by Laura Damon-Moore

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: smart, sustainable partnerships make for great creativity-incubating programs. In the summer of 2015, as I was looking ahead to a fall and winter season that was going to be busy and transition-ful for me personally, I made the decision to try and have a partner on every program that I planned for the youth and families of the community where I worked. One of the great new programs that came out of this approach was an after-school Maker Club hosted by the school library at our local intermediate school, and co-facilitated by myself and the school librarian. After-school maker activities had been hosted by the library for a couple of years, but attendance wasn’t always high and other hands-on programs had been more successful, so in the summer of 2015 I approached the school librarian about hosting a monthly maker club for an hour after school. After a meeting or two and a flurry of emails, we made it happen in October and November! Here’s a rundown of what we did and how we did it:

What did the After School Maker Club look like?

Students in grades 3-5 were eligible for the club. Advanced registration for the club was required, and we capped the group at 25 due to space and equipment limits. Students arrived after school was dismissed, had a quick snack, and then we dove in to our projects.

In the fall we did two Maker Club meetings, during which we made ArtBots and experimented with stop-motion animation software using iPads from the school and the library. The school librarian arranged tables and chairs and any technology we were using (projector, iPads, etc.) and I arrived about forty minutes before the program started to set out supplies and get the sign-in sheet ready for the meeting. When students were seated, I introduced the projects and talked the group through the first few steps of the project. Once the students were engaged in the steps, the adults (school librarian, myself, and a parent volunteer) circulated to help with individual questions.

In a reminder email parents had been instructed to pick up their children at the front door of the school, so at the end of the program I walked the kids out with a sign-out sheet. Students were required to check out with me before leaving to walk home or with a parent. While I was outside, the school librarian and the parent volunteer cleaned up and rearranged the library to get ready for the next school day.

Attendees of the Maker Club at Theodore Robinson Intermediate School hard at work on a stop-motion animation project.

Attendees of the Maker Club at Theodore Robinson Intermediate School hard at work on a stop-motion animation project.

Challenges we encountered

One challenge that came up for us in the registration process was that the school has a more in-depth permission slip policy than the library, so it took some time to get the wording right (mainly about pickup times and the school’s responsibility after the club meeting concluded). Once the permission slips were filled out and turned in at the first meeting, though, the students were signed up for the year and we ended up with a waiting list in addition to our 25 registrants.

Inevitably, there was miscommunication about who was walking home/getting picked up, and where pickups were supposed to happen. We had to make sure that we had a phone number for whomever was responsible for the kids after school so that we had someone we could call if there were kids left after pickup time. I was okay with being the point person at pickup time, and so I made sure not to schedule anything for the rest of the afternoon in case I had to wait at the school for some extra time.

Community response

The school community–teachers, students, and parents–were thrilled with the Maker Club, and were very happy that it was held at the school so that they did not have to coordinate getting their child to a different building for the club. Administrators were happy to see the school and the public library working together, and it was fun for the kids to see “their” librarians co-teaching a workshop in a different setting than they were used to. We were able to do a lot of informal educating about everything from story structure to basic circuitry, and the relationship with the school meant that the school librarian could reinforce lessons that certain grades were working on (fourth graders, for example, were busy learning about electricity as we were making the ArtBots so we could ask the students to educate their peers about circuits as we worked with the batteries and motors).

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