Arts & Crafts Skills Foster Learning

Left-Right: Simple flower hacked with copper tape and LED, an English Language Learner following directions, snow globes are not as simple as they appear (see below), and a piñata engineered to fail (the candy has to come out!).

When chatting with librarians and educators, whether when presenting at a conference or as a participant, these makerspace comments always come up – “I have to justify the educational basis for all makerspace activities.”  “We can’t do arts and crafts, it has to be tech related.” “We just bought a 3-D printer for our kindergartners.”


First, let me say – your students need arts and crafts skills. Cutting. Folding. Taping. Sewing. All my tech projects involve these skills. Don’t assume your students have them. They’ve grown up on digital devices and many have a hard time with the motor skills needed for creating models or threading a needle. A student who cannot sew a pin cushion cannot use conductive thread to sew a string of LEDs to a garment. Here’s a simple wearable technology craft project: give students a needle and have them sew conductive thread to the tips of their winter gloves. Now they have a touch screen compatible winter wear. They have moved from consumer to producer with a little bit of tech and a crafting skill. Can your students design, fold and decorate a card? Move over Hallmark. We’re making our own cards using conductive tape and LEDs. How’s that for arts and crafts tech? But remember, it starts with imagination, colored pencils and paper then one can add a sprinkling of tech.

Don’t let anyone talk you out of having craft supplies in your makerspace; these supplies serve many a purpose and usually not the intended one. For example, a student using our Makey-Makey kit needed to ground herself as she found it was difficult to use the alligator clip controls and grounding clip at the same time. She went online and found a solution. – Gotta love YouTube. – So she made herself a wire ‘bracelet’ to which she attached the Makey-Makey alligator clip. How? She raided the jewelry making supplies in our makerspace.

“Why do we need to add glycerin to our snow globes, Mrs. Seymour?” Before I could respond another student explained the concept of liquid density. Well, someone was paying attention in Chem class. Bravo! After this incident, I posted a sign with the materials explaining density to whoever hadn’t yet taken chemistry, but it was nice to see students teaching and learning from each other which happens often in a makerspace. Priceless collaboration and learning.The learning didn’t stop there. In addition to the glitter, our plastic figurines floated in our snow globes. We had glued them to the shiny, smooth underside of a baby food jar lid using the hot glue gun. Not good. Where’s the sandpaper? Rough up the surface and start again.

My students come in to ‘fix’ their phone cases, binders, and the like, using the supplies they scavenge in our makerspace.  Creative solutions to solve a problem. Yes, duct tape is a popular item as is the hot glue gun. In fact, I have a shelf dedicated to glue. Glue sticks, Elmer’s glue, Modge-Podge (several varieties), Tacky glue, hot-glue guns, wood glue – you get the idea. Question: Which is the best glue to use for your project? This requires thought and analysis or on the flipside, trial and error; again things we teach in classrooms. I like to think I’m raising the next generation of materials engineers and problem solvers.

While I have no problem with a 3-D printer in elementary classrooms, I’d like to see equal time devoted to mastering fine motor skills. As you can see, arts and crafts is educational and can be the basis for many tech related projects. So get out the scissors, glue and fabric!

Try this handy chart from Make: Don’t Glue Anything Without This Handy Reference Chart

glue chart


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