Classroom Maker Space Inspires Reuse and Creativity

Classroom Maker Space Inspires Reuse and Creativity

A Maker Space Provides Enrichment to Any Learning Environment

Through tinkering and creative exploration, reuse inspires the engineers, designers, architects, and artists of tomorrow. One South Austin teacher is using reuse to inspire bright futures in the lives of her students. Lori Dinsmore, 1st-2nd grade teacher of the Whole Life Learning Center, believes in the power of reuse to foster tangible problem solving and hands on learning for her budding sapphires. 

Ms. Lori’s Maker Space was inspired by the engineering design process, encouraging students to design a solution, test their hypothesis, and improve on their methods. This process supports problem solving skills and critical thinking. Ms. Lori also uses the space to promote explorative creativity among the students through art projects and free build time. “It’s more about the process than the product. We are promoting a growth mindset and teaching the students how to improve through resilience.”

Why did you choose to create a maker space for your classroom?

“My students are very hands on, they like to build and construct things with 3D materials. I’ve watched their interests grow in different engineering projects, like working with clay and building spiderwebs from clothes hangers, and I know they are a group of problem solvers.”

What supplies do you keep in your maker space?

All of the supplies my Maker Space came from Austin Creative Reuse, including the plastic bins and magnetic spice containers used to store materials. Some of the materials I keep on hand include:

  • Index cards
  • Cotton balls
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Miscellaneous hardware such as nuts, bolts and washers
  • Wheels 
  • Paper clips 
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Straws
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Plastic cups of various sizes
  • Cupcake/muffin wrappers
  • Plastic silverware
  • Paper plates
  • Shoelaces
  • Tape
  • Wooden dowels
  • Rubber bands
  • Play-doh
  • Glue guns 
  • Glue sticks
  • Plastic lids (found in bucket section of ACR)

I keep it all organized using printable labels similar to these:

Here are some of the projects Ms. Lori’s students have worked on:


Art Project

“Inspired by the book, Snowballs by Lois Elhert, we experimented with using non traditional materials from the maker space to create snowmen designs.”


Free-Build Project

These are not related to a specific engineering challenge. A plan is made for what materials are needed and how the student plans to execute their project, then they visit the maker space and gather the materials they need for their creation. 

The beginnings of a submarine

A water slide

Roller skates

Engineering Challenge

In an engineering challenge, students are introduced to a problem and given the materials to create a solution. Here’s an example of a challenge executed by Ms. Lori’s class:

Example of a completed catapult

Catapult: Make a catapult to test how far you can launch a pom pom 

Materials: Popsicle Sticks, Rubber bands, Pom pom, Plastic spoon, yardstick 

Materials for each group of 2-3 students: • 6 rubber bands • 10 popsicle sticks • 1 plastic spoon • 1 large pom pom (modify with more or less materials to make it easier or more challenging)


  1. Introduce challenge to students. Optional physical science connection: Mini-lesson on stored/potential energy, kinetic energy, simple machine: lever 
  2. Students can work individually, or in groups of 2-3. Students will sketch a plan with their team of their first draft design for their catapult. 
  3. After reviewing design, give students the materials listed above. They can begin building at this point. Teacher can choose time limit for build based on student needs and level of challenge. 
  4. Students test out their catapult and measure the distance using yardsticks. 
  5. After measuring, students go back and work to improve their design to see if they can make it go farther. 
  6. Students present their designs to the class and explain their building process. 
Other ideas for engineering challenges: 
  • Build the tallest tower you can that is able to hold a soup can using only tape and pieces of paper
  • Build a marble run 
  • Create a soda bottle airplane and test out different aerodynamic wing shapes out of cardboard
  • Build a raft that floats out of materials in the maker space, test it out in a tub of water by adding pennies for weight. 

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2005 Wheless Lane, Austin, TX 78723
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Curbside Pickup, 10am-4pm, Daily
Tel: (512) 375-3041