cups) needs that could be slowly collected–I toss a single good shoebox out about every month. A single shelving unit of dedicated tubs for such things would go far.
Store of Emergency Cost Consumables: I am often hit up for duct tape. I have a lot, because when you need it you need it, plus the borrowing. There is nothing more frustrating than needing supplies. A project grinds to a half for want of a glue stick. Or blue paint. As a community, we are good about sharing. And our Art teacher is generous, although her budget is limited and each request costs her interruptions of class and time in general. Still, a basic stockroom of project based supplies would help support the maker ideal. This would not be a “borrow”, but a store. And users would be charged in their supplies account for the replacement. It would be a lifeline, though.
I know the first stumbling block for this re-imagining is space. Then money. Management, too. If the idea is worth pursuing, though, we can work those details out. If we are serious about project based learning and letting the students lead their own learning, our school is going to have to be ready to provide the resources necessary–and we are going to be hard pressed in our individual classrooms to provide for every scenario.