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National Week of Making: Spotlight on Hewitt Public Library

2018 June 11
by Cindy Fisher

The 3rd annual National Week of Making is taking place from June 11th – June 18th, 2018 all across the country and to highlight the creative making happening in our Texas libraries we talked to Sarah Miller, Teen Librarian & Program Planner at the Hewitt Public Library.  Take it away, Sarah!

My favorite feedback ever from a library patron was, “Because of you, my child’s room looks like a recycling bin, but I love it!”

Before you cringe or close the page – let me give you some context. My name is Sarah Miller and I work at the Hewitt Public Library in Hewitt, Texas. At the library, my primary job is to spearhead our maker education and STEM programs. I’m a maker. And I love that at my job I get to facilitate unique learning experiences, build relationships with our patrons, and introduce the public to the “new norm” of libraries.

The Hewitt Public Library incorporates making into our weekly educational programming through a club called Maker Meet-Up. Maker Meet-Up is informal, fun, and provides a different experience every week in which students learn by making. We don’t have an established makerspace. Instead, Maker Meet-Up “pops up” in a shared work room. Most meetings are set up in a similar fashion. I provide about two tables full of diverse materials, premade examples to spark imagination, and signage with additional instructions in case students have questions when I am busy with others.

Some of my favorite projects last semester were paper animatronic Halloween decorations, fusing plastic to create bags and wallets, ugly Christmas sweaters, and cardboard arcade games. With every project, I try to include multiple disciplines. For example, cardboard arcade games included circuits, simple mechanisms, coding, and artistic design. Multiple disciplines allow every student to feel comfortable enough in a subject to start a project, and expand on areas that they may be weak in. Students are encouraged to work together, explore with new materials, and make something that is completely their own.

As facilitators, we ask questions, challenge students to try new things, and if their methods do not work, we ask them to try it again in a different way. Along with that, we also work alongside students on their projects, which inspires students to stay persistent and tenacious. Working along side the students every week has allowed me to build relationships with many of them.

A lot of Saturdays, I have many of the same students. They show evidence of learning through referring back to previous projects; they show leadership by welcoming in and helping new students, and they even overlap subject matter from other library programs such as our Girls Who Code club. Most importantly though, I get to know them. It is fun to know what extra curriculars students are in, or what their hobbies are, because I can then direct future programming to what interests them. Two of my regulars, Max and Maddie, showed interest in 3D printing and composting. To meet their needs, I added a 3D printing class, which was a huge success. In April, we are building our own greenhouses out of soda pop bottles. Meeting their needs keeps them engaged and excited about coming back.

Along with Maker Meet-Up, in the summer we have our makerspace cart out for a few hours every day of the week. Our makerspace cart holds recyclables and simple craft materials and reaches our younger patrons. We include short prompts that fit into our summer reading theme, and challenge them to engineer structures out of materials anyone can find at home.

With these established programs, our library patrons have begun to catch on to the “new norm” of libraries. Inside our library walls we still hold the friendly atmosphere and the comforting smell of books. However, we, like many other libraries, are making changes to remain relevant in our community and to provide unique learning experiences. Patrons know that when they come to our library there will be something exciting and engaging to participate in, and students are proud of the projects they complete. Although supply tables look like recycle bins, students are learning, incorporating STEM subjects, growing leadership skills, making new friends, and having fun.

Sarah’s Recommended Maker resources:

About Sarah:
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Baylor University in 2015 and a Master of museum studies at Baylor University in 2017. During her time in graduate school, Sarah centered her studies on practices in educational programming and became passionate about the Maker Movement. To build on her studies and learn how to execute public programming events, Sarah completed an internship at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and volunteered at the Mayborn Museum in Waco, Texas. Sarah is now the Teen Librarian and Program Planner at the Hewitt Public Library where she coordinates and facilitates maker based programming for students ages eight to eighteen, and coordinates STEAM based activities for tweens and teens

What kinds of making are you doing at your library? Are you celebrating the National Week of Making? Tell us in the comments!

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