The Story of C.R.E.A.T.E.

Building CREATE

Making It Happen


I found this simple plan on the Woodworkers Journal site. If you can measure, saw and drive screws you can build these. Warning: They are heavy. I needed help to turn them onto their wheels. Warning 2: Power-sawing MDF creates an enormous amount of dust. Plan accordingly. Warning 3: Make sure that you build them narrow enough to fit through your doors. (Kudos to our custodian for suggesting this.) I also added white shower paneling to the tops to use as makeshift whiteboards. I attached it with silicone to make it easily removable and replaceable.

Workbenches in progress.

Tools and Support Materials Spreadsheets:

Most of the material that we use in CREATE is donated surplus and waste. We can use pretty much anything that we can get a lot of. We make sure that our families know that we can use things like toilet paper and paper towel tubes, PVC pipe, strawberry baskets, foam packing material, shoeboxes, scrap lumber, etc., etc... Parents will occasionally buy a box of drinking straws or paper cups or the above-mentioned popsicle sticks or duct tape and drop it off.

Unwrapping the presents.

Packing corners from a laptop purchase.
Perfect raw materials for making.

The "Sexy Stuff":

We were able to purchase a 3-D printer and a laser cutter, but you don't need either one for a robust and effective maker space.

3-D printers are slow. It can take a couple of hours to print something the size of your fist. The largest roll of filament for our Makerbot Mini costs $36 and will print about 11 of our rice funnels, which is mostly hollow. With 600 students, it's impossible to print every student's random tinker. So our policy is to allow each member of the Mouse Squad to print one thing each year. Other print jobs have to be directly related to in-class projects.

We've used Autodesk's Project Ignite to create Tinkercad accounts for all of our students for 3-D design. 

Laser cutters are far more useful on a day-to-day basis. They are super fast and the media can be anything from scrap cardboard to dressed stone. You can use a laser cutter to generate class sets of project materials in minutes. If you can only get one. Choose the laser cutter.

For laser cutter design software, you can use commercial applications like Adobe Illustrator of Corel Draw, or free apps like Inkscape. Free 3-D design software such as SketchUp and the Tinkercad site can also output 2-D files for laser cutting.


CREATE is a school resource. Teachers can schedule it for class projects or special design challenges. Students can also attend "tinker time" when they can work on class projects or build whatever they want. The only requirement is that they indicate a specific design intent by filling-out a brief "think sheet" before each new project. Tinker time is offered during lunch and on two days after school.

During our first year, we required all teachers and their classes to go through three design challenges, to familiarize them with the design and making process. Teachers observed the first two and lead the third one. We use this design cycle sheet for 3-5 and this one for K-2 students.

All students must have a signed release from their parents to use the the space during school and a separate one for after-school tinker time.

The front of the line for lunchtime tinker time sign-up.

We rotated every class through CREATE for one-hour safety briefings. Although there is a safety poster of some rules on the wall, I only briefly gesture at it during the briefing. The central message is common sense. When in doubt, do the safer thing. Unsafe behavior is a one-strike proposition. The first time gets you a trip to the principal's office and a ban from CREATE for the rest of the day. In the first year, I've only had to eject students three times.

Sawing safely.

I do specifically talk about how to carry scissors and safely use hot-glue guns and asking about new things, but the main onus for safety is not on the rules, but on the students following a culture of safety. It gives them their first sense of ownership and autonomy in the room.

All new students get the full one-hour briefing. Returning students get an abbreviated refresher at the beginning of the school year in the fall.

I also use the safety briefing as a maker space familiarization and an introduction to maker ethos. I tell them that they can be makers anywhere. The real maker space is in their imaginations.

Ready for the kids. The CREATE makerspace, after all of the work.

Lunchtime tinker time.

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