Maker Project Ideas for Libraries and Schools

Maker Project Ideas for Libraries and Schools

Edited by Kristin Fontichiaro, Alyssa Pierce, and Ben Rearick

Copyright 2017

Released under a Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ .


This eBook was created with ideas from participants during workshops at the Frankenmuth Wickson District Library and organized by the University of Michigan School of Information’s Making in Michigan Libraries project, made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services RE-05-15-0021-15.



Distributed by Shakespir



Table of Contents



Circuits and Robotics

Construction and Deconstruction



Favorite Sources for Ideas


In our workshops at the Frankenmuth Wickson District Library, we have had many opportunities to hear about the great ideas happening in libraries in and around Frankenmuth, Michigan. We also wanted to demonstrate the ease and speed with which a book can be created at Shakespir.com. Hence, our focus here is on brevity, not comprehensive instructions for each project.





Snap Circuits – You may recognize these kits, where different electrical or electronic components snap onto a base, from your own childhood. Still popular today and budget-priced! See http://snapcircuits.net .


Google Science Journal app – Free app for Android only (no iPhone). Can measure light, sound, the angle of one’s phone, weather via a barometer, etc. It’s free from google education, and has proposed activities on their website, plus you can connect external sensors.


Pool Noodle Robots – Make ArtBots by cutting an eight-inch segment of a pool noodle. Into the noodle, insert the motor from an electric toothbrush. Then use rubber bands to attach a few markers around the noodle with the tips pointing down. When you turn on the electric toothbrush, it will draw. You can decorate them with pipe cleaners and googly eyes.


Reach out to robotics groups! – Coordinate with local robotics teams on events. Some robotics groups have community outreach as a part of their mandate, so you are getting very enthusiastic volunteers who need an outlet! (Did you know there are more student robotics teams in Michigan than anywhere in the U.S.?)






Blockly – Google’s Blockly programming app uses puzzle-shaped commands that you visually arrange onscreen and edit. It is used in several other coding projects, including Dash and Dot Robots and the Hour of Code.


Scratch and Scratch Jr – two MIT projects to make programming visual for middle-grade (Scratch) and early elementary (Scratch Junior) programmers. Scratch runs on desktop or laptop machines; Scratch Junior requires a tablet.





Strawbees – Create flexible structures using Strawbees connectors and plastic drinking straws. Similar to TinkerToys but the structures bend and flex. The straws from Gordon Food Service are the right size. Check out the separate deck of challenge cards that Strawbees sells for quick challenges with students or patrons.


Toy Takeapart – Buy discarded toys from thrift stores. Demonstrate how to use various screwdrivers. Pass out safety goggles and gloves. Save the parts for making sculptures or jewelry. If you live near a Goodwill Outlet, which sells unsold Goodwill Store merchandise, you can buy these for around $1.25/pound. This activity is also known as Appliance Autopsy or Wreck Lab. Consider taking discarded computers apart (avoid taking monitors apart, though, as the glass and internal chemicals are dangerous) and make sure appliances have been unplugged for a week or more so any stored energy in a device’s capacitors has drained. You can also take the motherboards and circuit boards from those devices and put them on display for an interactive, “Where did this come from?” exhibit.


MakeDo – Make costumes, buildings, and more out of cardboard. MakeDo kits include plastic screws and screwdrivers suitable for plastic as well as kid-safe cardboard cutters. http://make.do .





Create Watts Towers – Read _ The Wonderful Towers of Watts_, a picture book about the man who spent 32 years building towers in his yard in Loss Angeles using recycled materials and mosaic. Give kids materials to make their own structures.


Marble Runs – Either set up the run along a wall or using something with a strong base and structural supports to help kids build even higher. You can use paper tubes (hint: cut them in half and you’ll have twice as much!). Who can make the fastest run? Slowest run?


Egg Drop Challenges – Design something that will cushion an egg. Give each either access to a box of junk or distribute limited materials to each group. For an extra wow, invite the fire department to bring the bucket truck!





Screenprinting – Use ModPodge to create simple screenprinting screens for printing on t-shirts and other fabrics.


Fabric design – Digitally design custom fabric at Spoonflower.com .


Sewing – Make American Girl doll shoes and accessories.


Leather on the cheap – Buy leather sewing machine needles and thrift store leather jackets (look for Salvation Army 5 items for $5 weekend sales) to make bookmarks and simple wallets that look cool.


Stock up on sewing machines – Sewing machines are fairly cheap, as low as $50. Put out a call for volunteer sewing instructors or donated fabric.


Bean Bags – a simple starter project for kids.


Knitting DIY If you put out with the knitter stuff at an event, inevitably a knitter will appear and will show people how to do it. Ask for yarn donations and invite people to knit for those in need.


Fleece hats – Deconstruct secondhand fleece jackets and sew them into fleece hats for those in need. Use a brand-new sharp needle on your sewing machine or your needle may skip stitches.





[* Passive Maker Centers -- *] Consider setting up passive maker centers – places where patrons can stop and make something without needing the assistance of staff. For example, consider a table where they can play with origami, LEGO, or an iPad with video or photo editing apps. Supplement with how-to books!


[* Instructions For Those Who Need a Jump-Start -- *] Consider leaving out some instructions at passive maker tables for those who struggle to think of what to make out of provided materials.


[* Stash the Duct Tape -- *] Put your duct tape craft supplies on a secured drapery rod. Materials are accessible, but you can’t walk off with them!


[* Reduce, Reuse, Recycle -- *] Low on space? Consider repurposing an old laptop cart, book cart, or even book shelves that are no longer needed.


[* When in Doubt, Choose Free -- *] When in doubt, put out some tape, staplers, markers, and a box of materials you would otherwise have recycled. Junk boxes are great because patrons and students can construct whatever their mind envisions!


[* Volunteers -- *] Consider having teen volunteers help with activities for younger students.


[* Safety -- *] Put dangerous or safety-related issues out of the reach of young children. Keep lights off in areas you don’t wish students or patrons to enter.


[* Different Ages, Different Activities -- *] If you are having a family event, consider different activities for different ages.


[* Donations -- *] For a no-budget creativity corner, ask for donations from local businesses like unused Happy Meal toys from McDonald’s or leftover newsprint from the newspaper.



Favorite Sources

Sylvia’s Super Awesome Maker Show on YouTube


[+ Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh Maker Storytime book list+]

Tinkering Lab at the Exploratorium

Nifty by Buzzfeed


The Royal Institution

The Show Me Librarian

Library Makerspace

The Bubbler

Make It @ Your Library

Caine’s Arcade


Homeschool Mom blogs







Is engineering more about electronic or about taking raw materials and make them into a finished project. It should be more than just technology. Need to have a combination of both 3D printer and STEM, always make sure to have a craft, people love crafts.


Bridge building


Frankentoys creating combination toys out of other toys


Lego and cardboard events will get people in the toys


Shoebox cities


3D modeling/printing

Try pxstl.com for an easy, free start to making 3D models by clicking on blocks in a grid (made at U-M but not by UMSI)

Cookiecaster.com by Makerbot is a website that lets you draw an outline and convert it into a cookie cutter for printing. Easy starter project (UMSI)

3D print shapes for preschools to teach shapes.

Circuits and Microcontrollers

Conductive copper tape or conductive paint + LEDs to make art cards, art projects, paper circuits (Stephanie – and watch for new book coming this fall: Paper Circuits by Williams)

goes from very easy to hard, did paper circuits, can use aluminum foil for paper circuits or copper tape, can make paper circuits art,


Kids are psyched about a multimeter

Family Maker nights in the fall

Ypsi Glow a festifool spin off around Halloween, library needed to make things that glow for this event, used a strip of lights that you could put around a solid structure, and they would show people how to make circuits and attach battery packs to them to make them. They used EL wire that comes with a battery pack attached, kind of like neon but thinner. It’s 9 feet long, so you have to figure out how to run the wires, where the pack is going to be, what you want it to look like, and kids got to walk away with something that they altered or made, and then get to show it off at Ypsi Glow

Paper clips for soldering learning, can make something useful right away

Squishy Circuits use playdough instead of solder to make safe electrical connections. View the children’s book in the Readings folder (KF)

Squishy circuits, playdoh that you can make and connect electronic components, and using a sugary dough you can build sculpture, dough holds pieces together, good for first lessons in circuits or STEAM heavy libraries, teens and adults love them too. You can get all the info online if you google squishy circuits, also a book on squishy circuits.


Design Thinking

Play the design thinking game with UMSI’s free card decks (UMSI). You can have participants build items with:



Junk box


Wiki Stix


Paper and Recycled Materials

We love our junk box! Check out the Junk Box Provocations article in this folder (KF)

Cardboard challenge and MakeDo fasteners – boxes of all sizes and thicknesses. Can bring a box of junk, too. Design challenge: “improve a building … improve a room” (UMSI)

Making paper

Salad spinner and paper plates and paint for great crafts, use old CDs and make mobiles

DIY graphic novels

Marbled paper with chalk and water, or with shaving cream and food coloring, can do with coffee filters too


Sewing, Needlework, Fabric



Stephanie’s Picks:

Maker Ideas:

Toy Take Apart




Maker Project Ideas for Libraries and Schools

Looking for ideas to animate your maker culture or makerspace for youth? Sample a variety of tips and ideas for creating a culture of making, DIY, creativity, and hands-on learning with youth. Note: this eBook was created as an exercise in a class in selling handmade goods online. Therefore, the content is abridged and abbreviated and a work-in-progress. You will find project ideas and tips but not extensive instructions.

  • ISBN: 9781370688456
  • Author: Kristin Fontichiaro
  • Published: 2017-06-19 23:20:08
  • Words: 1773
Maker Project Ideas for Libraries and Schools Maker Project Ideas for Libraries and Schools