This fall in our school library, I tried something new: I created some circulating maker kits for students in 2nd through 5th grades to check out and take home.
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I started with GoldieBlox™ sets, because they are already sold as a “kit,” much like our book/audiobook bundle kits. Instead of an audiobook on CD, however, the maker kits include a bag of building materials. Admittedly, GoldieBlox™ has been ridiculously over-hyped, and to put it nicely, the text isn’t exactly quality literature. Still, the read-and-build format can make engineering more accessible to students who may not think that they like STEM subjects.
Then, I did the same thing with Q-BA-MAZE™ marble run blocks. I used 1 “cool colors” set and 1 “warm colors” set to create 4 circulating maker kits. These aren’t as well-known and might be considered more of a “toy,” but there is still potential for learning about physics when using the blocks to create marble mazes. Every maze created is different, and there are endless possibilities even within the same design.
Both GoldieBlox™ and Q-BA-MAZE™ sets are affordable (around $25.00), which I think makes them particularly well-suited for school libraries. Most hardcover picture books are in that price range, so it’s not going to break a school library’s budget. Additionally, it isn’t difficult or expensive to get parts to replace lost or broken pieces. GoldieBlox™ has excellent customer service for lost parts, and the Q-BA-MAZE™ set has extra marbles. If a few Q-BA-MAZE™ blocks go missing, students can still create mazes. Also, the teacher-librarian could keep a few spare blocks to replace lost ones.
Those features, combined with the sad fact that many elementary librarians travel between buildings, make circulating kits a practical way for busy, overwhelmed librarians to inspire “maker thinking.”
School and Home Connection
By circulating maker kits, the time and space needed for creating is moved from the school space to the home. Potentially, a maker kit could not only connect learning at school with learning at home, but it could also advocate for the library program to parents and caregivers. In each kit, I included a small card inviting parents to send in photos of what students create. With permission, I could then post those pictures on our library’s Facebook or Twitter pages.
So far, the students are enjoying the kits, and GoldieBlox™ is the clear favorite. I’ve been wondering if that’s because they are more familiar to students from library centers last year. The Q-BA-MAZE™ maker kits are still getting checked out, but just not as much. I’m interested to see if they become more popular as more students try them out.
MARC Records for Library Circulation
From a library management perspective, an essential part of circulating anything is a MARC record, or MAchine Readable Catalog record. MARC records make any item searchable in the online library catalog. Creating MARC records from scratch, however, is time-consuming and tedious, so I’m sharing the ones I created for our library’s maker kits. If you want to add circulating maker kits to your school or public library, you can download the MARC records through the link below.
Also, if you would like to add circulating maker kits to your school library, you can check out my GoldieBlox™ Circulating Maker Kit product at the Mrs. J in the Library TpT store. The paper circuits and Q-BA-MAZE™ kits will be coming soon.
Update September 2017: I’m adding Electric Sewing Maker Kits to our collection, and they are now available in my shop as well.
Later this year, I plan to expand the circulating maker kits to include new kits with consumable materials. Paper circuits and e-textile projects will be my first attempts with this model. While these kits will be more expensive to support, I want to extend students’ learning opportunities to create and make at home. I’m excited to see how it plays out as the school year continues.
Also, if you’ve ever tried circulating objects, artifacts, or kits for student learning, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Let’s learn from each others’ experiences!
UPDATE June 2015 – Thanks to Teen Librarian Toolbox and The Daring Librarian for the shout-outs about my circulating maker kits in their recent blog posts! I’ve also just added Marble Run or Maze circulating maker kits to my TpT store.
UPDATE September 2017 – I just added Electric Sewing maker kits including a Bookmark Book Light kit, an Advanced Electric Sewing kit, and a Project Finishing kit for students who don’t finish their project during library centers.