Afterschool Maker Club

At libraries across the country, April is a time for looking forward. After all, summer reading programs are just a couple months away and librarians are scrambling to turn a winter’s worth of scheming and dreaming into reality for the fun-filled experiences that keep kids and teens reading and learning throughout the summer break from school. I’m doing the same, but frankly, I’m feeling a little behind.

Winters are quite the same anymore. Ok, so the past three months have barely been winter at all, weather-wise, but I’m talking about work. It seems like there used to be some sort of lull in Homer’s darkest days when programs were fewer, the library was slower, and my desk was cleaner. These days most times are also busy in my little libraryland and April is not only a time to look forward, but a time to assess and look back.

In addition to the three storytimes I lead each week and the occasional outreach programs, school visits and other one-offs, since October I have also been happily leading the Maker Club, an afterschool program for kids 10-13 that meets each Thursday. The program is funded by a grant from ALSC’s Curiosity Creates program (with support from Disney).

Out Taking Photos
Anywhere from 5-20 kids show up each week to hang out, learn a thing or two, and make stuff. (We occasionally pull stuff apart, too.) Many kids come most weeks, but some pop in when the featured skill or project warrants a look-see. The program generally runs for two hours and we set up the temporary makerspace in our meeting room. Sometimes I introduce a new idea or skill and sometimes a community mentor (scientist, maker, artist) brings materials or expertise to share. The atmosphere is casual, low-pressure, and supportive.

One of the best parts of the project is the teen intern (a media mentor in training) who comes every week to help as part of her high school service project. Well, she started out working on her service hours, but has long since met the required number and comes anyway because, well, she’s awesome. I look forward to seeing what she does after high school. Like the intern before her, she wants to pursue engineering and I love the fact that two budding engineers, both of whom are young women, found a place at the library. I wonder who they will inspire?

Another volunteer who comes almost every week is a retired teacher (one of my kids’ favorites) who hasn’t quite figured out how to retire. She is learning and mentoring and loving the informal environment. She is having such a great time that she decided to start a pilot tutoring program for 5th – 7th graders one day a week with an army of volunteer tutors made up of other high school students and retired teachers. It’s truly impressive and could probably be twice its size if we had the space.

Here is what we’ve been playing with at the Maker Club:

  • 3D Design
  • One Mug Microwave Meals
  • Coding & Video Game Design
  • Paper Circuits
  • Conductive Playdough (open play)
  • Light Up Felt Bags (multi-week project including sewing and soldering)
  • Outdoor Photography and Video
  • LEGO building (open play)
  • Stop Motion Animation
  • Straw Architecture
  • Possibility Box building (open play)
  • Sphero Ball Racing (and painting coming later this month)

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