Provide Access to Imaginative Materials

What if you had an entire room stockpiled with supplies for kids to create with?

Photo of Jim Tiffin Jr
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One of the obstacles that prevents classroom teachers from designing reoccurring maker projects is supplies - specifically the storing of supplies. There is only so much room in a classroom for warehousing materials that students can access for their projects.

Well, imagine this becoming something that the school itself took on, instead of individual teachers. What if a room in the school was dedicated to the storage of materials, and students visited that room as their projects demanded? What if the room was inventoried, organized, and regularly stocked by volunteers?

The beautiful thing about this idea is that such a room already exists at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in their Primary and Nursery/Kindergarten building - the ESHLab.

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This room is full of reuseable materials such as plastic bottles, old film canisters, wine corks, pegs, yogurt cups,... essentially everything that was used for something else and is ready to be used for another something else.

The room is organized, thanks to the help of a volunteer, in open containers that students can see into or open up and look at.

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The room is stocked by parents who bring in their recyclable goods. Sometimes, a certain call - via a school email or backpack mail - goes out for specific materials. Teachers coordinate their needs when a specific project comes up through a simple whiteboard system.

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Students are able to visit the room when they have a project they are working on and have a specific need, or when they are looking for inspiration for how to overcome a particular problem in the project they are doing. It is a central part of the educational experience for the students that go there.

Best of all, the room was once a just a file closet that was too small for a classroom and not an ideal office room. Isn't there a space like that in your school that could take on a more valuable educational role in the learning experiences of students?

(For more pictures of the Reuseable Center at UCLS, thumb through these Flickr images)

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