Digital Literacy in Libraries

Through out the year we try to work with local libraries in bringing tech activities for the children (and library staff) to enjoy. The children have never failed to find creative ways of using and relating to their library. During these workshops children develop strong relationships with their local library and its staff which strengthens community links.

Making Ottomans with Girls with Drills

This is by far my favourite workshop.

Women join me for a day and it’s such a journey for all of us.

We start the day wide-eyed and bushy tailed, anticipating what using a drill for the first time will be like. Then I tell them, they can also use the big, noisy mitre saw. Most people get a bit frightened at this point and apprehensive about using such a sharp and fast moving powertool. By the end of the day, every single person is asking where to get one - an absolute win!

I love it when people take a ‘risk’ and gain a bit of confidence as a result. It doesn’t feel adventurous unless it feels risky first.

After the women cut all their wood and get the frame assembled using a drill, we get to add a bit of personality. Each wooden frame looks exactly the same - besides a few wobbly legs. Each woman brings her own fabric. The fabrics have amazing stories. Stories about the woman who sold her the fabric. A story about building something for a son. My favourite fabric story was from a woman who bought a dress because she liked the fabric but they didn’t actually have one in her size so it’s been sat in her wardrobe for a year! She turned that dress into an ottoman.

Then the end of the day comes and I get to tell everyone to get home and put their feet up ;)

Maker Camps

Each half term, we take all our kit into communites for children aged 7 to 11 to learn creative problem solving by playing with tech, engineering and arts with the help of role models. The full day gives children the space and time to develop projects and discover new interests.

Co-creating Rube Goldberg Machines

The first Rube Goldberg Machine workshop, November 2018

Kids Invent Stuff set out to make the largest co-invented Rube Goldberg Machine and it was epic!

We loved being part of the project team. While Ruth, Shawn and the build team tackled the big machine, Bright Box Makerspace worked with 60 school children to build machines of our own. Over the course of the day we challenged the kiddos to start small, fail often and aim for huge.

They did not disappoint. In the morning, children worked in teams of 3 or 4 to build one or two chain reactions. After coming back from lunch, the children took time to learn from each other and share their progress so far. Then the real challenge came - combining the work of 60 children into 2 massive Rube Goldberg Machines. The kiddos work impressed us just as much as Ruth and Shawn’s.

What we learned:

  1. It’s better to start the kids with limited resources. We gave them access to everything. Not only was it overwhelming and distracting, it meant the creativity was limited to objects that felt familiar. Now we limit resources and introduced a trading table. Everyone loves bartering for the slinky!

  2. Grownups need time outs. As the day moved on, chaperones grew nervous that their children wouldn’t succeed. One adult even said that they didn’t want to take home crying children. The adults were telling children what to do and how. The children missed out on learning opportunities because they were not given the space to fail. Laying out our intentions for the adults in future workshops will prevent ‘grownup-splaing.’

  3. More is better - we loved having 60 kids being chaotic in one space! We’ve always been nervous about the safety of that many children running loose. With the right atmosphere co-created and decided by the children at the beginning set us up for mutual respect for the rest of the day. We started the day asking the children to tell us what they expect and how they think they should behave - that’s it, guidelines made by the community and a lovely way to create self-agency.

  4. Grownups need to play, too. We think teams working in organisation benefit the most from this workshop. Us adults don’t get to flex those problem-solving and imagination muscles in our day to day jobs. The grown ups at CMS loved playing and building a machine over the course of the evening. We even had to enforce a ‘no working on your machine during tea time’ rule.

Castlegate Opening Party!

With just one month to turn and old Gregg’s to a makerspace, we did it! We had the party, made the things and drank the fizz. The one post where I’ll say, I wouldn’t have done a single thing differently!

Our brilliant team of Zoe, Madawi, Kisha (me) and Kristie really stuck through the entire process good and ugly to pull off an incredible space and fun opening party.

200 visited our small, city centre makerspace over the day. Families made a Future Castlegate during the day to be displayed in our window. Adults explored the loading bay (we all love what’s off limits) and co-created a Rube Goldberg machine.

Nothing beats the sound of grownups cheering as their Rube Goldberg Machine finally works just at the strike of closing. What a way to end a very busy month!

Maker Club at Parson Cross Library 2017

This was a 6 week trial to test community based maker clubs in libraries.

In Parson Cross, there is a generational divide, with children banned from the library - similar stories emerged in the other communities during our discussions with parents. Since June 2017, Bright Box has provided over 1,100 Sheffield children with digital skills activities at events in deprived communities in Sheffield.

We provided 10 weeks of after-school clubs at the Parson Cross library to gauge the appetite for these activities. One parent said, “I’m happy to see the library helping kids learn how to use technology in a fun way.”