With a clean and attractive layout; ease of navigation; and a large database of projects related to a range of content areas, Lerner Maker Lab is a useful resource for elementary teachers and subject specialists.
School level 2nd-5th grade
Cost An annual subscription to this resource is $266.65 (for schools and libraries the cost is $199.99).
Content With instructions for over 500 projects, Lerner Maker Lab provides easy access to a wide range of fun crafts, building and cooking tasks.
The page design is clean and bright, with photographs, clip art, and cartoons. At the top of the home page, below a banner and search box, are five circular icons that categorize projects: Create, Build, Experiment, Eat, and Celebrate. Each icon bears a cartoon image; for DIY, a smiling glue bottle holds a pair of scissors and a paper crown.
Clicking on an icon loads a page with a grid of tiles arranged in alphabetical order. A search box at the top of each page allows users to find particular projects.
Under “crafts,” users will find projects like fizzy bath bombs and a duct tape turtle. “Building” projects include making a boomerang and a pencil launcher. The projects listed under “experimentation” are related to scientific concepts (bottle rocket, camera obscura, heliograph). The “eat” page has recipes for snacks and light meals (banana oatmeal waffles, chocolate chip cookies, and chicken salad sandwiches). The “celebrate” page includes holiday-themed crafts (ribbon flag magnet, super little birthday balloons). The celebrations depicted are almost all popular American holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day, as well as some Jewish and Kwanzaa observances.
Projects open with a short introduction. Sidebars provide tangential information, such as “Safety First!” warning in the air musket project. A “What You’ll Need” section outlines the supplies and tools needed. Although the projects do not include computer technology or electronics, as is often the case with resources for older makers, some plans introduce students to the use of electric motors or employ principles of simple engineering.
Each project has simple, step-by-step instructions, with friendly “Ask an adult for help” messages that appear next to potentially risky tasks, such as using a box cutter to open a bath sponge or fry a bean burger on a stove. .
The concluding texts offer additional information, such as, in the air musket project, a brief overview of a Girardoni air rifle used in the Lewis and Clark expedition.
A “You may also be interested in…” menu at the bottom of the page offers links to related projects.
Some of the materials required are specialized, such as needle nose pliers. Others are more commonly available, for example empty drink cans, clothes pegs or scrap cardboard. More than 20 of the craft projects are origami requiring only one sheet of paper.
Resources for students and teachers Student access is via a unique URL provided during registration. No username or password is required. Projects each open with an individual URL, making them suitable for publishing to a learning management system or HyperDoc or for assigning to particular students.
The site does not include outgoing links from the database and no downloads are required to complete the activities. No student credentials are required or tracked by the system.
A “reports” page is linked from a menu on the admin page index. By selecting a date range and clicking the “get data” button, the site admin can access the charts of the top 10 most viewed articles as well as articles viewed and connections by date.
The resources section, also on the admin page, contains almost nothing except a small “Ideas for using Lerner Maker Lab” section, including a PDF document with links to many projects, organized on a festive flyer and colored. A message warns that links will only open when a user is logged in to student view, although the resource link does not appear in student view. A promotional video indicates that the resources section will be expanded in the future.
A “site help” page describes a wide range of compatible desktop/laptop configurations, as well as some common tablet options, including Safari in iOS 10 or later and in Android with Chrome from version 68. Seen in Safari On an iPhone 12, the site is functional and looks optimized, but space is tight, although for elementary school students this shouldn’t be a problem. In Safari on an iPad Air 2 running iOS 15.3, the experience is seamless. The cost is very reasonable, making the resource accessible to virtually any school or library with a budget for a creative space.
Verdict With a clean and attractive layout; ease of navigation; and a large database of projects related to a range of content areas, Lerner Maker Lab is a useful resource for primary school teachers and subject specialists (art, technology, etc.) and especially for librarians seeking establish or strengthen a makerspace with Guided Projects.
Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson MS, Falls Church, Virginia