While it's not officially summer yet, most of us are finishing up with the school year and planning to take a well-deserved break. Some people will spend the time relaxing by the pool, others will binge on trashy novels at the beach, and others may plan a "staycation" right at home.
Wherever the summer may take you, there is surely a spot in the back of your mind where you are already thinking and planning for next school year. For some, that comes in the form of planning a new unit of study, reading a professional book to prepare for an initiative at school, or working towards your Level II Google certification.
There are other educators who get ready for the fall spending their summers strolling flea markets and garage sales buying things for their classrooms. They pride themselves on an awesome find at a rock-bottom price. A teacher texted me last summer with a photo of a huge box of treasures--"only $2.00!" she wrote. She returned to school in the fall and shared that box with her students who found all sorts of uses for the variety of items she scored.
With innovative learning spaces finding their way into many schools, summer is a great time to find new things to stock your shelves and bins and make any space into a makerspace.
A set of encyclopedias printed in the 1970s. Piles of picture books with broken bindings and a few torn pages. A stack of discarded magazines from Better Homes and Gardens or Reader's Digest.
Books and other reading materials are at every garage sale. Many teachers take advantage of 25 cent book bins and stock their classroom libraries. Those with a Maker Mindset look at books and see an opportunity for a design project. Disclaimer: I am a former reading specialist and book fanatic and hate the idea of ripping up books, but have you seen what some people can create out of old books? http://www.bigdiyideas.com/35-unique-and-creative-vintage-book-crafts/
Origami, bookmarks, wreaths, sculptures, and even purses are being crafted from old books. Folding, rolling, tearing, carving, gluing, and rethinking the paper from recycled books is a great makerspace project.
Classrooms are transforming with new seating options, giving students more choice. Check out Kayla Delzer’s classroom pictures at http://www.topdogteaching.com/ for some flexible seating ideas. Mismatched chairs, industrial stools, or vinyl bean bag chairs might be at your neighbor’s yard sale, and all make for inexpensive seating options in the classroom.
Be on the lookout for yoga balls, porch furniture, and seat cushions which can all find a second life in the classroom. With a new coat of paint, benches or wooden furniture can serve a new purpose in a reading nook or collaboration area.
One of the most popular spots in our school makerspace was the "deconstruction zone". Students took apart broken toys and electronics--some just to satisfy their curiosity but for others it became a challenge to repair or re-purpose the items. One 5th grade student took apart a transistor radio into a million pieces, then put it back together again, in complete working order!
Picking up used board games, card games, or puzzles (even with possible missing pieces) also represent low-tech opportunities for young makers to hack a game and create one of their own.
Wooden or plastic blocks in large and small sizes will be put to good use in a makerspace. Be on the lookout for bags of loose Legos © or other brick-type toys that can be used for designing structures. Lego© accessories, base plates, and storage cases are also great finds at a garage sale. Many makerspaces are equipped with Lego walls or tables for students to make their building multi-dimensional. Connect your 3-D model to a mini-motor and make it mobile or link to a robotics kit like Hummingbird http://www.hummingbirdkit.com/ and see what your students come up with!
Family garage sales are often overflowing with kids’ stuff, but don't overlook what dad might be getting rid of. Hand tools like hammers, wrenches, and saws or small power tools may have a cheap price tag at a neighborhood sale. Odds and ends from dad's workbench might also be for sale. Small items like brackets, hooks, gears, or wires can also be put to good use in your makerspace. Students will love the opportunity to tinker with tools and embrace the idea to take their vision and make it a reality.
Summer is the perfect time to recharge your battery and restock your classroom. Well-loved makerspaces are always in need of replenishment. Local yard sales and flea markets may have the items your students want at price your budget can afford. So, get out there this summer and grab some treasures for the makers in your school!