TMC6 Lyons

Maker. Space. Inquiry. Place.What might be the connection? 

By Beth Lyons

Follow this teacher-librarian as she describes and reflects upon the pedagogical and practical challenges and successes of co-planning and designing maker learning with students, leading to the creation of “Genius Carts”. Links to illustrate practice are shared throughout the paper.

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Beth Lyons has taught in the Primary, Junior and Intermediate divisions and she is currently the teacher-librarian at Larkspur Public School in the Peel District School Board. She believes in being open about her own learning journey as an educator and a teacher-librarian and reflects on her time in the Library Learning Commons on her blog The Librarian’s Journey and on Twitter @MrsLyonsLibrary. She is passionate about helping others find what they love to read and embracing their inquiry mindset. She has been actively involved in the transition of the Library Learning Commons at Larkspur Public School and sees the role of the teacher-librarian as a curator, an advocate, a risk taker and an ally. Beth believes in encouraging students and educators to bring their voice and ideas into the LLC as the space continues to evolve. Whether through loose parts, photography, art, STEAM and other mediums, she loves to connect and share ideas on social media.


  1. Beth - thank you for sharing your incredible journey thus far! You have a tremendous skill for taking big ideas and creating practical experiences with your colleagues and students that bring those ideas to life. Both your visual representation and your written paper capture your intentional planning and thoughtful reflection beautifully. I know that in my work supporting other school library professionals I often refer to the amazing transformation you have curated at Larkspur and recommend your idea of a Genius Cart to those wanting to begin their maker journey.

    Thank you again for all that do, my friend, for your students, your colleagues and the school library learning commons community,
    Jenn Brown

    1. Thanks, Jenn. Your words and continued support mean so much. Your open making journey inspired the idea to try something similar in our library learning commons and as we know from learning about makerEd, no two schools have the same maker culture or maker spaces. This has been a great addition to our LLC space and has really helped in driving forward the maker culture of the school.

  2. Hi Beth,

    What struck me about your project was the power of questions. I loved your if-then statement: "“If we provide a space for students to explore their maker and learning potential, then we will see
    students develop their maker mindset and ability to take creative risks.”" I also loved how, regardless of whether or not the task or activity was "successful", it led to more questions for you (and hopefully for your staff). Those questions are fuel for the inquiring mind.

    I also found myself nodding at so many of the comments and observations you made about students and making. My favourites were
    (and these are paraphrases)

    - kids get obsessed with the hot glue guns (Truth! We did a whole STEAM focus on "different ways to attach cardboard" and when led in the post-unit reflection, all the students recalled was how cool it was to attach their samples of attachments to a presentation board with ... you guessed it, a hot glue gun!)

    - students don't like to create plans first, especially written plans > why? I'm taking my Kindergarten AQ course right now, so maybe I'll investigate a bit into the need for written vs oral/experimental/physical pre-planning.

    I'm grateful to hear how totally on board your staff and classes sound like they are with this initiative. Seeing a January 2020 tweet on the same topic shows it has staying power, which is good news!

    See you at OLA SC 2020 and TMC6!
    Diana M

    1. Thanks for your reply, Diana! I have found that changing up the challenges leads to frustration for some students who want to keep going with the maker opportunity they have tried, while others are re-energized to try something new. Also, each new challenge brings more classes who want to explore all together and then move to a more free-flow making model which is all fine, too.

      The ever present glue gun!! We haven't done any hot-gluing yet this year actually, trying to hold them off and get them thinking more about the process of making with this year's loose parts focused challenges. Maybe it will also lead to more planning??

  3. Hi Beth,

    Thank you for sharing your incredible journey! It is so inspiring!

    I like how you mentioned the importance of giving students the space in your library learning commons to make for the sake of making, finding the joy in making, learning from making and see the beauty in making. ( your choice of words. Sentence really stood out for me).

    When I introduced staff at my school to maker oppportunities, my main goal was to show them how valuable making could be for every student, no matter skill level. Maker opportunities also allow RCT's to see focus on learning skills and work habits. Not every aspect of learning has to involve a "grade" or "percent".

    Like Diana, I too like your if-then statement. Helps to narrow the focus and hone in on the purpose of the inquiry. As TL's, we have so many ideas percolating that it gets overwhelming at times.

    Your results have given me much to reflect on. I have a cart in my library learning commons that I should utilize more.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your journey and where you plan to go next!

    See you at TMC!

    Jess Longthorne

    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree that it’s important to help all learners see the beauty in the process of our learning, especially when making, instead of the end product and the focus of the “grade”. I’m excited to talk more.

  4. Hi Beth, I love how you’ve found a maker solution that’s perfect for your school community.....too many have tried to fit their school to the space. List list cycle is new to me....Exposure to Creating from Scratch so thank you for those new words as a structure to encourage. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about how you named your cart. I’ve encountered some push back to the word ‘genius’. How did you find the right phrase that could be specific enough to let people know what it is but vague enough to hold future possibilities?

    1. Hi Alanna,
      I chose Genius Cart for the title because I wanted it to be an amalgamation of the ideas of makerspace and genius hour. When I first introduced it to the school we walked through the ideas of what a maker space might look like and how we could infuse a maker culture. We also looked at the ideas and theory behind using genius hour in the classroom. My original goal was that the Genius Cart would be used for students to explore maker opportunities that were of interest to them and that they were passionate about. That they would gain a maker skill. Upon our initial forays it was evident that our community didn’t have a wide maker/craft background to create their own maker endeavours. This is when I transitioned to our current system of Genius Cart challenges.

  5. Hi Beth
    Thanks for taking us on your makerspace journey. I've seen many makerspaces make a similar journey as yours - moving to a cart rather than a static station. Does you cart stay in the library or move from class to class. Although a library initiative, I really like to see the cart in classes where students can explore the materials when appropriate. Perhaps I missed this but I wonder about the seemingly lack of connection to curriculum. I'm also wondering about the idea of making just for making sake. What critical challenges have been given to the students that causes them to think by working to a set criteria. I'm really learning a lot from one of our great speakers at TMC, Garfield Gini-Newman, about the importance of setting thinking challenges. I can see that many of your projects have done just that especially your "loose parts challenge." I love that one. Is their a criteria for creativity? Should there be a purpose to creativity?

    I loved your comment about teachers seeing through makerspace activities, skills that students have that they have never seen before. That has been my experience, as well. It makes me think about how important it is for students to be given the opportunity to express their learning in a variety of ways in the classroom, not just through paper and pencil tests and assignments. I definitely believe in students being given the power to collect their own evidence of learning and for teachers to embrace the concept of triangulation of assessment. The conversations we have with students and observing their process of learning is as valuable as the product they create in the end.

    1. Jo-Anne, Thanks for your comments. The Cart has been used by classes in their rooms depending on the educators and how they see the different challenges fitting in with their current curriculum based inquiry. Many have adapted to challenges to connect to their curriculum, especially in Science, Social Studies and Language Arts.

  6. Hi Beth,

    In my journeys as a Faculty Advisor, I saw a number of school libraries that follow the LLC/Library is the Maker Space place. One TL I spoke with said, classroom teachers say they have no room, they have curriculum to cover ...
    I think your model is excellent for those schools -- I think the ultimate goal is to move the maker-thinking into the classrooms.
    Then TLs can focus on the next class/teacher ... and our many other priorities.

    Thanks for sharing this,
    Greg Harris

    1. Greg,
      Thanks for your comment. One benefit of the Genius Cart (that I didn’t anticipate because I planned it as an open making endeavour) is that many educators have viewed the videos and prompts I have posted about the challenges and have been inspired to incorporate them into their current classroom inquiries or seek out a time when the entire class can explore the Genius Cart has a way of learning how they might bring maker learning into their classroom.

  7. I'm always looking for new ways to collaborate with staff to create makerspace activities that support their curriculum and I just love yours! Not only are you having your students explore all aspects of STEAM, you are creating a culture of empathy and understanding by creating activities that have the students considering the needs of others. This is what we need to have happening with our students as we encourage them, no matter how young, to be empowered to solve problems and find solutions that will help others. I will need to come to your space to see this in action! Thank you for sharing.

    Warm regards,


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