Closing Out Fall with a Makerspace Recess


The fall semester is coming to a close at UGA, which means our open makerspace times on Tuesdays and Thursdays is about to take a small break until January.  To close out the semester, the entire Maker Dawgs class returned to Barrow to host a makerspace recess.


Setting this time up take a little more work than having makerspace in the library, but each time we take our makerspace beyond the library, I’m reminded about how it makes the opportunity visible to students.


Gretchen Thomas arrived early and started setting up tables under our pavilion on the playground. Each table featured something we’ve done in makerspace across the semester.

  1.  Duct tape bows and bow ties
  2. Kindness pins and necklaces
  3. Buttons
  4. Popsicle kazoos
  5. Strawbee architecture
  6. Cubelets



Since we were outside, we could also have stations that are more difficult to do inside like sidewalk chalk art.  As UGA students arrived, they each took a station to facilitate any students who wanted to try that activity.  When students arrived at recess, they immediately gravitated toward the makerspace to see what was going on. One of the most common things I heard was: “I didn’t sign up”.  It was so fun to say that the makerspace was open to all.  Since we had numerous helpers and could spread out, it didn’t matter how many students wanted to participate or how loud they were.  Because of this, we saw students who had never been to makerspace suddenly get to experience what we do.

I know that I can’t do the scale of makerspace that we did today by myself, but I do want to think about how I can offer small opportunities to tinker with our makerspace tools in spaces where students are already gathered.  The tricky piece comes with managing the library while I’m in another space. Without a helper, I have to think about the best times I can do this while I have a volunteer or our computer technician in the library.

As typically happens in makerspace, we saw big groups of students who might not play together on the playground suddenly crowded around the same table sharing materials, collaborating, chatting, and sharing their creations. There’s something magical about the atmosphere of a makerspace and the community it builds among makers.

makerspace-recess-30 makerspace-recess-31

I need to keep this thought at the front of my mind as I move into the 2nd half of the year. How can I maintain the makerspace opportunities we have as well as expand the opportunities to students who haven’t had a chance to participate?

As always, thank you to Gretchen Thomas, her Maker Dawgs students, and UGA for exploring this complex topic with me each semester. We’re doing great work together.

Barrow Night at the Athens Clarke Public Library

library card 2

September is National Library Card Signup Month.  I’ve always dreamed that every student in our school would have a library card, but each year it seems to slip off my plate.  This year, I brought the idea up at our monthly media specialist meeting and we started brainstorming ideas with Evan Bush, the children’s librarian at the main branch of the Athens Clarke County Library.  At the same time, Deirdre Sugiuchi, librarian at Oglethorpe Elementary, shared how she invited students to meet her one night at the library to sign up for library cards.  This evolved into all of the 14 elementary schools signing up for a night to encourage families to visit the library.

Two weeks before the event, I sent home a flyer and wrote about it in my monthly newsletter.  I also created a Facebook event page on our David C. Barrow Elementary Facebook page.  Our principal also added it to her own newsletters that go out to families electronically and in print.  Each morning on our broadcast announcements, I shared 1-2 things that a public library card can get you.  I included things like holds from any PINES library in Georgia, ebooks, audiobooks, Bookflix, Mango foreign languages, ukuleles, and up to 50 books at a time.  I reminded students what families would need to bring in order to sign up for a card.  I also told students there would be a tour, a raffle, and a ticket to get a popsicle at school the following day.

From 5:30-7:00PM, I stayed in the children’s department of the Athens public library, and the Barrow students flooded in.  We had 43 students visit the library and multiple family members came along too.  Our principal and assistant principal came as well as several teachers.

Students received bookmarks and buttons, entered a raffle, received their ticket for an ice pop, and had a great tour of the children’s department and all it had to offer.  Families connected with one another, and I showed several people how to search the online catalog and how to pair audio books with printed text.

library card

I would of course love to see more families attend, but this was a great first event.  We plan to hold a second event at a smaller branch of our library system that is right next to where some of our families live.

Happy Library Card Month!


Little Free Libraries Open for Business

Barrow Little Free Library

Barrow Little Free Library

After a year long project with last year’s 5th graders, our 2 Little Free Libraries are finally open for business.  This project has been one of the most meaningful ones that I have been a part of.  Just to highlight a few accomplishments of everyone involved:

  • After a post on the Barrow Media Center Facebook page that simply described a wish to have a LFL, teacher Sara Cross jumped on board to make this project happen in 5th grade.
  • Art teacher, Rita Foretich, along with her student teacher took a huge leadership role in creating multiple jobs for students, using Google sketchup to design libraries, and committing to painting the libraries in art.
  • Co-founder Rick Brooks took time out of his busy schedule to skype with our students to answer their questions and encourage them on their project.
  • Students in 5th grade wrote persuasive letters to multiple places which resulted in Lay Park becoming our 2nd location and Home Depot built and donated the 2 libraries and paint.
  • Students in 5th grade encouraged students in the whole school to donate books which resulted in about 18 boxes of used books to fill the libraries.  Other incredible supporters like Barrow grandparent, Camilla Bracewell, donated money to support the registration of the libraries and additional supply & book purchases.
  • Our project won the Eve Carson Service Learning Award at the 5th grade moving on ceremony

Our move into our new school delayed our installation a bit.  Mrs. Foretich kept the libraries over the summer and gave them some coats of clear coat to protect them from the weather.  Her husband also spent time making sure that the doors on the libraries opened smoothly after getting a bit sticky from the clear coat.

We entered this year with one big final step:  installation.  I should have known that once again our community would step up to support this project.  Susan Henderson, librarian at Fowler Drive, suggested that her neighbor Chase Cook, who is a Barrow parent, would be a good person to contact.  She even took time to ask him herself.  Chase was more than happy to help.  Another Barrow parent, Chris Adams, was suggested, and without hesitation he also agreed to help.  I was amazed that two parents who weren’t even involved in the project along the way were so willing to step up and offer their talents and service to this project.  Chase and Chris spent a hot Friday afternoon digging the holes at Barrow and Lay Park and installing both libraries.  I can’t thank them enough for their time and hard work.

Refilling the Barrow Little Free Library

Refilling the Barrow Little Free Library

On Sunday September 8, I filled the Barrow Little Free Library with books.  The Barrow library features our school theme of “Where am I in the world?”  You’ll find the tree that owns itself, Georgia peaches and peanuts, the GA flag & US flag, and GA football.  This week on our morning news show, I showed a video to all students explaining what this new mysterious box was all about.

The afternoon after the video was shown was a busy time for our library and it was almost empty that day as students were eager to take home a book.  We’ve already had to refill it once.

Lay Park Library

Lay Park Library

On Monday September 9, Randy Haygood opened the Lay Park Little Free Library.  This library features an old Barrow school look.  A giant sun radiates from the roof and the back features a beautiful flower garden.  I delivered 6 boxes of books to him so that he would have books to refill the library for a few weeks.  I can’t wait to see how this little library supports reading at Lay Park and the surrounding communities.

Lay Park Library back view

Lay Park Library back view

These libraries are truly a gift.  They represent so many voices, ideas, and creativity from students, parents, grandparents, and our community.  Thank you Athens community for supporting this project.  Enjoy these libraries for years to come.


Library on Wheels

Each year, just as I get the library up and running, classes in the routine of coming to the library for lessons & checkout, and kids excited about books, the library has to “close” for two weeks. For two weeks, our students are involved in Scantron testing. This testing provides valuable information to teachers about student strengths and weaknesses as they begin the year, but testing takes place in the media center. During testing, we are only open for checkout before school and from 2-2:30 at the end of the day. It always saddens me to see kids unable to come checkout books, so this year, I’m taking the library to them. Today I filled my rolling cart with books, got my laptop and scanner, and set off to classrooms. I did an impromptu lesson using the book My Librarian is a Camel and showed how children around the world get their library books in many unique ways. Then, I spread the books out on the floor.  Students looked at the books and decided if they wanted to keep their current library books or if they wanted to exchange for a new one.  The kids were so excited, and they didn’t even seem to mind the limited selection of books that I had to offer. Since today was a success, I think my next step is to see if there are genres of books that teachers would like me to focus on in my cart when I visit their room. My time to visit classrooms is limited because I have to help with the Scantron testing, but I was overjoyed to see books leaving our library and getting into student hands. It was a mini access enabler project, and what fun it was!