iMake iLearn – Building (or Breaking) Beyond our Bounds

Five Tips for iMake iLearn – Beyond Our Bounds with Bargains!

iMake iLearnAs the Instructional Technology Facilitator for my school, I hoped to encourage teachers and students to consider projects that infuse several of the STEAM subjects in one project. These multi-faceted projects can create deeper meaning than teaching one STEAM subject in isolation. I have always seen the interdisciplinary approach to education as a more effective strategy and was inspired by how learning and thinking can combine. Many times, one project touches upon each of the STEAM disciplines working together.

I decided to share my recent story of building a collaborative makerspace/learning environment with fellow teachers who are also organizing resources to create a space for technology integration. As this was my idea, and not a district initiative, there was no budget offered. There was just my inspiration to create a collaborative space to help teachers and students. Perhaps a few of the ways that I made my personal dollars go a little further, might help someone else accomplish great things at their school with the hope to help maximize your project. A few tips to consider:

Tip #1 – Scout a Location

With the support of administration, I was able to create a multi-use space by using the former storage space/faculty lounge. We renamed this new community lounge our “STEAM Cafe”. The space still serves as a teacher lounge for coffee breaks, lunch space, professional phone calls, and conversation.  It also still provides as a professional development area with SMARTBoard to support presentations, collaboration, and instruction.

Tip #2 – Look at Available Resources Differently

Think outside the box. I spoke to administration and the custodial staff. Tables were found. Yay! That was a start.  My mobile cart of older laptops moved down to #OurSTEAMCafe with me. Yay! Technology! Hmmm keep thinking. Keep thinking.

Next, I looked around my boxes. Hmm markers here. Crayons there. Construction paper there. I collected everything and anything that seemed useful. I continued to think of what could be repurposed. I did decide to splurge on a few things via Amazon and Walmart like Legos, K’nex, a Line tracking robot, and decorative pillows.

Tip #3 – Create an Environment to Support Collaboration

I then added exploration areas to bring a focus to all STEAM content to include a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math Area. These exploration areas have resources that can be borrowed for classrooms or used in the STEAM Cafe. The tables in the middle can be used for a collaborative creative space.  By reorganizing these resources, the general space now has a makerspace feel. As my “budget” allowed, I added more and more items for teacher and student to use. I had discussions with fellow building teachers and my DEN PLN for resource suggestions to display.

Tip #4 – Engage Your Network for More Ideas

Last summer, I found the research of Georgette Yakman. Similarly, during the Discovery Education’s DENSI Summer Institute I experienced a Maker Faire. (Thank you, Kristy Vincent!). These ideas swirled together in my head. I love how we all learn so much from one another through the DEN. DENfriends, It would be wonderful if you would kindly add your tips and suggestions to the comment section below this blog post. Perhaps one or two of your ideas can be utilized to help maximize other projects, too!

Tip #5 – Shop Around

Staples, office supplies store, offers 5% back on purchases. Items are always being purchased for either my home office or school desk. It is part of us to simply go above and beyond for our students and staff. What a pleasant surprise it is when that lovely envelope arrives in the mail with that familiar Rewards logo! For example, I had two coupons in my wallet. One for $5 and one for $10 to spend at Staples. In my mind, that meant $15 of free stuff for #OurSTEAMCafe!

There is a joke “Teaching – the only profession where you steal supplies from home and bring them to work”.  It is so true. Many of my “extras” from the home office came into school. But there are ways to help make creating makerspaces/classroom supplies a little easier on our wallets. There can be great reward when a makerspace is created. So maximize shoppers “rewards” to help you create your space. Your DENfriends would love to hear how your spaces are developing. Please share with us.

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