A Wrinkle in Tech

Makerspaces Without a Space: Circulating Maker Kits for the School Library

GoldieBlox (TM) and the Spinning Machine set – Image from Amazon, no affiliate links

This fall in our school library, I tried something new: I decided to make some circulating craft or maker kits for students in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades to check out and take home.  I started with GoldieBlox™ sets, because they are already sold as a “kit,” much like our book/audiobook bundle kits.  Instead of an audiobook on CD, however, the maker kits include a bag of building materials.  Admittedly, GoldieBlox™ has been ridiculously over-hyped, and to put it nicely, the books aren’t exactly quality literature.  Still, the read-and-build format can make engineering more accessible to students who may not think that they like STEM subjects.

Q-BA-Maze 2.0 set – Image from Amazon, no affiliate links

Then, I did the same thing with Q-BA-MAZE™ marble run blocks.  I used 1 “cool colors” set and 1 “warm colors” set to create 4 circulating maker kits.  These aren’t as well-known and might be considered more of a “toy,” but there is still potential for learning about physics when using the blocks to create marble mazes.  Every maze created is different, and there are endless possibilities even within the same design.

Both GoldieBlox™ and Q-BA-MAZE™ sets are affordable (all under $25.00 on Amazon), which I think makes them particularly suited for school libraries.  Most hardcover picture books are in that price range, so it’s not going to break a school library’s budget.  Additionally, it isn’t difficult or expensive to get parts to replace lost or broken pieces.  One extra GoldieBlox™ set can supply spare parts, and the Q-BA-MAZE™ set has extra marbles.  If a few Q-BA-MAZE™ blocks go missing, that won’t hinder maze creation, and a teacher-librarian could keep a few in the library office specifically for replacing lost parts.

Those features, combined with the sad fact that many elementary schools share a librarian with other buildings, makes circulating kits a practical way for busy, overwhelmed librarians to inspire “maker thinking.”  By circulating maker kits, the time and space needed for creating is moved from the school space to the home.  Potentially, a maker kit could not only connect learning at school with learning at home, but it could also advocate the library program to parents and caregivers.  In each kit, I included a small card inviting parents to send in photos of what students create.  With permission, I could then post those pictures on our library’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

So far, the students are enjoying the kits, and GoldieBlox™ is the clear favorite.  I’ve been wondering if that’s because they are more familiar to students from library centers last year.  The Q-BA-MAZE™ kits are still getting checked out, but just not as much.  I’m interested to see if they become more popular as more students try them out.

From a library management perspective, an essential part of circulating anything is a MARC record, or MAchine Readable Catalog record.  MARC records make any item searchable in the online library catalog.  Creating MARC records from scratch, however, is time-consuming and tedious, so I’m sharing the ones I created for our library’s maker kits.  If you are interested in circulating maker kits in your school or public library, you can download them below.

Click the image to download MARC records for your library’s craft / maker kits.

Also, if you would like to add circulating maker kits to your school library, you can check out my GoldieBlox™ Circulating Maker Kit product at the Mrs. J in the Library TpT store.  The paper circuits and Q-BA-MAZE™ kits will be coming soon.  Update June 2015: The Paper Circuits with Interactive Nursery Rhymes Maker Kits and Q-BA-MAZE™ Marble Run or Maze Kits are now available!!

Later this year, I plan to expand the circulating maker kits to include new kits with consumable materials.  Paper circuits and e-textile projects will be my first attempts with this model.  While these kits will be more expensive to support, I want to extend students’ creation opportunities during library centers to create and making at home.  I’m excited to see how it plays out as the school year continues. 

Also, if you’ve ever tried circulating objects or artifacts for student learning, I’d love to hear about how it’s going in the comments.  Let’s learn from each others’ experiences!

UPDATE May 2015 – I’ve added Paper Circuits circulating maker kits to my TpT store, and a blackline version to save printer ink/toner.

UPDATE June 2015 – Thanks to Teen Librarian Toolbox and The Daring Librarian for the shout-outs about my circulating maker kits in their recent blog posts!  I’ve also just added Q-BA-MAZE™ marble run or maze circulating maker kits to my TpT store.

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