Making does not have to be expensive for the educator to incorporate it into the classroom or for a parent to bring it into the home. It can be relatively cheap–you just have to know where to look for.
You can basically make a makerspace at no cost at all. Below are some great places to look for free or cheap materials to bring making to your classroom or home.
A creative reuse center in Mountain View, CA that rescues design fabric, wood, tiles, wallpapers, leathers and trim
For smaller scale projects these are some great places and tips to great free or cheap materials:
Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other hardware stores
Look for scrap piles of wood, usually located by the cutting area.
If you ask them nicely and tell them it’s for a kid’s project or you are an educator, they can cut the pieces of wood.
Ask to speak to the manager so you can setup a date to stop by and collect as much as you can from the scrap pile (of course, flash your educator badge).
Ask if you can collect some of the cardboard. They usually are willing to work with you to get rid of cardboard. I recommend setting up a specific day you will stop by (for example, the second Monday of the month).
Stop by after the holidays during their clearance sales and ask if you can have any of their leftover holiday theme items. Again, flash your educator badge, and most of the time they will give you items for free.
These are just a few places and tips to help you get into making without breaking your budget, and it is a great way to start exercising your creativity by looking for supplies in random places.
highlight[s] the diverse outcomes of maker-centered learning for both educators and youth–not just in knowledge acquisition, but in the (co)development of knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions. At the convening, educators and practitioners will showcase the diverse ways maker education has impacted educator practice and youth learning. Additional goals include:
Connect both formal and informal maker educators
Share examples of the impact of maker education across various settings
Offer diverse formats to explore and discuss the impact and outcomes of maker education
Paula Mitchell will be leading a workshop titled “Authentic Inclusion and Hands-On Engagement: Empowering Special Education Students and Students of Color through Culturally Responsive Maker Centered Learning.”
Maker Empowerment and Visible Thinking have become integral to Grass Valley’s school culture and curriculum. Paula’s workshop will showcase Grass Valley’s best practices with regard to maker centered learning for students of color and special education students. Through the use of an Agency by Design thinking routine and discussion of best practices around culturally responsive Maker Education, participants will come away with tools to use with their students that will help expand their mindsets so they can become agents of change in their world.
Crystal Le and Maria Renteria will be hosting a 5-minute quick talk about “Unconventional Resources: Creative Capacity Building,” in which they will talk about gathering resources from unlikely places or groups.
We hope to share the wealth of knowledge we have gained since we officially launched the Wonder Workshop back in November. Unfortunately, since the date this blog was written, tickets are no longer on sale. However, it’s never too early to save the date for the future Maker Educator Convening, which we highly recommend you to attend. Follow the #MakerEdConvening to live twitter updates about the event.
Grass Valley’s Wonder Workshop is excited to have hosted its first school-wide button design competition “Become a Buttoneer.” Our students had the opportunity to design a button that shows what Making at Grass Valley means to them.
We received many entries from various grade levels. It was hard to narrow down to just three winners!
After reviewing the entries, here are our winners:
1st Place Winner: Kymiah
2nd Place Winners: Nevaeh & MacKenzie
3rd Place Winner: LeBaron
Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to all of our participants for sharing what Making means to you!
Want a first place button handmade by Kymiah herself? It’s only a donation of $1! For more information, email us at email@example.com. Check out our Facebook for more content.
Join us for the April East Bay Maker Educator Meetups (EBMEM) at Grass Valley Elementary in Oakland for a night of culturally responsive making!
We’ll begin by learning about Grass Valley Elementary’s recent event, Black History Month Family Making Night, an event that included students, parents, and teachers in a convergence of both traditional and new forms of making. Teacher on Special Assignment, Paula Mitchell, and Maker VISTA members Crystal Le and Maria Renteria will provide a presentation on this event devoted to honoring and exploring historic and modern contributions of African American innovators. After this presentation, we’ll dive into a hands-on making activity inspired by an African American innovator and explore culturally responsive making.
The Wonder Workshop started with Paula Mitchell, the teacher behind making at Grass Valley. She had a dream to turn Grass Valley into a making school with its very own Makerspace. She attended many maker education workshops and became a member of Oakland’s Maker Fellows Program. There she met a Maker Ed Americorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service for America) member, who told Ms. Mitchell about the difference she was making at La Escuelita. Ms. Mitchell decided to apply to Maker Ed’s VISTA Program, and Grass Valley was granted two new AmeriCorps VISTA members.
This brings us to today: the VISTAs, Crystal Le and Maria Renteria, have been working behind the scenes of making at Grass Valley for 9 months. Recently, Maker Ed asked Miss Crystal and Miss Maria to participate in an online Q&A “Ask a Maker Educator: VISTA Edition.” They talk about why they are serving with the Maker Ed VISTA program, how they started Grass Valley’s new makerspace, and how they’ve creatively approached gathering resources and much more. Watch “Ask a Maker Educator: VISTA Edition” for their experiences and insights!
Grass Valley Elementary School in Oakland, CA seems almost sleepy in its Bay Area scenic setting. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, surrounded by redwoods and framed in quiet, smooth residential cul de sacs, your biggest impression when driving up to the school is the tranquility of the surrounding area. Upon further inspection, however, you’ll discover that the students and educators inside are all energetically, boldly participating and thriving in the school’s maker education program.
Though it is one of many Title 1 public schools in the Oakland Unified School District, Grass Valley is considerably unique. The bulk of its student population isn’t drawn from those nearby hills and cul de sacs. Instead, almost all students must commute 5+ miles a day to attend school there. The district offers a special bus system to the students—which travels far further than most school buses each day—to ensure students have a ride, but mostly it’s dedicated parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who make the trek with students in tow everyday. The school also serves an above average amount of high-need students, with more than a third of the students enrolled in special education.
Like many schools who decide to transition from traditional learning frameworks to fostering student-driven, hands-on learning with a STEAM focus, Grass Valley leadership tackled challenges and often slow-moving wheels as they moved to segue from adopting the idea and intention of making, to actual implementation and integration. In 2016, four teachers (two general education and two special education) and the school’s principal participated in piloting program components and regular in-depth discussions in order to determine what concretely needed to happen in order to make school-wide maker education successful for their students. Towards these research and piloting goals, one teacher, Ms. Paula Mitchell, stepped out of the classroom and into a new role as a Teacher on Special Assignment.
To take on a transformation this layered, at a school as unique as Grass Valley, is an exceptionally large task—even for educators who (aptly!) refer to their workplace as “The Little School That Could.” They quickly came to the realization that to shift to a STEAM-based curriculum that was both hands-on and project-based, they would need support from individuals and organizations. So, in the midst of launching their pilot program, they applied to partner with Maker Ed through the Maker VISTA program.
While there is no doubt that Grass Valley was already in the middle of shifting the school’s culture, the arrival of two Maker VISTA members on campus—Crystal Le and Maria Renteria—allowed the staff to hit the turbo button on the transformation. Crystal and Maria arrived with strong, shared commitment to service, education reform, and learning-on-the-spot. They also brought previous experience with STEM-based projects, museum education and curation, and boundless energy and spirit.
The first task that VISTA members Crystal and Maria tackled was the creation of Grass Valley’s first makerspace. The school staff had already decided on a room to transform: an extra classroom that was being used for storage, referred to plainly as Room 9. Before the arrival of the VISTA members, they didn’t have the capacity to oversee the redesign of the space. The Maker VISTAs got to work building furniture, arranging layout, and sorting, organizing, and collecting materials. After a month and a half, Room 9 was totally renovated, rejuvenated, and reinvented as “The Wonder Workshop.”
“With the help of the Maker Vista program, the dream of a fully functioning makerspace came to fruition,” explained Paula. “Because we had Maker VISTA members dedicated to developing and helping us implement best practices for makerspaces, our materials and resources are well organized and we have systems for keeping track of materials and ordering supplies. We utilize the space for staff professional development, workshops, and trainings. Teachers are able to use the space as additional project workspace and storage for in-process projects.”
The work didn’t end with setting up the space. The Maker VISTA superstars, along with Paula, launched a full, grand opening event via a Family Maker Night, providing the opportunity for students to access and explore the makerspace for the first time alongside their families. Crystal and Maria worked with local businesses to secure in-kind materials and raffle prizes, and recruited STEAM-industry professionals to run demo stations during the event. They created flyers, planned the making activities, and trained the volunteers who would help run the different maker stations.
These leaps and bounds didn’t slow Grass Valley or the Maker VISTA team down. In the following months, Paula, Crystal and Maria busily brainstormed project ideas, initiatives, and more maker nights. In a school-wide undertaking, students across grade levels built wooden garden boxes, learning about sustainability, nutrition, and ecosystems as they constructed with lumber and guidance sourced from a local woodworkers union by Crystal and Maria. This winter, the team organized a Black History Month Family Night and Heritage Potluck, in an evening of connecting community and culture to making. They planned numerous activities, and commissioned a panel to share diverse STEAM career paths, stories, struggles and successes with students and families. The event also spotlighted the school’s first ever Maker Ambassadors, students from three grade levels who dedicated themselves to a month of project work based on the inventions of historical African American Innovators.
Whether redefining spaces, planning events, creating partnerships in the community, or connecting heritage to making, the Maker VISTA members at Grass Valley have made impressive and significant impact within just one year. While the school’s ambitious making journey certainly didn’t start with the Maker VISTA program, the partnership has accelerated progress, boosted capacity, and increased valuation for making in this unique, driven, determined Little School That Could.