Hack Some Spaces: Makerspace in a Box

How might we use existing spaces to demonstrate a need for different types of spaces?

Photo of Lisa Yokana
26 11

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I would love to actually build this with someone... Anyone out there willing to collaborate? I'd love thoughts as I go about making this in real scale.... Let me know!

The idea has evolved... As I thought about changing a school culture, I realized that one of the biggest problems is teachers being afraid of Maker technologies and materials. What if, Maker PD came in a box to your door with step by step instructions, materials that were coordinated with each step and challenges to take your learning further.... KickBox is a beautifully designed box that unfolds into a mat that contains everything you need. See the video for a tiny prototype. When you are done with your own learning, you can take it to your classroom and let your students work their way through it! Then fold it back up and store it on a shelf.... 

See the Youtube link for a video of the tiny prototype!   


Overview: (What’s this idea about)

The idea is to make a catalogue of potential space types, layouts, furniture as well as a list of tools so you can build your own Makerspace according to your own needs. The catalogue will contain a resources list from low to high tech and will also contain a step by step guide to creating a physical space in your school, with three options: low to high budget.cYou will also find sections dedicated to different types of activities: i.e. woodworking. With details on how to set up the space and what you should take into consideration.

Potential For Impact: (Why is this an idea that creates a culture of innovation?)

While some schools want to create these spaces so that their is a dedicated space for Making, their is really no road map on how to do this. If there is a space, especially if it is a ‘pop-up’ type space that has been co-created by teachers and students, then it will attract attention and interest. Once teachers and students see some projects being made in the space, the buzz begins!

By making available a clear set of space, layouts, furnitures and tools, teachers will have the opportunity and feel inspired to try their hand at a Maker project. Often the biggest impediment in implementing Makerspaces in schools, is teacher buy-in once the space is there. This will allow teachers and students to be co-authors of the space and thus be less intimidating. It will also attract attention and interest. Everyone will want to be involved and create together.

Value Prop/Pitch: (How would you pitch this to other teachers in your school? Your principal? Etc)

The pitch is actually quite simple. We would provide three different boxes that were pre-made (even though the idea is for each school to customize theirs from the catalogue):

Box 1: Simple prototyping materials like tape, scissors, cardboard, rulers, etc… with some simple Maker challenges.

Box 2: Slightly more advanced tools such as saws, exacto knives, cutting mats, hot glue, etc.... with some slightly more advanced Maker challenges.

Box 3: Most advanced and would include some simple circuitry like Makey-Makeys, Lilypads, LEDs, wire, soldering kits with advanced Maker challenges (i.e. Make something that beeps, lights up, etc.).

And I would invite the teachers/admin to explore and experience how easy is to use the boxes. The fact that each school can pick various options to fit their own needs and price range is a big plus as each school will be able to tailor their needs and wants for their space and budget.

How’d I get this idea off the ground?

I would explain how I began my own Maker project  and I would explain how we outgrew my classroom so I had to ask permission to use the gym for one period a day and store the projects in a nearby closet. The students attracted attention from teachers and students as they were making things in an unusual place.

Our materials and tools were stored in several big boxes and we jokingly called it “Makerspace in a box!” When they were finished, I invited principals, superintendents and outside experts to the pitches! I then realized that it was a great way to attract attention to the learning behind making and that it could be a game changer for schools who wanted to change their culture but didn’t have space or money. Afterwards I would show the catalogue and introduce boxes that I made based on the information written in the catalogue.

How  you can get started:

As I mentioned during the pitch by inviting the team to experiment with the boxes is a start, then I would suggest some activities they can do with the boxes so they can imagine the possibilities, you could try a project that had a large scale and spill out into the hallways and attract attention that way. Then you could pitch the idea of some tools and a small budget to your administration with the help and enthusiasm of the students. Once you have a small Makerspace, you can add on as desired!

At Riverdale this year they plan to pilot a makerspace in their 5th grade They plan to start small- with the materials that are outlined in “Box 1” above. They will start with a few defined challenges just to get the kids familiar with the space and the materials. Then they will open it up for kids to create their own HMWs. As a commuter school, they have this interesting problem that kids arrive at all different times in the morning. Basically, between 8:15a and  8:45a kids dribble in. In the past they used this time for independent reading and math challenges.  This year they will offer the makerspace as well. Kids will have a choice.

Materials to get this idea off the ground:

Really not much is needed, just input from experts. Since I have been designing the Makerspace at our high school, I have experience. I have visited Makerspaces across the country of all different types, budgets and scales. I am also connected to many Maker educators around the country and could ask for feedback. It would really be an online document that would then be published as a step-by-step guide.


The catalogue is a simple road map that can be customized to needs, wants, passions and budget constraints. We all want to help students succeed and they are able to articulate how powerful Making can be, as it builds creative confidence, flexibility, collaboration, perseverance, etc… If we put the students at the center, and tell faculty and administration that it can be a low budget pop-up space to start and then build it as the need grows, then it’s a win! Once you can prove there is buy-in, then you can add onto the space and materials in an add-as-needed methodology. You can grow the culture and the space simultaneously!

Link to Google Doc with comment history: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ytd-Mng_i9SkFBYiLaRqGhVOykfrqZ53FyXLfpAfoV8/edit?usp=sharing

Original Post:

As we try to build the Maker culture in our schools and showcase projects where students learn by doing, many of us have to make do with existing spaces. In a recent project where students made cardboard prototypes of 21st century learning furniture that they had designed, we outgrew our classroom early on in the process. I asked our principal for permission to use the gym in off hours and to store the Makerspace-in -a-box in a nearby storage area. This served two purposes: it allowed my students to build full scale prototypes as well as bringing attention to our need for a "real"  Makerspace. The project attracted lots of attention and started to build the 'buzz' about making at our school.  

So as I read comments and after participating in #Dare2Design at Riverdale on Monday, I think it would be great to think about designing a "MakerSpace in a Box." It could include furniture that morphed from Commons Space type furniture to have a specific Maker use-like work table or tool/project storage. Anyone up for designing with me?

Evaluation results

7 evaluations so far

1. Potential for Impact: Imagine this solution had near perfect implementation. To what extent would this solution bring about a culture of innovation within a school or classroom?

A lot! This solution would greatly bring about a culture of innovation in schools or classrooms. - 85.7%

Somewhat. This solution would somewhat bring about a culture of innovation in schools or classrooms. - 14.3%

Not much. This solution might help with other things, but I don't see it really bringing about a culture of innovation within schools or classrooms. - 0%

2. Feasibility and Fit: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: If this solution were available to me right now, I would be able to use it with relatively low investment. (i.e. money, time, or skills).

Strongly agree (this solution strongly aligns to my/my school's current capacities). - 42.9%

Agree. - 28.6%

Neutral. - 14.3%

Disagree. - 14.3%

Strongly disagree (this solution would take a big lift in resources to pull off). - 0%

3. Adaptability: I could imagine this solution working well in a variety of school and classroom contexts across a diverse set of needs.

Absolutely! I could see this working for a variety of schools and classrooms with different or unique needs. - 71.4%

Somewhat. I could see this working for many schools and classrooms, but it might need some adjusting to fit a broad diversity of contexts. - 28.6%

Not a lot. This seems like it might be better suited to only a few contexts. - 0%

4. Scalability: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: This idea could be adopted by an ever-growing number of teachers or students without requiring significant changes.

Strongly agree (this solution could easily scale without any significant changes). - 57.1%

Agree. - 28.6%

Neutral. - 0%

Disagree. - 14.3%

Strongly disagree (this solution would require significant changes in order to properly scale). - 0%

5. Desirability: Do you wish this solution were available to you right now?

1 - Not a lot. There's not a big need for this right now and/or we use something already that fulfills a similar purpose in my school or classroom. - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 28.6%

4 - 14.3%

5 - A lot! There's nothing like this already and I'd love to have it in my school or classroom. - 57.1%


Join the conversation:

Photo of susan bitetti

Love this idea! I'm actually working on a very similar project at Tufts- a "mobile maker's studio" where teachers can check out various kits to bring into their classroom depending on what kind of project they're doing. Just wondering the size of the boxes your imagining and how you were thinking and how it can be moved from class to class?

Photo of Lisa Yokana

We should talk cuz I'd love to collaborate! I was thinking they would be pretty standard supply box size-I'm an art teacher so used to carrying things. But they'd have to pack back up neatly-part of a beautiful design-so they could be easily transported.

Photo of Lisa Yokana

Not thinking of it in just art terms but in maker and design terms. There are so many things I want to learn about: arduino, lily pads, coding, circuitry and sensors and it would be great to have a guided tour in a box. I think that if it's beautifully designed with pockets and boxes that nest then you could put it back together and move it easily. I'd love to see it move forward through teachers guild or some other format. I'm game!

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