Madison Public Library gets $200,000 to create more “making spaces” in elementary, middle schools

Madison Public Library gets $200,000 to create more “making spaces” in elementary, middle schools
Children participate in Making Spaces event "Saturday morning cartooning" at the Madison Public Library - Sequoya.

The Madison Public Library, in partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District, received a $200,000 grant from Schmidt Futures to expand their Making Spaces initiative.

“We have this grant for two years. It’s going to allow us to extend from six schools to upwards to almost 21,” said Rebecca Millerjohn, a youth services librarian.

Madison Public Library is one of 10 national hubs chosen to train local teachers to create spaces in their schools for out-of-the-box learning, focusing on making or doing something.

“People are really excited about Making Spaces as a way for kids to think creatively and think with their hands, but we have found at the library that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for that,” said Millerjohn.

Students participate in unique programs at each of the six schools, including cooking, dancing, stop-motion movie making, and producing songs, podcasts and newscasts.

At Sandburg Elementary, each third, fourth and fifth-grade student gets to choose which activity they want to do for an hour each Wednesday.

“It’s more of an active pursuit where kids are showing an idea of voice and choice and independence in their learning and taking ownership over their learning,” said Ben Hulbert, a fourth and fifth-grade teacher at Sandburg.

He said Making Spaces is a whole new way of thinking about education, while giving students the ability to think about civic engagement.

Although the program is successful in a handful of MMSD schools, Millerjohn said the library didn’t have the capacity or money to continue the program.

The Schmidt Futures grant will allow them to do keep creating, and expand to five to seven more schools each year over the next two years.

“The idea that they’re going to have a space to learn and think creatively and critically is just as important as reading and writing and science and math,” said Millerjohn.

The time for middle and elementary schools to apply closes May 1.