Refreshing Your MakerSpace

Beyond the investments in kits such as Makey-Makey or robotics or Lego, the heart of the MakerSpace is in the consumables. The paper cups, tape, cardboard and straws that not only inspire some serious creativity and ‘outside the box’ thinking but also are the great equalizer – accessible to all students and teachers.

We recently gave the Vanier MakerSpace a makeover by restocking some of those consumable items. Although donations, cardboard and packing materials flow through the space throughout the year, sometimes it is just more efficient to stock up on some of the basics.

With visits to several Dollar Stores we invested $300 in additional MakerSpace consumables for our school of 550 K-7 students. This included more large storage containers. Here’s what we chose:


Straws: From structures to toys, mazes to stop motion, straws are a must have. There are some great ideas on using straws ideas on using straws and free .stl files for 3D printing connectors.

Wooden Pegs: Clip together in all sorts of interesting ways. Take them apart by removing the spring for even more possibilities.

Balloons: An excellent propulsion source.

Toothpicks: What can you build with 100 toothpicks?

Pipe cleaners: Various colours, endless possibilities.

Small Paper Cups: Mini dixie cup size.

Large Plastic Cups: Not just for stacking.

Wooden Stir Sticks: Free. Ever host an event and have a bag of coffee sticks left over? These are a perfect addition to a MakerSpace along with the necessary Popsicle Sticks.

Plastic Stir Sticks: These come in boxes of 500 and are shorter than the wooden ones.

Plastic sandwich picks: In boxes of 100 but these are pointy with a flat top.

Plastic drawers from a broken cart hold Maker projects in progress.

Zap Straps: In a variety of sizes

Duct Tape: Rolls are smaller at the Dollar Store but more rolls makes them easier to share.

Twist Ties: Free.

Glue Guns: At $3.50 each these were a good buy. Refills were also purchased in bags of 100. Stored with a powerbars and an extension cord.

Plastic Lids: Free. These are also left over from coffee events.

Choose clear plastic tubs for easy identification.

Yarn: We purchased new balls of yarn. In the past I have picked these up by the bag full at thrift stores along with crochet hooks.

Notions: A variety of beads, needles, thread, pins, buttons, polystyrene balls.

IMG_3091Paper Plates: Make sure you get paper rather than polystyrene as it’s more versatile and recyclable.

Tie it together: Twine, String and Fishing line.

IMG_3097Other items to keep in stock are cardboard, newspapers, fabric ends, tubes.


I also picked up sizeable wood scraps from Home Depot. These are free for the asking.


Old and outdated technology still has some educational life: Take it apart to figure out how it works or design a new creation.

Creating a robotic figure using parts from a CD player.

Our school also has a separate art supply storage with many other maker type consumable materials such as glitter, paint, tissue, felt, pom-poms, paper-bags etc. We also have a good selection of Maker Kits, building manipulatives and woodworking tools.

Keeping the materials stocked in the MakerSpace should be an ongoing school-wide project but investing in a variety of consumables a couple of  times a year can help keep the space fresh and inviting.

Back-to-School Jitters

With the new school year just around the corner, it’s a good time to highlight some of our favourite books to ease back-to-school jitters. Reading about and discussing a character’s nervousness or anxiety can help ease a  child’s worries during this new and exciting time.


Back To School Tortoise by Lucy M. George It’s time to go back to school. But Tortoise is worried. What if he falls down? What if he doesn’t like lunch? What if the kids are mean to him?  The perfect back-to-school book about being brave, with a surprise at the end!


Noni is Nervous by Heather Hartt-Sussman Noni is nervous about playdates, and global warming, and most of all, about the first day of school. Her parents are worried too, and even her brother is a little wary. But Noni finds a friend, someone a little more outgoing than herself, and discovers that through friendship, she can belong and succeed in a world that once filled her with dread.


Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook This fun and humorous book addresses the problem of anxiety in a way that relates to children of all ages. It offers creative strategies for parents and teachers and offers children tools needed to feel more in control of their anxiety.


The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School by Deborah Diesen Mr. Fish is nervously awaiting his first day of school, and he frets about not knowing how to write his name, how to draw shapes, and how to do math―until he’s reassured that school is the perfect place to learn how to master all of these new skills.


Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes Wemberly worried  morning, noon, and night. She worried about one thing most of all: her first day of school. But when she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realizes that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!


The Elephant who was Scared by Rachel Elliot A young elephant learns to overcome his fears with a little help from his friends.


First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg because even the teacher gets the jitters sometimes.


Worries Go Away by Kes Gray is a comforting and compelling story about worries and self-esteem. When a little girl feels worried she goes into a world of her own. At first the world is full of cream cakes  but soon the worries begin to take hold until her family and friends help.


When I feel Worried by Cornelia Superman An empowering book that uses reassuring words and illustrations to address a child’s anxieties and show ways to feel better.


The Great Big Book of Feelings by Mary Hoffman celebrates the  similarities of the human experience and encourages young readers to express and acknowledge their feelings.

Click to browse other titles in our large collection of Social Emotional Learning Resources.



Maker Social-Emotional Learning Resources

MakerSpaces can be a great catalyst for the growth of social-emotional learning.  Facilitating a maker culture can give students a venue for the development of the tools they need to recognize, understand and manage emotions and to make the responsible decisions that are critical to being a successful learner. These life long skills must be clearly articulated and deliberately discussed so that they become an intrinsic foundation for the emotional health of the student.

There are many excellent social emotional learning titles that can be used to encourage SEL development. However, a few of these also blend very well with a Maker mentality and build on some important tenants of social and emotional well being.

Take a Chance and Take Pride in Beautiful You


If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade. Take a chance, dare yourself, trust yourself, try it…and you can fly. (2011)


Beautiful Hands by Katherine Otoshi. What will your beautiful hands do today? Inspiring children to use the power in their creative hands to help themselves and others achieve their dreams. (2015)

Cooperate and Collaborate with your Peers


Anything is Possible by Giulia Belloni. An unlikely pair share their talents to complete a project by working together. (2013)


Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds.  As well as offering a great lesson on thinking outside the box, this story encourages looking to each other for inspiration and ideas. (2014)


The Magnificent Tree by Nick Bland. Each has an idea on how to build a tree and come to respect and celebrate different ways of accomplishing the goal. (2012)

Problem Solving and Critical Thinking


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by W. Kamkwamba and B. Mealer. Bringing the concept of making into a real world problem that was solved by the hard work and perseverance of a 14 year old. (2012)

9095e113d8c9bc7cc4a0f684d4969dfc Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre. While celebrating Matty’s creations with too much glue, this story also offers a great platform for discussing the various maker solutions his classmates come up with to free him from his problem. (2013)


Wild Ideas by Elin Kelsey. Let nature inspire your thinking. Features animals teaching their creative problem solving tools and strategies. (2015)

If at First You Don’t Succeed…


The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. A young girl attempts to make a magnificent thing. She manages her repeated failures until she gets it just right. (2014)


Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. A super book on many levels that encourages the reader to celebrate the success of trying and to recognize that failure only comes if you quit. (2013)

Celebrate What You are Able to Accomplish


Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzburg. Every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful.  (2010)


Snap! by Hazel Hutchins. What happens when the crayons are broken and you don’t have all the right colours? Use your imagination and find out what you can accomplish. (2015)


The Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell. What you create does not have to be perfect. (2014)


What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada. Understand the value of your ideas and contributions and respect the ideas of others. (2014)

Click here for other MakerSpace titles.

Click here for an extensive list of our Social Emotional Learning books. 

#LiveDive, Stop Motion, Cooperation

This week we celebrated World Oceans Day and joined in two #LiveDives off Vancouver Island. Students were able to see the scuba diver and ask her questions about what they observed under the water. Students tweeted and the Fish Eye Project team replied. Check out some of these great questions here on our #LiveDive Storify

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 6.03.41 PMIMG_1719

Division 8, Grade 4 class created an instructional video for Kindergarten students on how to line up using our plush toys from ‘Stuff the Learning Commons’

How to Line Up from Anna Crosland on Vimeo.

Grade 3 and Grade 2 students showed that Cooperation Counts and created pages for an I Spy book. They also included Kindergarten students in the design process. It was a great way for 65 students to work together on one project. Slide share of the book coming soon. Here’s a sample page. Can you find all of the items?

Photo 2016-06-09IMG_1744 IMG_1749

I Spy, Dreams, Sidewalk Art

Kindergarten students have been exploring I Spy books. We have been using the pictures to search carefully for shapes, colours and items. Students used colourful miniatures to create and photograph their own I Spy pages. We will use these next week to challenge each other’s searching skills.

Students work cooperatively to design their own I Spy challenge.

Using the green screen, three classes demonstrated how expressive and creative they can be. Some students imagined themselves as future doctors, engineers or pilots. We also re-created some iconic images and put them in a video to share at the Primary Assembly. Lots of fun!

Even Einstein knew how to have fun.
Friendly Nemo

If you can dream it… from Anna Crosland on Vimeo.

We decided to advertise some of the great books in the Learning Commons at the front of the school. Students sketched their current favourite book covers including the author’s name and book title and we re-created them on the sidewalk. It was a great way to celebrate our reading.

Mermaid Tales by D. Daday
Diary of a Soccer Star by S. Flint

Stuff the LC and #KindnessCounts

At Georges Vanier, the Learning Commons is a shared space that is used by staff and students for lots of great activities. We are helping further a sense of ownership by inviting students to bring a plush toy to hang out on the shelves in the LC for a couple of weeks. Please label stuffies with your child’s name and division.  No sentimental favourites, just in case…

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 4.36.28 PM

We are continuing to create some wonderful #KindnessCounts buttons. Students and staff are designing a self portrait with a big smile. We will wear them at the Year End Celebration Assembly on June 13th.

Continue reading Stuff the LC and #KindnessCounts

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