Even though it’s nice to dream of a makerspace with fancy gadgets and expensive technology, the truth is that you truly can start a makerspace with little or almost no budget. Here are 7 ways to create a Makerspace on a tight budget.
1. Spread the word
Tap into the community. Chances are, parents will be excited about innovation and hands-on experiences for their children, and they may have untapped resources they’d be willing to share with you. Maybe they’ll buy some of the things you want, or maybe they’ll suggest an alternative item that they would be willing to donate to your Makerspace. Or maybe they already have a lot of what you need and would be willing to loan or give it to your school or organization. Whatever the case, community support will go a long way in helping you procure the materials you need.
2. Look for – and ask for – donations
Legos, craft supplies, leftover construction materials, old and refurbished technology – there is so much out there that might be yours if you just ask the right people or advertise in the right spots. Keep your mind open to items you hadn’t considered. While you might not necessarily get a class set of iPads or tablets, you might find that someone has something else that could be just as beneficial to your students’ developing imaginations and your burgeoning Makerspace.
3. Utilize existing supplies and materials
Scavenge your school and the classrooms of your fellow teachers. Maybe the physics teachers have unused building sets, maybe the art teacher has supplies that they are willing to part with. Start small and gradually build up your reserves.
4. Take advantage of crowdfunding or teacher support sites
GoFundMe and Kickstarter are two popular crowdfunding sites, but for teachers there is truly no greater financial resource then DonorsChoose.org. At Donors Choose, teachers put up proposals and ideas for classroom supplies and activities, and benefactors choose the projects they wish to find, in part or in full. If you’re hoping to start a Makerspace, create a DonorsChoose project, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the funds you receive!
Scavenge the items in your school that are going to be thrown away! Cardboard boxes are treasures for a Makerspace, and other items that may be perceived as garbage can be disassembled or repurposed by creative young imaginations.
Makerspaces are all about student exploration and creativity.
6. Start a Maker Club
Start a maker club to raise money for the project, engaging the campus and local community. Conduct a “tool drive” within your school or neighborhood, asking parents to donate tools. You wouldn’t believe how many extra tools people have in storage. While we’d like families to save some tools for making things together at home, many would be happy to donate their extra tools to schools.
Many teachers and students may try school club fundraising strategies on campus, such as hosting a “make-a-thon” or another type of “a-thon” (i.e., a pedal-a-thon with bicycle hacks).
7. Involve the Community
Search for civic organizations, societies and religious groups to bring the community into what the students are making in the schools. The local Rotary Club may not have heard of the Maker movement, but why not bring a mini Maker Faire to them? Maker clubs and teachers can showcase student work at a local Rotary meeting.
Get the students involved in thinking of ways to create a Makerspace. This can be the first project for the Makerspace curriculum. And while it might be nice to have fancy technology and expensive accessories, what it comes down to is nurturing student independence and fostering problem-solving skills. Don’t let a lack of funds prevent you or your school from investing in strategies that will benefit your students. It might be tough to find a way to achieve your goals of creating a Makerspace in your school or district, but it will be worth it in the end.