This will be one in a series of posts I’m going to do about how I run various makerspace activities in our library. I’ll try to include tips and tricks and some of our “lessons learned” so that these posts might provide some helpful insights or practical ideas for implementing similar maker stations in your library!
The Button Maker
We added the button maker to our library this year and it has been a HUGE hit! It took a little playing around to figure out how to make it work as a passive makerspace activity, since the button machine is not terribly intuitive and each student needs instruction the first few times but eventually I figured out a process that works pretty well.
The Machine We Have
We got the Seeutek Button Maker Machine, the one that makes 2.25inch buttons. I opted to go with the larger button machine rather than the 1inch button machine (which is another popular choice) mostly just so the kids would have a little more space to create their designs with. The 2.25in buttons are a good size IMO.
Setting It Up
I opted to set our button maker up right on/near the circulation desk. Most of our makerspace stations I sprinkle around the room to spread them out. This station, though, I keep near the circ desk so that we (the library staff) can keep an eye on it in order to be able to notice when kids are struggling and need some help using it. The machines can be a little finicky and while many of the kids are able to figure out how to use it just from the instructions we put out, some do struggle and need some help OR the machine sometimes “sticks” or doesn’t work properly and its nice to have it near our desk so that we can notice when this is happening and we can step in to try to help. The machine has bolt holes so you can bolt it to the table, making it more stable (and less stealable… not that I really think anyone would steal it but better safe than sorry lol) and I did opt to drill the holes in the desk so that the machine could be bolted down properly.
Since the button maker is not very intuitive, nor something most of the kids have prior experience with, this station does require good instructions being available to the kids. I opted to put instructions out in two different ways.
I created a brief tiktok video tutorial which I share on our socials, library website, and as a QR code near the button maker.
Printed Instruction Poster: I also created a poster for instructions which is placed under the button maker. Keeping the instructions very simple and numbered has worked out well and most kids are able to figure out how to make the buttons just from using the printed instruction poster to guide them through.
Iink to my instruction poster (you can reuse)
You’ll notice in the two pictures below that I label EVERYTHING to help students identify the parts and match them to the instructions. I think this has really helped them to navigate the instructions pretty easily and in a pretty independent manner. So for example they see that “Step #1” says to place “metal pin on side A” and then they can easily see that there is a bin labeled “#1” where the metal pin parts are, and they can easily see on the button maker that the left side well is clearly labeled as side “A” so its easy for them to figure out what to do. You can’t quite see it in the photos but we even have student volunteers who write “this side up” on all of the plastic pin back pieces to help kids know which side should be face up when its placed in the “side B” well.
Get a Paper Puncher
When you but the button machine it will probably come with a little tool that helps you cut out paper circles the correct size for the button machine BUT I highly recommend you purchase a sturdier version like the one seen above (just make sure you get the right size). Its basically a giant hold puncher and it is awesome and both easy and safe to use. This makes it way easier for kids to cut out their own designs (sometimes kids print their own stuff to turn into buttons so having the hole puncher helps them quickly cut it down to the right size) and it makes it easier and quicker for you to cut out any templates you may provide for them. This is the link to the one I got.
Provide Design Helpers
When you put out the button machine don’t forget to offer ways for the kids to design/decorate/create their button designs! I like to provide things like markers, colored pencils, gel pens, stencils, stamps, stickers, etc .
Provide Template Designs
This is not absolutely necessary as you can just provide plain paper and the kids will come up with their own designs but I thought it would be fun if I also provided some template designs that they could decorate or color in for when they may not be feeling creative/inspired enough to think of their own designs. I created them in Canva and then use the paper puncher to cut them out. I wrack my brain to try to think of the kind of things teens might want buttons of (increasingly difficult the older I get lol) and throughout the year I try to get feedback and other ideas from the kids. The most popular options this year have been the pronoun pin designs, the fortnite designs, and the “class of 20xx” designs. The school mascot designs have also been popular!
My Design Template
Here is the link to my templates, if you’d like to reuse them feel free (If you share them please credit me. Do not sell them)