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If kids are making, there will be a mess. This post it not about keeping tables shiny or keeping masking tape rolls symmetrically organized.  I’ll write another post someday about how I like to organize my Sharpies in ROYGBIV fashion by shade (not even kidding). This is about the day to day. The real life of making.

Pruning:  Just like the dead branches that get removed at the orchard, you’ll need to carve out some time to prune the shelves. Well loved cardboard pieces might need to be recycled.  Fresh organization for donated items will always be a struggle.   Having stuff readily accessible for kids is far easier when it’s in visible bins that kids can see and even better, put back themselves.

Storage for Projects in Progress:  The kids that don’t finish need a place to store their project.  The thing about kids is they like to store ALL of their supplies– scissors, bottles of glue, rolls of duct tape.  Have a plan for where things will be kept and what can be stored.  Ziploc baggies have saved my life, are reusable, and easy to hang from clothespins or put in a bin by classroom.  We also use plastic bins that kids write their names on with dry erase.

Cord organization:  The cords will take over.  Every gadget, device, and thing that plugs in has a loose cord of some type.  Solution? Plastic Shoe organizer that hangs on the wall.  The pockets are big enough to hold multiple cords. It’s visible and accessible.  Even better? If someone borrows one to leave the space, a name on a Post-it can go right in the pocket to mark where it gets put back.

Can for cardboard scraps:  Big pieces. Small pieces. In between pieces.  Those tiny scraps are great for quick projects. Have a giant can for kids to dig into.  But when it overflows… prune. Prune. Prune.  If the mess is too out of hand, kids can’t see what’s there and it won’t get used anyway.

Clean Up Kit:  A bucket with a dustpan or three.  Brooms. Clorox wipes. Paper towels.  Keep this in the same spot so kids know where to go for cleanup.

Permanent spot for glue guns.  We might move our furniture a lot, but the glue guns needs a permanent spot in the elementary setting.  It’s just too dangerous to move them from table to table with cords dangling.  Having a glue gun station is great because kids know where to find it, adults can assist, and the teacher can oversee the entire process.

Shelving to Display Work:  Kids love to share what they’ve made… and that means putting it where others can see it.  Having shelves that kids can put their own work display is the best way to go.  Let them decide what to display, how to display it, and even add a nameplate with a title.  Be sure to display all kinds of creations– some in progress, some beautifully finished, and some that show struggle.  Celebrate the process.  Celebrate the learning.

Clean Up Process:  End of a class or end of a session? Power Pick Up.  I learned this term at Stanford’s Design Thinking workshop last summer.  3 minutes of intense everyone helping clean up.  It’s a great way to “reset” the space.  And it’s all about collaboration and teamwork. Plus a YouTube Mission Impossible theme song makes this intense and fun at the same time.

I chuckle when I think of photos that show a “makerspace” and it’s totally empty. Less funny is the fact that many of these things were totally underestimated by me when I was making plans.  Creativity is a wonderful, exhilarating, glorious thing.  But, it’s also messy.  It’s okay to be messy.  But the mess has to be reigned in.  Somehow, someway.   It’s about finding the boundaries that work for your students.  And, it’s not about you really.  Afterall, it’s about learning and it’s their journey.  They will come up with some great solutions for organization and they will be able to tell you right away what the problem areas are.

The mess?  It will exist, and it will foster the feelings of forgoing perfection for less-than perfect work that is more about the process than the product. And that?  It makes every single cardboard scrap I find totally worth it.