Once again, summer has passed far too quickly, but the fall brings its own rewards--in particular, the completion of a project I've been working on for the past three months. This summer, I interned in the Creation Lab (a digital media lab) at the Fayetteville Free Library. I had a broad and enriching range of responsibilities, including: researching products to support FFL Maker programs and planning and executing “Maker Monday” summer reading programs for kids and teens. But the project closest to my heart was the development of "Little Makers."
Little Makers was an idea that I first heard from another staff member, in passing, and it started out as not much more than a great name and a vague desire to add to the library's services. But the idea sparked real excitement in me, and my internship supervisor encouraged me to pursue it, adding the development of the Little Makers idea to my internship goals. Over the summer, I worked and conferred with numerous members of the FFL staff to push Little Makers through the phases of the project management life cycle. I took the idea and helped define it, by researching children's STEM programing and how to get children involved in the maker movement. Then, I wrote a project plan, conducting a user needs assessment, defining the goals and outcomes of the project, specifying its relationship to the library's strategic plan, delineating an action plan and timeline for implementation, and drafting a budget. I pitched the idea and presented the plan to my executive director and she loved it. She appreciated the detail of the plan and the core idea, and sent me off to get additional input from staff.
Banana piano with MaKey MaKey
Layout and Design
That initial plan went through a number of revisions, growing and evolving with the idea. But once I had the initial approval, I was free to begin moving into the execution stage. My deadline was September 7th, the organization's big 10 Year Anniversary celebration. On this somewhat tight schedule, the next steps were product research and ordering, space layout, and design. The space, in the back corner of the children's room is partly shielded by a tall bookshelf, so I wanted to put a sign or something high on the wall to create a clear sightline from the door. This led to the idea of creating a gallery wall in the space, which would increase the visibility of the space and allow patrons to display their creations and share them with the community. The DIY picture frame gallery wall creation and installation was a lot of work, but the result was worth it.
This past Saturday, the FFL opened it doors and invited patrons to discover our new Little Makers area. As it exists now, Little Makers is a free play area with complimentary programs that encourage children ages 5-8 to imagine, create, and build. The toys provided in the space facilitate the development of critical thinking, problem solving, and STEM skills.
The toys I researched and purchased include:
Roominate - a DIY wired dollhouse building kit, designed to inspire confidence and interest in STEM (Skill Concepts: architecture, engineering, electronics)
Snap Circuits - make learning electronics easy and fun! Colorful pictures in the manual demonstrate how to build exciting projects such as a flying saucer; alarms; doorbells and much more! All parts are mounted on plastic modules and snap together with ease (Skill Concepts: engineering, electronics)
MaKey MaKey- allows you to become an inventor, by alligator clipping the Internet to your world (Skill Concepts: electronics, computer programing)
Bionic Blox - a wooden architectural construction and building set (Skill concept: architecture, engineering)
Kaleido gears - this building set with interlocking soft plastic plates and meshing gears teaches children cause and effect and simple principles of mechanics (Skill concepts: engineering, math)
Goldie Blox - toys offer stories with associated games and activities that encourage girls to learn engineering skills (Skill Concepts: engineering) and more!
As I mentioned before, the space also features a gallery wall to display children's art and an invention box to inspire creativity in making. Over the next few months, I will be facilitating different Little Makers programs and activities in this space and look forward to sharing those as well.
Do you have a great idea for a Little Makers program, or for a toy to add to this space? Leave your suggestions in the comments, below.