Makerspace Storage Solutions (13)

I’ve had a lot of questions about storage for maker tools, so I wanted to compile a list of maker storage solutions I’ve tried over the years.

Microcontroller Storage Solutions

Arduinos, Micro:bit, and Makey Makey are awesome tools, but they don’t come in user or library friendly storage containers. Lately, I’ve been buying photo storage boxes to contain my microcontrollers in a compact and clear solution. What I love about these Iris photo keepers¬†is that 6 of the the containers fit inside another clear unit. Plus, you can easily spot that you have your Makey Makey, alligator clips, and USB cable when students hand the kits back.

If you have some old clear VHS cases, they are also perfect for storing Makey Makey and accessories! I saw Diana Rendina do this at FETC last year, and I almost looked for back stock so I could put all of my Makey Makeys in old VHS boxes!

However, you might want to store things like Play-doh inside your Makey Makey kits, if so a larger storage box works great too. Check out Bill Steinbach’s storage solution:

I’m use these photo boxes¬†to store table supplies for workshops too. Below is a kit for creating paper circuits during a Makey Makey Invention Literacy workshop. These little boxes are great for storing rolls of copper tape, drawing pencils, foil, batteries, and coincell battery holders.

The Iris Photo Keeper sized 4X6 is also good for Micro:bit and accessories.¬† This size is perfect for the cable, controller, and battery holder. If you want to store more accessories, you’ll want to go a box size up.

Consumable/Recyclables Maker Storage

At Ryan High School with the help of my ITS, Leslie Terronez, we organized all of our materials in these large tubs and labeled accordingly. (See more about the process in this previous post.)

These tubs helped students find things quickly.¬† I ended up moving all of this organized chaos to the “maker classroom” side of the library at Ryan, and then used these huge shelves behind the circulation desk for “in-progress” projects. During our Invention Literacy projects with 10th grade, I quickly realized that I need to move our consumables far away from our non-consumable items like knitting needles, Raspberry Pi components, etc. I needed all recyclable and prototyping material far away from things I didn’t want torn up. During that project, students sawed knitting wooden needles in half to make catapults!¬† I didn’t get upset with them for their creative reuse, but oh my! If only I’d remembered Krissy Venosdale’s Maker Confession¬†we’d discussed at SXSWedu last year!

At my new library, I have mostly only recyclables and and consumables. So I keep my Micro:bit and Makey Makeys near our computers and I have a wall of recyclables clearly labeled for students to use in projects. I’ve also learned to cut my cardboard into square and rectangle sheets so it’s a little more accessible for my elemakers.

It’s handy to save round things in a bin labeled “round-wheel like things”, cardboard tubes, interesting plastic, soft things, pom poms, straws, popsicle sticks, etc in your consumable area. However, with younger students remember to tell them not to be wasteful. You may even have to limit how many materials they can use. During our Micro:bit pet project, Mrs. Honea and I saw the kids decimate all of my sorted reuse materials in 2 minutes! Plus, they only gathered them all and then had to put them back. It’s important for students to understand that they do not have HOARD materials because they will stay in your storage tubs for further use.

Storing Works In Progress

Last year I noticed that it was getting harder to keep “in progress” projects organized on the shelves. So I decided to buy tubs that students could label with their names and an expiration date. If they were working on a project of their own, they needed to write an expiration date. If they were working as a class, they just needed to label the tub with their names. At Ryan I kept these behind the circulation desk. At my new school, I keep in progress projects on empty shelves in my office so idle hands do not find them and destroy them. Read more about the in-progress shelves in this post I wrote last year.

During the “works in-progress” clean up, I also tried out making a re-purpose it bin. This seemed like a good idea for repurposing old projects, but not many of my high school students would go through it to look for parts. It might work better in elementary, since the kids really love scavenging items. Only time will tell!

The red tubs work great for in progress work when I have one whole class working on a project. For open maker time projects, these little containers with lids work a little better. An expiration date is necessary for free lance projects because sometimes kids abandon projects for a long time. I can’t tell you how many times a students would come back months after they started a project. It’s always difficult to tell them you’ve recycled their work, but it becomes a little easier when you have an expiration date on the bin!

Skinny containers with lids are great for storing sewing and sewing circuit projects!

Throwback to Lamar Middle School

I started the in-progress shelves when I was working at Lamar. At the time, it was just empty shelving for student projects. When I stored projects like this at Ryan, inevitably someone would mess with another student’s project. That’s why it’s important to use bins or storage tubs to keep work separated and safe.

Need More Ideas for Makerspace Storage?

Visit your local re-use stores to get more great storage ideas! Scrap Denton had great ideas for re-purposing old containers for consumables supplies. At Ryan, I used biscotti tubs that a teacher gave me to store consumables like popsicle sticks and wooden dowels. To keep your area looking neat, make sure your up-cycled containers are all matching! You can reuse tennis ball containers for ribbons, popsicle sticks, etc! While you are at your re-use store, be environmentally friendly by picking up more supplies for your makerspace instead of buying all brand new materials.

Pinterest always has great one trick ideas too! I found this great way to organize thread by hot gluing golf tees to the top tub of tool box drawer.

What are some of your favorite storage ideas? See my previous post about makerspace storage for ideas on storing littleBits, Sphero, and more!


The Importance of Exploring Materials- Reflecting on #SXSWedu Part 2

This is the second post reflecting on SXSWedu 2017. Read the first post reflecting on the need for sharing our maker education classroom fails or what Sam Patterson calls the “anti-Instagram” moments.

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Exploring Materials in #4ways4makered

Four Ways for MakerEd was an excellent workshop at SXSWedu hosted by Christa Flores, Patrick Benfield, Sean Justice, and Erin Riley.

These fabulous maker educators set up four different explorations across this gigantic room and gave us time to play. After introductions, I hurried to the cardboard corner and began exploring cardboard techniques thanks to this cool handout from Erin Riley.


As I sat there playing with cardboard, those around me were making and building awesome things. I was feeling a bit uninspired making-wise, plus I was nervous about my own upcoming session.

Here I was in the middle of this room of so many awesome folks who were quickly inspired and making cool stuff.

And I had no ideas.

I was starting to feel pressure, because I’m a maker and I should be able to sit down and make cool stuff,right?

No. That’s not right. Sometimes even the most creative types can be uninspired. Instead I thought, “It’s okay. I’ll just play with cardboard and try all these cool techniques since I haven’t tried some of these before.” Meanwhile, my friend Liam built a chair out of cardboard, another guy at our table built a castle, and another learner made¬†interesting cardboard art (with shadow play!)

Meanwhile, I was still cutting pieces out, putting them together and playing with techniques. Nothing creative or amazing….


As I kept exploring cardboard, I started thinking it would be fun to play with linkages. However, there weren’t any brads to connect my pieces. I tried linking thin pieces with dowels and came up with interesting combinations, but it wasn’t really working as far as linkages go. I began to feel like I should just maybe give up, but¬†I continued to explore the different techniques like straight cuts, smooth bends, and exposing corrugation. After awhile I decided to walk around the room to see what the other 3 groups were making. There were toy guts in one half of the room (Christa’s parts,purposes, and complexities), amazing makerspace designing in another (Patrick’s workshop), and a lightbulb/paper clip exploration (with Sean Justice.) Wait… did I just see paper clips? I bugged Sean for a few paper clips, and quickly went back to work at my table.

I cut four thin strips of cardboard and attached them with paper clips and within minutes I¬†had a working grabber! ¬†One of my table mates suggested using the “smooth joint technique” to attach grabbers to the end of my pinchers.

So even though I felt like I didn’t have any ideas, what I really needed was¬†time to explore the materials and tinker with techniques. I just needed an¬†hour to mess around, and that experience led me to a quick¬†working prototype.

This was important lesson for me. Sometimes it is OKAY for our makers to just explore materials. It’s more than okay,¬†exploration is a necessary form of making.

When reflecting later with Patrick Benfield he said, “All making is valid.” Patrick told me how at the d.lab¬†he makes time for his¬†makers to explore materials before building projects. Before teaching paper circuits, he lets his students explore making art with copper tape. Another aha moment for me! What might seem like a waste (exploring copper tape by making art/ exploring cardboard techniques and just cutting up cardboard) is not actually a waste.

Instead it is a learning experience that some of our makers really need. Exploring the materials might give them the creative confidence they need to inspire paper circuit designs or make some simple cardboard grabbers.


When I interviewed Patrick this summer for Challenge Based Learning, we discussed the importance of reflection. As a writing teacher, I always felt like my students really synthesized their learning in that last critical step – reflecting on an experience. ¬†It’s one reason I institute maker journals in my professional development workshops.

What is even more stunning is seeing other participants in the same workshop reflecting and having the same a-ha moments as me. ¬†Notice in the tweet below, Nicole Cimo goes through the same process of exploring materials, manipulating techniques, and suddenly having an aha moment that leads to that creative confidence “We got this!” moment.

How do you let your learners explore materials? What techniques do you share that lead to creative confidence? In what ways do your learners reflect on their making and experiences? Share your stories and your work in the comments!