This year I’ve been trying to renew interest in craft programs for teens at the library. Our main teen program is a video game program which is well-attended but usually only by the same group of boys. I’ve missed having a craft/maker program for teens where teens can take further ownership of our space (the gaming program is in a computer lab that isn’t part of the official teen space), see the program supplies we have available, and just have a calm space to hang out while making some kind of finished product.
Before I started I knew a few things:
- I wanted a mellow program environment: Our teen video gaming program is fun but there’s always a lot of competition and I wanted something a bit more relaxed.
- I wanted unstructured creating: Teens don’t always like to be told the exact thing they have to make or that there is only one way to make it. I didn’t want to have specific projects and directions. Instead I wanted a setup where the teens could see what materials we had available and opt in to whatever spoke to them. Or make something entirely different.
- I wanted teens to be able to take more ownership of the space: Because of our neighborhood demographics, most of my library’s programs are geared toward younger kids. I wanted to create a teen craft program to carve out more space for the teens in my library’s programming schedule. Keeping my other objectives in mind, I also wanted something where they could take ownership of the art supplies/room during the program. Basically I hoped that if I provided the materials, they’d provide the creativity.
So Maker Kits were born.
What are Maker Kits?
Maker Kits are low-cost, versatile materials for open-ended creating put together in one container around a themed craft. Each kit filled with supplies that are easy to use with minimal supervision if not entirely self-directed. I used Ziploc Big Bags to house my kits but storage bins or some other container option would work just as well. The main thing is they should be mobile–don’t just dedicate a cabinet shelf to all the designated supplies.
I started with a few basic kits:
Duct Tape Maker Kit
- Scissors (good quality scissors–safety scissors with rounded edges are okay but safety scissors will not be strong enough to cut the tape)
- Duct Tape
- Index cards (other cardstock or heavy paper works too)
- Laminated Instruction Sheets
- Demo Items
The Duct Tape Maker Kit is stocked with a variety of duct tape, scissors, and rulers. The reason the kits can be self-directed are the laminated instruction sheets. After looking around online I found project instructions from Duct Tape and Instructables. I adapted the instructions to fit my needs, reformatted them, and then printed them out. I used my library’s laminator to laminate each sheet. Because I wanted laminated sheets, I kept instructions to one sheet of paper (one or two sided) for easy printing and laminating. I round out the kit with demonstration items I made myself while testing the projects. Currently I have instructions for bookmarks (the index cards are a base to make the bookmarks sturdier), duct tape wallets, duct tape bows, a flower pen, and a paperclip bookmark. I restock the materials as needed and add other supplies (paperclips for bookmarks and rubberbands for duct tape bracelets) as needed.
Blackout Poetry Maker Kit
- Book pages (From ARCs, or weeded items. Magazines or newspapers would also work.)
- Markers (I went for an assortment of dark colors instead of just black. Do NOT use permanent markers.)
- Pencils and/or Colored Pencils
- Laminated Instruction Sheet
Blackout Poetry uses existing book pages to create poems by blacking out any words you don’t want to use. (Victor Vale creates blackout poetry in Vicious by V. E. Schwab and Yossarian comes close to making some when he becomes overzealous in his censor duty in Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.) I found sample images online and added a brief description for the instruction sheet. I started with a variety of markers in dark colors (green, I learned, does not work very well) and at teens’ request I added colored pencils which have been useful in blocking out words to highlight. I was skeptical of this activity taking up an entire program but it turns out making a blackout poem takes a lot of time with all of the coloring. Also once teens get into it they might make multiple pages or move on to the second side of their page. Here are samples from the teens:
Macrame Maker Kit
This was the most time consuming kit to make. I spent a lot of time tracking down, adapting, and reformatting instructions to fit my two-sided sheet structure. Some just didn’t work so I had to print those out as regular pamphlets. Teens can use scissors and rulers to measure the threads they need. Then they can use the tape to secure their project to a table while they are working on it. (I have had mixed results securing them with tape. One alternative is providing safety pins to attach projects to the leg of a pair of jeans or to a shoe. I’m also researching the cost of buying a few clipboards but I’m not sure it’s worth the space and money.)
Maker Kits in Action
I have used the kits in a few scenarios. For my Teen Makerspace I put out two or three kits (one per table) and explain the contents before letting teens gravitate where they like. I’ve also done several duct tape programs which is always a big hit. Finally, I have started taking the kids to my library’s teen video gaming program to entertain teens who are waiting for a turn on the game console.
My favorite part about the Maker Kits is that I can grab one and go. Everything I need is in the bag so I can run a quick maker/craft program anywhere in the library. The Maker Kits live in my library’s program room so the kits are also available to anyone else on staff who might be covering a teen program and wants to use them.
Because of the minimal time investment and setup, teens can opt in whenever and however they like. Often, particularly when I bring the supplies to other programs, I’ll start working on something and watch teens gravitate to the projects as they see what I’m doing.
Since my initial planning I’ve also created an Origami Maker Kit with squares and strips of paper along with laminated instructions for origami stars, pinwheels and other projects (this is a work in progress so I’m still deciding what to include. Coloring or journaling are also great Maker Kit options. While I made the kits with a mind to appeal to teens, they can also be used in programs with tweens or younger kids as well provided there’s enough supervision to explain the activities to kids who might not want to read multiple instruction sheets.
What are some simple crafts you like? If you work in a library, do you ever host maker/craft programs for kids or teens? Let me know in the comments.