Color-Coded Clean Up: Organizing Your Makerspace

During the holiday break the Creativity Lab decided to take advantage of the student-free time by transforming the already awesome makerspace we’ve built, to an even more student-friendly place.  The golden rule in organization is this: in the end everything has a place, within the place it functions.

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To break this down a little, here are a few things to ponder when organizing your space:

(1) Everything should have a place.

What do we have?  How much of it is there?  How much space will that need?  What else does it need to go with?

(2) Try to arrange things by process or within in a place where it functions.  

Are stations necessary?  Do you have enough space to pull it off?  Can the Kindergartners reach their scissors if we have them on the second shelf?

(3) Adjust as you go.  

Are things working?  Are the soldering machines too far from the outlets?

Draft a little plan, do a sketch, talk to other teachers that use the space and go for it.  Pull everything, and I do mean everything out, section by section and begin to break things down by category.

Excellent things to have on hand during the process:

  • Plastic Storage Bins – Large and Small
  • Labels (I love and swear by Post-it Label Rolls, 1” wide) OR Tape and Index Cards, anything to help you sort
  • Multicolored Duct Tape (see our pictures, I found Duck Brand to be the brand with the most variety)
  • Measuring Tape

Other great options, but not required:

  • Magnetic Siding
  • Magnetic Spice Holders for smaller materials
  • Movable Carts
  • Peg-hole Board

DSC_0137At Lighthouse we decided to color code our materials in small (shoe-box sized) plastic bins.  Placed on metal, adjustable shelving, they are easy to access and organized thinking of not only how the materials are used, but also by whom.  Some of the top shelf items included electronics, glitter, and sewing equipment, while building materials line the bottom shelves, making them accessible to any age.  The middle of the shelves hold attaching materials (glue, clips, rubber bands, etc.), tools (rulers, pencils, scissors, etc.), and decorative items (feathers, felt, etc.).  The middle shelves are staggered in height by who needs to access them, K-5 is low and 6-12 is higher.

Note:  be thoughtful about the heaviness of your boxes the further up they are placed.  

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Mr. Howard, the After-school Making Instructor started a trend of using index cards to label the materials, illustrating the material and writing it out, adhering one to either side of the box so it can always be seen.

In its entirety the re-organization took about a week to complete and it’s been well worth it.  That is not to say glitches have not arisen.  Tweaks will always be an ongoing part of organization.  Finding out what works best for your space is important and should be reflected upon from time to time.

The best way to test your new organization is by releasing it to the kids (or whomever the user of the space is).  We briefly introduced the kids to the new space and then let them explore.  At the end of that first class, and then the second and third, it became quite clear that teal and baby-blue look too much alike when kids are rushing to clean up.

Problem Solving an Organizational Crisis: What to do when the system fails

Crisis:  Are thekids confusing the colored labels because they are too similar?

Problem:  We don’t have any other colors of duct tape!

Solution:  Just add white stripes to the teal ones.

Test:  Success!  Plus we found out that other colors of duct tape were available on amazon – phew!

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No, that is not groundbreaking, or particularly helpful.  However, it illustrates my philosophy on organizing artist spaces and makerspaces alike.  Know who is using the space and how they are using it.

Get creative, make you space inviting and inspiring.  Make the right materials accessible to the right kids.  Put your glitter up high and lock up the cutting tools.

One last thing, please feel free to share your wisdom, tips, or tricks by commenting below.  

About Jessica Gray Schipp

An obsessive documenter, by nature.

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