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What Are Library Makerspaces? Washougal High School Explains What’s Happening


Washougal, WA — The role of high school libraries is evolving as technology changes the way information is accessed and researched. Washougal High School Librarian, Hillary Marshall, is helping to forward the new vision for how libraries interact with students by helping establish Makerspaces throughout Washington schools.

Makerspaces are collaborative work spaces devoted to using high tech and other tools and materials for creating, making, learning, exploring and sharing.  Marshall, who is the Washington Library Association, School Library Division Chair, worked over the summer with a team of nine other educators and librarians to develop the “Makerspace Your School Library” curriculum for teacher librarians.   The project was funded by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) though the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and written by Siri Hiltz, Youth Services Consultant, Library Development, Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State.  The group worked for two full days to develop the training for all grade levels that will be shared throughout the State of Washington.

“Libraries used to be the center for information, but now students have the internet,” explained Marshall. “The makerspace activities bring students back into libraries.  The concept is also effective when paired with school curriculum and can be used to move the challenge a student faces in that area of study up a notch.  We also provide students who may never have tried computer sciences a place to experiment and explore.  They find out that it may not be as hard as they had thought it might be.”

Sections in the Makerspace program training include Robotics (Computational Thinking), Design Challenge (Collaborative Problem Solving), Creation Station (Innovative Design), Circuitry (Computational Thinking) and Break & Make (Innovative Design).  “The Break & Make section focuses on taking parts of unrelated or broken items to design and create something brand new,” Marshall explained.  “The Circuitry section allows students to explore electricity and building circuits in fun ways like the MakeyMakey banana piano.  Students create a loop circuit through the conduit of a banana, alligator clips, and the programming found online through the MakeyMakey website.  Once it is properly set up students can play various
bananas that emit different sounds on their Banana Piano.”

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Other training will be available at various locations throughout the state of Washington.  However, Marshall and training partner, Craig Seasholes, Dearborn Park International Elementary Librarian, Seattle Public Schools, also have a training scheduled at Fort Vancouver Regional Library on Saturday, November 16.  They are paired to offer six different trainings up the I-5 corridor and the Olympic Peninsula throughout the school year.

“We have school librarians and teachers attending from a variety of instructional areas ranging from elementary to high school,” said Marshall. “All are interested in bringing makerspace ideas and more STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Art and Math) concepts into their curriculum, library or classroom.”

According to Marshall, the development of this type of educational experience for students is driven by best library practices, OSPI Educational Technology standards and industry job requirements.  “Our students need opportunities to be challenged and problem solve,” she explained.  “We don’t know exactly what jobs will be available to these kids, so we need to prepare them with a variety of 21st century skills.”

At the WHS Makerspace, students’ named the BETA Base, students are encouraged to come to the library to tinker and practice design principles as they explore computer science through monthly projects.  “They come in before school, at lunch, during Hop and Stop (study period) and after school,” explained Marshall.  “Each month I set up a new challenge for them to work out.”

The October challenge of programming with a Micro:bit was developed by a recent WHS graduate. The materials were purchased with funds raised through the WHS student Keepers of the Library social club through sports concessions and the proceeds from their entry into the Festival of the Trees.  The club members voted on what they wanted to support with the funds and chose both art supplies and computer coding robotic tools.  WHS also has a strong relationship with FVRL Washougal branch and regularly borrow maker materials to support dual programming offered after school, during Tween/Teen nights at the Washougal Community Library, or for special MakerSpaces programs for some of the activities.

WHS Junior, Maxwell Malcom, has made use of the library makerspaces to learn about 3D printing.  “I used to come to the library to do research,” he said.  “Now I come here to learn a new skill that I never even knew about. I really enjoy 3D printing.  It is a technology that wasn’t available to us a few years ago.”  

Malcom’s first project was a simple Christmas ornament and he most recently created an impressive six-piece Halloween lantern.

“Makerspaces provide opportunities for students to create, innovate, and collaborate,” Marshall explained. “They help to build a sense of community and allow students to make connections with students, staff, and community members as well as with technology.  I love that this work is not being graded so they may freely experiment and learn through trial and error.”

Maxwell Malcom with 3D printer.

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