Super Short Straw Projects: Airplanes

This project uses some heavy paper and tape. By taping a large circle at one end of the straw and a small one at the other, you can get a surprisingly good “paper airplane.” Have students test it against their favorite standard paper airplanes.

Take it further by experimenting with different size straws, circles, or kinds of paper.

Super Short Straw Projects: Duck call

The next project I saw promised to make loud noises, so I gave it a whirl. This post shows you details for how to make a duck call from a straw, but all you need to do is cut one end into a point and blow fairly hard into that end of it. And it does make a satisfyingly loud duck-like call or sometimes squeal.

Take it further by having students experiment with different kinds of cuts or different sizes or types of straws.

Super Short Straw Projects: Pan pipes

Not sure how you can “fit” makerspace into your already-overloaded schedule? One of the questions educators often ask me is how they can possibly have time for projects in a 20, 30, or 40 minute time block.

This month I explore super-quick projects that all use drinking straws, and maybe paper and tape. That means less time gathering materials, too!

The first interesting activity I saw for straws was this post about making pan pipes. I have to be honest: I didn’t think it would work. But I knew it would only take a few minutes to find out… and they do! They make a pleasing, soft melody, so even if you have 30 students blowing pipes, it won’t send you running from the room.

Take it further by seeing what other objects they can use to blow music, or how high or low of a pitch they can create.

5 minute projects: Turn junk mail into pencils

This fourth quick project required some prototyping as well. When I used mechanical pencil lead, it was much too fragile, and broke several times within five seconds of rolling up the paper.

I wanted to use something stronger, and thought about charcoal, but didn’t have any artist charcoal on hand. So I grabbed some charcoal from the fireplace, and ended up with a pencil that would get the job done.

This is another great project to set students loose to see what they can come up with!

5 minute projects: Amplify music with paper cups

I have seen this project in other places, so I was excited to try it. Unfortunately, I never got it to work, even after several prototypes.

I tried it first with Dixie cups. I used two different kinds of headphones, and hooked it up to two different devices. If it amplified theĀ  music, I couldn’t tell it at all.

So I tried larger, plastic cups thinking that the sound would bounce off the hard plastic better than paper, and that the larger cup would help. I couldn’t tell any difference.

Does this mean it’s a “bad” project? Absolutely not! It’s a great project to take to your makerspace students and say “I couldn’t get this to work… can you?” And see what they come up with. Not everything may work the first time in a makerspace, but we’re building our persistence muscles as we learn, which is valuable time spent.


5 minute projects: LED Glow Stick

The second project I tried was an LED glow stick. I’ve always enjoyed taking apart pens, and this time you get to make it light up!

Once the materials were gathered, I think the project only took two minutes… not including the time needed to dance around in the dark with it!

5 minute projects: Mini-catapult

Do you like instant gratification? So many things in a makerspace require patience and perseverance, so it’s nice to include some quick projects whenever possible. Having success with a small project is often all that’s needed to encourage a maker to do even more!

This month I’m showcasing 5-minute projects with simple objects you already have around your makerspace. The instructions for these projects all came from The Ultimate DIY Geek Toys Guide. The book includes more in-depth projects as well (warning for school folks: the first section is all about DIY projects with beer).

The first project I tried was making a mini catapult from nail clippers, a bottle cap, and a bit of glue:



Simple project, and it worked perfectly. I used a “glue dot” instead of crazy glue so that I could have my clippers back to normal afterward. And the piece of paper actually travels further than I had guessed.

The best part? When I showed it to my husband, the first thing he asked was “why can’t we make a bigger one?!” Exactly my point… making small things makes you want to make more!

Lesson planning: How do I span all the grades throughout the year?

Another question educators often ask me at seminars is, “How can I make sure I’m not duplicating Makerspace activities done in earlier grades or other classes?”

On the one hand, repeating activities is an excellent way for students to learn and experience success. On the other hand, vertical (and horizontal) curriculum planning is a great way to maximize learning experiences for students. It takes a long time to do, though!

I admire work done by Colleen Graves in this area. She is a middle school librarian, and has developed a simple chart with low and high tech Makerspace activities (see bottom of the page). These activities are available each month of the school year for students. She also lists curriculum tie-ins, so other teachers know when would be a natural time to get in on the action.

Lesson planning: How do I fit Makerspace into a fixed schedule?

What if you only see students for 40 minutes at a time, including book-check out or some other regular activity that must be done each time you meet? Can you possibly fit Makerspace into a packed schedule like that?

I sat down for one hour and brainstormed for my previous K-4 library class, and thought about three things:

  • What I was already teaching that “counts” as Makerspace,
  • What I was already teaching that could easily have a low-tech tie in, and
  • What I was already teaching that could easily have a high-tech tie in.

I developed a table for you on page 6 as a starting point.

I encourage you to sit down with a timer and try the same activity with what you teach. I think you’ll be surprised how simple it is to find ways to integrate Makerspace!