My students have had a lot of fun with our Library MakerSpace STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) learning centers this year, and hopefully they’ve learned some new skills and developed some new interests as well.
This was my first year at a new school and the previous librarian did not do hands-on activities with the kids, so there were no resources already in the library that I could use. Unfortunately, my supply budget was very small, so I had to get financially creative with the activities I provided! Some of the most successful low-cost projects were:
I got geoboards and tangram sets from the learning resource room at my school, not knowing whether students would see them as “schoolwork” or fun activities. Somewhat to my surprise, they really enjoyed using them!
Students used the geo boards to “draw pictures” with colored rubber bands, and to create marble mazes for their friends to try out. I provided pattern cards and the book Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert at the Tangram table for students to use, and they also tried their hand at making original designs with the pieces.
Any activity involving LEGOs is going to be popular, and giving the students specific “challenges” to meet keeps them focused and productive while emphasizing the engineering component of designing and constructing a project. Plus, limiting the challenges to small, simple tasks means I can get by with fewer LEGOs!
I don’t remember where I found the first set of challenges I printed to use, but a quick online search for “LEGO challenge cards” will turn up dozens of sites that offer free printable cards for quick and easy building projects. You can also type and print your own, and your students will certainly have good ideas to offer. It’s fun to see what they come up with when you allow them to challenge each other!
I’ve found that most of my students are fascinated by paper-folding projects, so the origami table is usually full. I provide step-by-step instruction books from my library collection, paper I’ve already cut into six inch squares, and markers or gel pens for adding details to the finished projects. Some students are already quite skilled, and enjoy showing others their favorite folding patterns.
I like to kick off Star Wars Reads week in the library by sharing author Tom Angleberger’s directions for folding the characters from his Origami Yoda series. After that, I can’t keep the books on the shelf!
I was an avid Spirograph user as a child, and I’m delighted that it’s made such a comeback lately so that a new generation of kids can marvel at the intricate designs easily drawn with with colored pens and gears. I got a couple of sets from my Scholastic Book Fair, and put them out along with half sheets of paper and an assortment of gel pens.
If you have more computers than Spirograph kits, your students can also enjoy an online version using Inspirograph. It’s quite user friendly (click your preferred gear and ink color, then use the arrow keys to draw), and you can download your image when you’re done.
Do you have other ideas for inexpensive STEAM centers? Please share them in the comments or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune