We are so excited to share our first guest post from Manitoba! As part of our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series, we’re highlighting the outstanding work being done in Canada to serve children and families. This week we’re learning about the amazing mobile makerspace programming happening at the Winnipeg Public Library. Megan O’Brien, a youth services librarian at WPL, gives all the details about the five makerspace programs they developed for tweens.
No doubt by now you’ve seen some of the amazing makerspaces – physical locations dedicated to creating, making, learning and experimentation. At Winnipeg Public Library, we have taken a mobile approach to makerspace programming. Programs are centrally developed and curated, and the kits are then requested by and sent to any of our system’s twenty branches. Once the -40C degree weather hits, program registrants will only have to go as far as their neighbourhood branch to participate in quality makerspace programming, rather than travel through the snow across the city. This approach allows us to provide users all over the city with access to a wide variety of tech- and craft-based programs.
Another benefit of the mobile makerspace has been increased opportunities for staff to provide input regarding the programs we run. Programmers are invited to follow the included program outline when they receive the kit, but are also able to tweak the program to suit the needs and interests of participants. They then provide reports outlining what worked, what didn’t, and how the program was received by participants. This is a great way to keep branch staff invested and involved in the programs, and to ensure that our programs are meeting the needs and interests of our community.
This summer, we debuted five new makerspace programs for tweens: Making with Minecraft: Treehouse Challenge, Making with Minecraft: Papercraft, LEGO Story Makers, Cubelets Robotics, and Making with Magformers.
Making with Minecraft: Treehouse Challenge is a tech-based program using a 12-unit Surface Pro lab. Participants can work in teams or on their own to build a treehouse in a closed-world Minecraft environment, which is monitored and run by the program facilitator. At the end of the program, participants show the rest of the group what they built. We weren’t surprised when the program filled quickly, but since the waiting list also filled almost immediately, the decision was made to run the program again, to meet customer demand. A successful program is more than just full registration; however, and I am pleased to say that throughout the entire three hours of the program, the tweens shared ideas, tips, triumphs and struggles, and took a genuine interest in the builds of other participants. When a question had them stumped, it was time to do some research! The Minecraft books displayed in the program room were a great resource, and the internet helped with the questions that weren’t answered in the books. The tweens completed some very impressive treehouses over the course of the afternoon, and one comment that appeared on all program evaluations was “have a longer program next time!” I guess they had fun!
Making with Minecraft: Papercraft took Minecraft building off the computer and onto the table in front of participants, who were divided into groups and given a set of cubes to build creatures, scenes, or buildings. Once the base of the build was complete, they could add papercraft components such as creatures or decorations such as torches, doors, fences, and even beds and cake, to complete the look. This program originated as a one-off event run by a branch staff member, and used pre-cut Styrofoam cubes as the basic building form. To make the kit components more reusable and longer-wearing, it was decided that the reusable mobile kit would instead use plastic snap cubes. The pictures below are pattern-covered Styrofoam blocks, held together with tape.
Our LEGO® Story Maker program gave tweens an opportunity to test their storytelling skills, and was a hit with participants. Listening to the kids brainstorm all sorts of wild and wacky plotlines was a lot of fun for program facilitators, and the participants loved using the LEGO® kits to build the scenes of their stories. After each scene was built, the tweens took a picture, which was then uploaded into the StoryVisualizer software we installed on a set of Surface Pros that are used for mobile program purposes. Once the images were uploaded, the software allowed the tweens to create graphic novel/comic book-style projects. Here’s a small example below, where text and a fire sticker have been added to the original image:
Next up is Making with Magformers. Magformers are sturdy geometric shapes that snap together using very strong magnets. These magnets are free floating in the shapes so that they will always attract and never repel, so any piece can be used in any way. For this program, each of our five Magformers sets is a station with its own building challenge:
1. How High Can You Go? (build a tower)
2. Vroom Vroom and Zoom! (build a vehicle)
3. Hard Had Required! (build a building)
4. It’s Alive! (build an animal, creature or robot)
5. MAGnificient Creations! (build anything you imagine)
Participants can work alone, or in teams. This program kit shipped out mid-June and was in constant use over the summer, only arriving back at the program coordinator’s desk in the third week of September. The bright colours and ease of use make this program appropriate for our 6-8s, as well as our tween demographic, and it never seems like there is enough time for the participants to do all the building they would like!
The other new-comer tween program this summer was our Cubelets Robotics program. This program allows participants to explore some of the ways in which robots think, sense, and act (three key qualities for a machine to be considered a robot). The kit comes with LEGO® brick adapters, so once the tweens have had a chance to test the functionalities of different cubes, such as the distance sense cube, flashlight action cube, brightness sense cube, or inverse think cube, they can work on building their own robot, capable of thinking, sensing, and acting. The interactive exploring and experimentation involved in this program brings a lot of creative energy into the room, and received many positive comments and requests for more this summer! Below is a picture of a Cubelets flashlight using the flashlight cube, the light sense cube, and a battery cube.
Currently waiting for its first public run is the Duplo® Story Maker program for parents/caregivers with children 3-5 years. Similar to the LEGO® Story Maker program, Duplo® Story Maker is a fun way for young children to develop their storytelling skills by building scenes using the Duplo® blocks and the background scenes that come with the sets.
Winnipeg Public Library began developing its roster of makerspace programs in 2013, and the number of maker programs has risen steadily to now include 5 adult programs, 6 teen programs, 8 tween programs, 3 school-age programs, and 1 pre-school program. The Makerspaces Programming Working Group is always looking for ideas for new programs, especially for younger children, and are excited to see what our next mobile makerspace program will be!
At Winnipeg Public Library, our goal with makerspace programming is to encourage excitement about and experimentation with learning by providing access to technology and materials in such a way that participatory, collaborative learning can occur. Along with strengthening reading, sequencing, storytelling, and social skills, these programs offer participants an opportunity to engage with multiple literacies. These can range from computer and technological literacy to information, visual and digital literacy. This approach encourages “outside the box” thinking by providing participants a framework in which they can safely try new things, without fear of judgement, thereby increasing the potential for innovative knowledge creation, as opposed to simple knowledge consumption.
By supporting the development of transferable skills and bringing together community members in a fun and positive environment, library branches become a destination of choice within the community. Makerspace programming is an investment in our community, and is a valuable addition to the traditional programs run at Winnipeg Public Library. The programs I’ve outlined above are just a few of our offerings, a list which will continue to grow to meet the needs of Winnipegers throughout the city.