A little while back I was at this fun presentation by Danish librarians at Harvard, about work they’re doing to envision and implement their public libraries’ futures. Part of it is the People’s Lab – basically, a pilot space that they’re giving to different local groups or library staff members on a rotating basis, so that people can share their skills with the community and try out awesome stuff, as part of a broader Danish focus on innovation.
The People’s Lab has hosted Guitar Lab (courtesy of a library staff member who knows how to make and fix guitars (!)), Dream City (a popup makerspace at a local arts festival), TechLab (the local hackerspace moved in and among other things helped this kid Valdemar build a hovercraft) – lots of fun stuff.
And then, WasteLab. Where they tossed all their trash out on a table – there’s lots of it! – and invited the community to come in and make whatever they wanted with it. (Embrace the chaos, the Danes told us. Don’t try to keep it organized.)
Well well well. I am just about the least maker-y person I know, but my kid never met a craft project she didn’t like. So I explained the concept to her and asked if she wanted to invite some friends over to build stuff out of trash and she was like, YES.
She spent the few weeks noticing absolutely everything that might be interesting to keep around, and putting it in her WasteLab box. Ikea instructions? A broken inhaler? A tiny orange tile she found on the sidewalk? Done.
Day of the thing, I covered the dining room table with butcher paper, and put out her box of trash, and some glue and markers and scissors and stuff. Her friends brought some trash too. At some point I think I handed them snack. And then I stayed out of their way. Easiest setup ever.
And they built stuff.
They were super focused on it for a long time, too. There were sparkly butterflies, and weird Christmas ornaments, and a brand-new watch, and Elsa’s four-poster bed when someone realized you could take the waste 3D. (Paintbrushes can be structural elements! Sort of.)
And then cleanup is really easy because you salvage the things you feel like salvaging until the WasteLab box is full, and then you just untape the butcher paper in the table and wrap everything up in it because it was trash anyway.
Except it turned out to be a lot of other things too. The kid’s already bugging me for when we do it again.
4 thoughts on “WasteLab! (Children’s party edition)”
Worth noting: this is what the youth services librarians mean when they remind us they did the makerspace thing way before it was trendy.
Re: your comment – After researching (very cursory) history of children’s programs in public libraries through the last century, I can tell you we all just pretty much keep doing everything our foremothers were doing for kids!! It was eye-opening. Re-branding is a beautiful thing but we don’t invent much anymore – just re-purpose!!