Makerspace for Little or Nothing

Makerspace for Little or Nothing
You don't have to spend thousands of dollars to start a Makerspace area. You don't have to have a designated room or rip out bookcases. You can even have a Makerspace on a cart! When we have testing in our Library, I put all our Makerspace stuff on an AV cart and roll it into our server room.  This post evolved from a previous post called Makerspace Starter Kit Updated where I had some of these idea, but I felt that it deserved it's own expanded post.

You can take baby steps into the Maker Movement.  I've been saying that for 7 years or so....long before I blogged about it, I tried it out. Yeah, sometimes I try things on the sly to see if they are blogworthy for you! Now....having said that.....

WARNING: Controversial Opinion Ahead. 
I'm not 100% sold, even after 7 years of talking about the Maker Movement, that it's something that's here to stay and not just a fad. Even though I've (without knowing it!) been using aspects of the movement since we opened our school in 1997, what if it's a flash in the pan? Back then we used Hollywood High, Specular Logo Motion, Hyper Studio, and we created a daily LIVE TV Studio news show. We didn't know it was a Makerspace.  

But what if we spend thousands of dollars on 3D printers, robotics, and other ephemera and it just ends up collecting dust? What if we DO make huge architectural changes in our schools and we can't go back? What if it's like the $10,000 interactive SMART boards in schools that are now just used as regular white boards? That's why I've intentionally NOT spent a lot of money on our Maker corner. This post is about creating a Makerspace with little or no money. Using creativity instead of cash.

A Makerspace is what you make of it! Big or small, lavish or little, it's all about the maker mindset.  Be creative! Be crafty! Ask your kids what they want and brainstorm how to bring it to the school! Ask for donations. Ask for help. Don't worry if it's not perfect at first or if you fail. Just give it a shot.

TP & Paper Towel Building Blocks
Collect toilet and paper towel rolls, heck - have the whole school collect them! Say you're trying for 50 or 100 - put a decorated cardboard box outside your Library or Classroom for donations!

Make sure to Tweet, IG out, or add the request to your staff & community newsletter! But be careful, you could get an AVALANCHE of materials!

Then cut them into different lengths, have the kiddos paint them with water based paints and notch them with scissors -- then let kids build with them! Store them in milk crates or bins. Voila!

I've heard lately, that some people don't like this idea because they're concerned about germs. I guess TP rolls & airborne germs? I'm kind of a germophobe, and I didn't even think about that! Sheesh. How about lightly spraying all the cardboard rolls with Lysol? about using paper towel rolls cut into different lengths?  More! Cardboard Tube STEM Activities and more!  This is a Mommy blog that has lots of great STEM ideas! W00t! 

Origami Makerspace Pinterest Board.

Origami is the perfect addition to a Maker program. Gather some origami books (I have like at least 10) paper of all kinds, safety scissors, rulers, and a recycling bin or the scraps and Voila! Kids love folding paper and even though I'm not patient enough to do this myself, many of my kiddos are amazing at Origami!

Great Introductory Origami Projects:



Paper Folding/Origami - MIT Edgerton Center - K12 Makerspaces

LEGOS for Nothing.

Here's Sam, who generously donated these LEGO pieces!

Here's the super cool Cassius, who does smile, I swear! Giving us like two big tubs of great LEGO pieces! Such a great kids!

My lovely wonderful Library Media assistant Kathi, took them home over the weekend and put them all in a bucket with a bleach solution & dried them in the sunshine. Voila! Just like new!

Ask your PTA, ask your kids, have a LEGO donation bucket by the door of your Library Media Center or classroom and check out yard sales and thrift shops. Bleach is amazing and cheap. Go for it!

Now... I've totally snagged (with permission!) some amazing ideas from MY Makerspace Guru, Diana Rendina!

Graphic by @DianaLRendina
Cardboard Creature Challenge
Now, shamelessly stolen  from my Makerspace Gur, Diana Rendina - Teasing Excerpts from the amazing article she wrote for Demco titled  3 Design Challenges for the Low-tech Makerspace  (Link below - I promise! Just don't want to lose you quite yet, you may never come back!;-)  

"The Cardboard Challenge has long been one of my favorite makerspace activities. Inspired by the amazing short film Caine’s Arcade and the Imagination Foundation’s Global Cardboard Challenge (October 6th - Join in!), I create a new variation on this challenge every year. We’ve created cardboard arcades, robots, buildings, etc." -- Read the article for more!

Graphic by @DianaLRendina
Tech Take-Apart Robot Challenge
Tech take-apart is a classic makerspace activity. This design challenge takes it a step further by recycling the technology into a robot made by students. This project doesn’t have to be super complex — picture a shoebox painted with black paint that has keyboard keys and circuit boards glued to it. (link below - I promise!)

Graphic by @DianaLRendina
Recycled Book Art Gallery  
Our Art Teacher does this and we always love to provide gallery and brainstorming space! Maybe she gets some of our weeded books OR maybe she uses donated books from the kids and
MHMS Upcycled Book Art Gallery Walk from my IG
the community. I can't speak to that here... my supervisor might see this! 

Here's what Diana has to say about this! 

"We all have damaged or out-of-date books that we’ve weeded from our library. Instead of tossing them out, why not transform them into recycled art? Browse Pinterest or check out some of the recommended resources below to gather inspiration for students. Provide students with a variety of arts and crafts supplies, including glue, tape, paint, scissors, glitter, etc. Teach the students about what an artist’s statement is, and have them write one up once their project is done. Then create a gallery of all the students’ projects in the library and invite classes to visit for a gallery walk. This is a great way to introduce students to the world of professional art and a fantastic way to recognize their work.  Design prompt: Working alone or in pairs, transform a used book into a work of art. You can use any arts and crafts materials, including paint, scissors, glue, tape, etc. Write an artist’s statement explaining how you came up with your idea and how you created your art. You will have one week to complete the project. All of the book art will be displayed with artists’ statements in a gallery in the library. " 

The Amazing Maker World of Renovated Learning
by Diana Rendina

She makes my Makerspace look like small potatoes or tater tots!  I admire all she does and in a perfect world, I would totally adapt more of her ideas and projects.  BEHOLD and admire! 

5 Questions to ask when planning a Makerspace

By Diana Rendina
Are you the type of person who likes to fill in worksheets?  Click here to download a FREE printable 5 Questions worksheet!

More from my Makerspace Guru, Diana Rendina:
How to Start a Makerspace When You’re Broke
Starting a Makerspace: Baby steps
3 Design Challenges for the Low-tech Makerspac

Or just search her blog for all her posts on the Maker Movement, buy her books, and be sure to follow her on Twitter! Diana Rendina (@DianaLRendina) she's kind of amazing.

Don't forget that video production, animation, green screen, blue screen, TV studio, coding, programming, any collaborating with a Science class can make your school Makerspace program shine! Make sure to bring in other subject areas. Don't just have a Maker program in the Library, have the Maker mindset all over the school. Work with your Tech Ed teacher, FACS (what was once called Home Economics) and Art teacher. Make your Library a great space to display artwork. I'm a big advocate of STEAM rather than STEM. Think about gallery openings and gallery walks. This gets more people into your space. 

Consider creating short videos on Instagram or YouTube having kids talk about their artwork & create a QR code to that post that you print out and put next to the artwork. That way, when people see the display, they can scan and see the video. 

Do NOT let the expense, mess, trouble, or obstacles stop you from doing this!  Be the innovator and the spark in your school or district.  You got this! I know you can be AWESOME! 

Honestly, this last part was in a previous blog called Makersapce Starter Kit Updated but in case you missed it, I think this part is an important part of the conversation for any Maker project. 

What do you think are the essential conversations? 

I will be presenting this and more as a featured speaker at my state Ed Tech conference called Common Ground in Ocean City, Maryland in a few weeks. I'm always excited to speak in my home turf! This is the conference that gave me my start speaking in Ed Tech back in 1996.
MHMS Library Art Installation -

-------------------TESTING: A (Sad) Fact of Life - Packing My Making Away-------------------

Resources & Links:

Past Related Posts:
Makerspace Starter Kit
Questions About Coloring & Makerspace
The Way of the Lego
The Zen of Coloring
Spot it! Gamification For The Win

10 Coloring Pages for Women's History Month 

More Maker Posts! 
Create an Amazing Low-tech Library Makerspace With These Easy Ideas
A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources
Academic Ways to Use the MaKey-MaKey in the Classroom
Make Makey Official Website Lots of great stuff here!
Makey Makey - Makerspace for Education
Top 5 Lessons for Integrating Makey Makey Into Your Curriculum
Sphero Mini - the awesome App-Enabled Robotic Ball review
Classroom Doodles: FREE kid friendly coloring pages!
The Zen of Coloring: 7 Lessons on Living a Happy, Mindful Life
Flexible Classrooms: Research Is Scarce, But Promising
The Seven Myths Keeping Teachers from Designing Makerspaces by @spencerideas
Recycled Media – Julia Sanderl
Create an Amazing Low-tech Library Makerspace With These Easy Ideas 

Makerspace Curation

Makerspace Managed Scoopit Page (inspired by Harry Potter & Mischief Managed, naturally!)

 Makerspace Managed Pinterest Board 
Embedded below:
Intro to Makerspaces in the School Library - a Haiku Deck by @heidinelt

Makerspaces - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

Your turn!

What do you think? What did I forget? Please leave a comment with your thoughts and I may add it to the post! Thank you & Cheers dears!

Twitter: @GwynethJones - IG: The Daring Librarian. Future Ready Teacher Librarian & Tech Leader. Mover, Shaker, Blogger, International Ed Tech Keynote Speaker, Blogger, & Google Certified. ISTE Board of Directors PK-12 Representative 2010-2014 - Creator of Content. Meme & Trope Archivist Geek. Ridiculously Humble. My beach blog: The Coastal Cottage DE



  1. I'm also not sure Makerspace is here to stay. But we have one anyway! I'm not sure if genrefication is a fad either.

    1. Hey Lauren! Thank you so much for your comment and I love your daring to even say that out loud. Seems almost sacrilegious to do so these days - to question a new teaching pedagogy or ed tech trend! But, I totally agree with you. I'm daring but I'm also cautious. I would never want to throw the baby out with the bathwater or the books out of the library without trying it out first. Baby steppin into the future to give only my BEST to my kiddos! ~Gwyneth

  2. Replies
    1. Great question, Mrs. Daniel! I have a blog post showing how to subscribe by mail since it can be easy to miss -- check out or Google: Let's Stay in Touch Daring Librarian and it will pop up!

  3. Dear Daring Librarian,

    I will be starting up a Makerspace in the Fall…I have been collecting and storing recycled materials from my home for a year or so…seems as though we might eat a bit more than we should!

    Anyway, I’ve got a huge assortment of plastic containers, cardboard, paper towel rolls (not toilet paper rolls), boxes etc. Storage is not the problem…what is the problem is creating one on a slim budget. However, from your blog, I got a lot of ideas on how to do that with little or no money. Of course, some of it was common sense (have students and parents donate materials), but I never thought of asking for used lego! It is a pricey commodity and receiving gently used lego is a GREAT idea. A second tip was using cardboard for origami. I guess my idea of a makerspace has not completely coalesced as I envisioned creating on a bigger, more intensive/learning outcome scale (ie found object robots or wearable astronaut oxygen/toolbelts). Your Origami bookmarks, origami tree decorations, origami greeting cards or simple origami cootie-catchers are simple and basically free. Thank you for inspiring me and giving me hope that I can pull off this Makerspace-thing!

    1. Hey there Mrs. Daniel, you can call me Gwyneth! Thanks for your comment. Sounds like you have a great plan for your Makerspace. Don't though, let it overwhelm you to try too much too soon. It really is OK to baby step it or ease into it. Glad you got some ideas for adding the Maker Mindset to your Library without dishing out a lot of cash. It can be done! You can do this! You could even use the Cootie Catcher to run a Scavenger hunt hiding notes in books using Call numbers, series, or author names.... I've thought of trying that next fall! Cheers! ~Gwyneth

  4. Hi Gwyneth!
    I’m taking a course on “Intro to Teacher Librarian”, and one of my assignments is to discover teacher librarian blogs. I know this is a bit shallow, but I was first drawn to your blog because it’s colourful and has lots of pictures. I do also love the content though �� Thanks for gathering and posting all these ideas for DIY makerspace areas - from where to get materials to challenges you can give students! I love that you can involve students and parents in donating items and encourage recycling and upcycling of things that might otherwise end up in the trash.

    You’ve inspired me to make my own makerspace at home, and I feel like this would inspire many parents to do the same and extend that creativity and learning in that space. I know my kindergartener is constantly going around the house (I’ve seen her pull things out of the recycling bin and even the garbage) to create whatever it is she feels like creating. I’ll have to hide your blogpost from her for now because she’s going to want to do EVERYTHING here. Thanks for all the ideas!! ��

    1. Hi Tiffany! Thanks so much for your kind comment and I'm so flattered and honored by your kind words.

      It's OK, I'm deeply shallow and I intentionally make my blog BRIGHT with lots of pics and intense colours. I'm visually attuned and a little bit addicted to graphic design. LOVE You PicMonkey!

      I'm really passionate that you don't have to spend a lot and your little tot has got the right idea - found objects and recycling fodder is GREAT for a Makerspace!

      Thanks again for reaching out, tag me on Twitter or DM me on Insta, I'd love to follow you and cheers you on!
      All the Best,

  5. Hi Gwyneth!
    I loved to read your suggestions for having a makerspace that doesn't require a lot of money or technology. I am just getting started on my teacher-librarian career, and one of the things that keeps coming up is having a budget and making the most of it. With all the advances in technology (3D printers, robotics, coding, etc.), it is easy to feel like your budget will be gobbled up by expensive gadgets. I totally see your point about whether or not this tech will be around to stay; it sure seems to be, but like you said about the SmartBoards, who can really say for sure. What happens when this technology breaks down? Will the school always have the money to pay for it? And eventually, probably sooner than we think, this new technology will be old technology, and we will constantly feel that need to "catch up."
    What I love about your ideas is that they don't require this new technology, but rather make use of old resources for a new purpose! I loved the idea of using old, broken down computers and parts to make robots with a story. I also liked what your art teacher did with old books, whether they were from the library or a donation. Why not give something old a new purpose?
    Thank you for so many ideas for my future library space!

    1. Hello there, Kaitlynn aka Unkown,

      Thanks so much for your kind comment! I always get so thrilled when I get a real one and not a SPAM post from people wanting to plant links on my blog. Squee!

      Yup! You don't need 3D printers, robots, or arduinos to have a cool Makerspace! Cardboard, Legos, Crayons, paper, pipe cleaners, broken keyboards, weeded books, oh gosh....all matters of recycling materials.

      I like to put stuff in totes so if it needs to be cleared away for a special event or....#@$@#$% TESTING then it can be done lickety quick! I've been in deep testing mode since the new year...[le sigh]

      Please reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram, I'd love to follow you and see all you do in your #LibraryLife journey!

  6. Hi Gwyneth,
    I am so glad that I found your blog on Makerspace. I just started working in the library last year, and have slowly been trying to orientate myself to the position. The previous librarian was amazing and left a lot of resources and materials for Makerspace, but I have not yet got the courage to get it up and running. To be honest, the task seemed a little dauting to oversee and manage in the beginning with everything else I was trying to get up and running, but after reading your blog I can see that I can start out small without spending a lot of money. I love your idea of having the Makerspace materials on an AV cart to roll out when needed, and I have just such a cart hanging out in my back room. I appreciate your honesty about not being 100% sold on the idea of Makerspace, and agree that it is what you make it. I have a lot of students that come into the Learning Commons in the morning before school to hang-out and I think that I could use many of the ideas that you have shared in this post.

    I am just wondering how you feel about Makerspace now? You mentioned that you weren’t sure if it was something that was here to stay. Does that mean you still aren’t willing to invest in the expensive tech side of the movement?
    Thank you for sharing all these great ideas with everyone.

    1. Hello unknown Wendie! but obviously a real Librarian!
      Yup -- start small & grow. It's all good. I also like having a duct tape tote so that when my kiddos need to repair their binders they can do it with really cool duct tape. That's also makerspace! Voila!
      Cheers dear!

      Insert lame excuse here for not checking my blog comments earlier: during these "interesting times" my personal professional blog was the last thing on my mind! LOL

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