You have gotten the approval for a makerspace. You have talked to other teachers and are working out curriculums with their classes, and have a basic idea of what you want your students to learn.
How do you pay for all of this?
The first obvious spot are grants. They are not always easy to get, but they can jump-start a space very quickly. The most important part of any grant request is the narrative you tell — it needs to focus on student learning. If you write a grant that just focuses on getting a bunch of shiny new toys, it will be passed over. Draw attention to the skills the students and staff are going to learn by using new tools. Write about how students will be able to approach learning in new and different ways and how that will lead to increased engagement and learning opportunities. Every makerspace has a story and you need to make sure you articulate yours to receive the grant.
One of our past blogs, Don’t Be Afraid to Apply for a Grant, has tips on how to write a request. Here are a few suggestions of where to apply:
DonorsChoose.org is definitely one of the best resources out there for starting a makerspace. According to Diana Rendina on KnowledgQuest, the key is to focus on one particular project, keep the overall price low, and market like crazy. Also, try to find matching offers that fit with what you’re looking for; a match means you’ll only have to raise half the funds. Matches for the Arts, STEM, STEAM, and sustainability all fit in nicely with Makerspace projects. Other crowd funding sites like GoFundMe and KickStarter can also be great options. GRANTS & FUNDING by Renovated Learning has suggestions of other resources for grants.
Also check and see if your PTA or local School Board donates to start up projects like makerspace.
The next way is to solicit donations.
Never discount the value of donated materials. Let your parents and community know what you’re looking for. While you might not get a 3D printer, many families have craft supplies, LEGOs and other items sitting around their houses that they’d love to give you. And like classroom supply lists, many parents are happy to purchase items to donate when they know what you need. Consider putting out a bin for donations of recycled materials. These are easy-to-acquire, free supplies that people would often just throw away. In the hands of your creative students, they can be magic.
You might find out that your school already has some maker supplies lying around. Scavenge your storage rooms. The odds are there is equipment just lying around such as desks, filing cabinets, shelving, and pegboards. You will be amazed how many storage containers you will go through as your creativity grows, so find and ask for them, too. It’s better to start small and then gradually build up your program than to keep sitting around and waiting for a huge chunk of money to fall into your lap.
There is a good chance you will want to be working with robotics or circuitry of some kind. These items are best bought new, as to be sure there is enough charge to support dozens of kids. Other articles that are important to a makerspace are tape, scissors, staplers, glue sticks, construction paper, pipe cleaners, pony beads, duct tape, hot glue guns and glue, foam stickers, wire cutters, and popsicle sticks just for a start. Stock the space with items that are typically found around the house or school – small and larger boxes, paper towel and toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, and masking and duct tape.
Remember – it’s okay to start out small. If you can get someone to pop for a 3D printer, all the better. But the point of this classroom space is to learn how things work and to make things that will work. So don’t worry about size.
Next Week: Where Do You Get Project Ideas?