Little Elves MakerSpace at the Library!

This event was a dream come true! A nearly 3 year vision come to life, and it went very well.

About a month prior to the event I sent out an all call to my coworkers and the families that visit our library; asking for everyone to rummage through their tool boxes and work stations for spare materials. I know I had a bunch of extra bits and pieces that I’d never use, such as a butterfly hinge, a heavy duty hinge, and a couple knobs I had taken off of a re-purposed cabinet. And I knew I wasn’t the only one, especially in our time of Pinterest and DIY enthusiasts.¬† I waited to plan exactly what we would build until I had the materials in hand. I had quite a few awesome large donations of hinges, handles, knobs, screws, nails, wood, and tools. These donations made it possible for us to have 4 focused work centers as well as plenty of material for independent exploration and imagination.

Here is how we set up the centers.

The box center required the most hard ware and skill level. If I had to put an age range on this center I’d say ages 8+ with the help of an adult.

build a box

The next center is our House center. Ages 6+ can do this center, with the help of an adult. There is little to no hardware, but balancing the roof was quite challenging.

build a house

The Shield center was our easiest center. All you need to make a shield is a thin flat piece of wood (any shape) and a handle. We had a great selection of handles to choose from. This center is great for children 5+, if you predrill the holes for the handle they won’t need very much assistance, if any at all. (I did not- I wanted the children to pick where they wanted them and had them mark where they wanted the holes- and then I’d start the holes with the drill to make it easier)

Build a Shield

And last is our “Littles” Table. We bought a handful of these $1-$3 kits at michaels and walmart specifically for anyone that was under the age of 5 who lost interest in the more DIY projects. These have all pre-cut, pre-drilled pieces that require no hardware. They are relatively easy to put together but the children will need help from an adult. I’m not the biggest fan of these kits, and they will not be good for anyone under the age of 3 because of small parts. But they were good to have for the handful of children ages 3-5 that were not quite ready to build from scratch.

littles station

I had the drill up high so that only myself and other adults would be able to use it. Some parents taught their kids how to use it and let them handle it and practice with it, highly supervised.

drill station

I offered additional tools in the event we stripped a screw and needed the pliers to pull it out, or if anyone needed to hold two pieces of wood together, and so on. Children come up with some of the most inventive ways to do things.

extra tools

Also a whole stash of spare wood!

scrap wood

I also offered smocks and safety goggles as this event tends to get messy and there is always a chance of eye contamination when you are sanding and splintering wood.



I made one table the paint table so all creations could be painted if desired, and asked families to check their name off the list and make a name tag. I used the list to give priority to the families that signed up first with picking a station first. We had 33 people in all, 22 or so on them where kids. There was enough material for 40 different planned projects (14 shields, 8 boxes, 8 houses, and 8 kits) It worked out that there was enough of each project that we did not have a shortage of any one project and anyone who wanted to make something specific had the option to do so. (that was something I was really worried about) The best part of all this was realizing that MOST of the children actually didn’t want to make the pre-planned projects. They were good to have to help with maintaining and managing the event. And parents like to have a plan, where kids will always make their own plan. ūüėČ

And now… the main event!

A beautiful box! This was made by an older child (I’d guess between the ages of 10-12) and her mother. The group realized that the tiny tack nails (pictured) did not go into the plywood as easily as planned. So gluing the boxes together became priority. We also had to really think ahead when putting the boxes together. I had my wonderful, patient boyfriend cut most of the wood for me. To make things easier for planning I asked him to cut the wood into as many 4″X4″ pieces as possible. The boxes and houses could be made by all 4″X4″ pieces with a little adjustment. This did make assembly a little tougher, but that is part of the learning process in my opinion.¬† Drilling through the plywood should be done in moderation as plywood will splinter. I suggested that families start the holes with the drill, but use physical force to get the screws in the rest of the way. And the last hurtle we had to jump was attaching the hinge. We learned that you can not place the wood right up against the joint on the hinge, or it will not close! It is actually better to do one part of the hinge on the outside of the box and one on the inside to prevent any possible interference. Learning!

learning process

These two are making a car!


These two worked together to make a toy car garage with an actual moving door! They were very careful to mark and measure their work.

mark your spot

It’s Mary and Joseph for the stable she just made!


Rummaging for more parts!


All working together to create houses, stables, and churches!




Deciding where he wants the handle for his shield!


Many kids did not finish their projects in the hour, and took them home to finish. I will post any pictures I get of the finished projects as I get them!




Story Walk

June was Great Outdoors Month! And my first month working at a library! Coming from a school that spent the majority of their time in an outdoor classroom, (and became the second Nature Explorer Certified Classroom in the State!-¬†CONGRATS LADIES!) ¬†I wanted to keep the “outdoor” momentum going. The Libraries had recently partnered with Virginia State Parks and the Science Museum of Virginia to provide Nature Backpacks- equipped with everything you’d need to explore the great outdoors. From compasses to tarps, and even a parking pass allowing free parking at any Va State Park. (hey-o parents!) ¬†I spent the entire month of June (and July) promoting these backpacks, I even utilized them in a few of my Story Times. (the Adventure story time, and the Camping Story Time) The outdoor classroom is inspired by two schools of thinking. One being “just get outside!” and the other one being “Children need nature.” I mean we all need nature, and we are all inspired by nature. And with that second school of thought emerged a national trend of Natural Playgrounds! Even my little home town built one (and it’s one of the best I’ve seen) See for yourself.


All of these wonderful things swam in my head for a while, as I tried to figure out how to encourage children to be outside AND read, and maybe even read outside. Then I stumbled upon a story walk. And enchanting way to display a story outside, that combined literacy with physical activity and engaging with nature. It was perfect. We put it together just in time for the outdoor Summer Market. Check out our video HERE. (Our Story Walk)

This is our “Go Outside” display inside the library.


Until Next time!

Messy MakerSpaces!

MakerSpaces are wonderful! I am currently obsessed with all the ways teachers can create Makers Spaces in their classrooms, in fact I believe it is possible to make a classroom one big MakerSpace! They foster the idea of open ended/ project based learning and play based learning and creative exploration and much much more! Makers Spaces also utilize loose parts to their full potential. But be warned, I have found that is can make for a very messy room. I teach the children to respect their creative spaces, and help them learn to have responsibility for those spaces. Despite my intentions, our spaces often end up looking cluttered and unorganized. I am currently looking for a solution to this problem, and will share my findings! The NAEYC TYC magazine had a wonderful article on MakerSpaces in their last issue. The article is not available to non-members online, but if you are a member I encourage you to read the article Inventions, Gizmos, and Gadgets‚ÄĒOh My! How to Help Your Preschoolers Get the Most Out of Your Makerspace” by¬†Lisa Mufson Bresson and Megan King.

Aside from Makers Spaces being all the rage in Early Childhood Organizations, they are quite popular in many communities! Check these out!

TinkerSmith MakerSpace – Charlottesville Va

Staunton MakerSpace– Staunton Va

TinkerSphere– New York NY

Here are some things currently in our makerspace!


I recently discovered the idea behind provocations. I had been making lists of things that interest the children along with objects that encourage exploration. As I introduce those items, I often make notes on their reactions and thoughts so that I can continue the process!

This site explains which items can be used as Provocations, and explains how they are seen as invitations to learn.

The author of the site also has a great Pinterest board dedicated to Reggio Provocations.

Click on the hyper links and explore!

Ms. Frizzle visits our class!

It turns out one of my best friends, that I’ve known since childhood, is Ms. Frizzle! You really think you know someone…

(I am in the middle, green shirt/glasses- She is on the far left)


And now we are all grown up, I am the weirdo on the left. (below)


The children just loved her! She read them books, and talked about space! (which we had been talking about in class, we even had a mini space projector presentation yesterday!)

Here she is reading to the class.


After reading she played us space sounds! Some were a bit creepy, but that just made us love them even more! As we listened we drew pictures of space! We were very inspired.


(drawing above by: Olle)


(picture above by: Oliver)

img_0787(Picture above by: Oliver)

What a wonderful day! We look forward to future visits from Ms. Frizzle!

Dangerous Possibilities!

When you look at this photo, what do you see? What do you think?imageWhat if I told you this work bench is in a preschool classroom. My preschool classroom.

Some may look at something like this in a preschool classroom an be alarmed. I know I was when I first saw something like this in a preschool setting. The first time I saw this was at Ren’s House¬†in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham area about a year and a half ago. (Which is a phenomenal ECE-homebased center) This was one of the many things that inspired me, and stuck with me from my tour of the center. I remember thinking “OH MY!” wondering how many children have gotten hurt, and what kind of safety precautions would need to be put in place prior to use. Ms. Sharon Dove (director/owner/teacher)¬†told the tour group her philosophy on using real tools and materials, and how beneficial they had been. She even told us that injuries were not a problem for her, and that she teaches proper use of the tools. And the children become very careful as a result.

On the way home I expressed my amazement with my Director. I knew I wanted to try it for myself, and luckily my Director was on board.

This is when I learned about the “Risk Vs. Hazard”¬†¬†theory. Click HERE for¬†a great article on the role that Risk Vs. Hazard plays in ECE.

I started off very slow in the class I had last year. Using plastic and wood hammers with golf tees and cork board. Coming from a corporate background, I was a bit skittish of taking risks. I instantly felt like the experience just wasn’t enough for the children. Sure it was good for their fine and gross motor development, but it wasn’t engaging them on the level I had hoped it would. So I started introducing real nails. And slowly, over the course of the whole year, I transitioned the wood working station, into a center stocked with real wood, real nails, and real hammers. (that is how we built a birdhouse!)

This year I took off the training wheels, and started the class off with the full woodworking table, nails and all. The older class “gifted” the table and tools to the upcoming class, as to pass the torch. It has been a hit! I have since added screw drivers and screws to the mix for more precise fine motor manipulation and strength building. There are of course safety goggles in the area, along with a tool smock. Since we carved our pumpkin, a wrench has been added to the mix as well. Which they use to pull out nails and screws.


We started a unit a month or so ago, where we became very engaged with taking things apart.  Children started using all the skills they learn in our wood working center, and use it practically. We took apart all kinds of things!


Some friends even brought in some items from home to take apart! Here is a part to a dryer that we spent an entire morning dismantling this week!


It has been amazing to see the progression this lesson has taken not only with this class, but over the last year and a half. I can’t wait to see where else it will take us. And where else this shift and progression in ECE will go universally!

Project Work Takes Time!

One of my favorite parts of project based work in schools, is that you are never sure where it will go! My class started their interest in building, making, and taking apart things back in the summer when we built a birdhouse! Since then the children have taken apart clocks, flashlights, intercoms, phones, and calculators. In the middle of all this exploration, we had halloween. I had seen a Pinterest post showing an inventive way to cut out shapes in a pumpkin using a hammer and a cookie cutter. I had planned on letting the children hammer nails into a pumpkin, and later wrap with twine; so this idea seemed like a good extension for them. As well as a great addition to their wood working bench to explore.


The kids enjoyed hammering the cookie cutters in, I will note that I often had to ‘start’ the process as it can be a bit difficult to keep the cookie cutter still on the smooth pumpkin surface. Once the cookie cutters were all hammered in, the children had to problem solve on how to get the cookie cutters out. We decided to try a wrench, and the children loved it! The task was both challenging and rewarding and kept the children busy through out the day.¬†IMG_0336.JPG

IMG_0342.JPGOnce the Pumpkin had no more space left to insert cookie cutters into, we started wedging them out. We used the lever process, turning anything that worked into a lever. The pumpkin scoop was our favorite. We never had to cut the top off of the pumpkin to get the guts out, there were enough bat and pumpkin shaped holes in the pumpkin, that our littler hands had no problem reaching in and pulling the seeds out! (Some of us enjoyed the mystery, others enjoyed sorting out the seeds) IMG_0350.JPGIMG_0352.JPG

Then we had to decide on how to light the pumpkin. The children came up with all kinds of ideas. We tried most of them… then we had an idea. What if we put a light bulb in the pumpkin? How would we power it? How does that work? We decided to turn to the smallest and simplest version of light we could think of (that wasn’t a fake tea light) A FLASHLIGHT! We ended up taking a few flashlights apart before we found one that had the kind of light we wanted, and the kind of power. And with the help of family support, we were able to create a small circuit to place inside the pumpkin! If we moved the wire a certain way the light would come on, if we moved the wire another it would turn off. We also found that using more batteries meant the light would be brighter!


This project helped launch the class into an assortment of new projects such as building a Da Vinci Clock, which lead us to telescope exploration, which in turn lead us to wonder about space! You never know where imaginative minds will go!