How to build a makerspace on a shoestring budget: A summertime project

Elementary School/Middle School/High School

Don’t have much of a budget for a makerspace? No problem! Everyday items perfect for your makerspace could be staring you right in the face. And summertime is the perfect time to start collecting no- and low-cost materials for your makerspace.

Going to the beach? Bring home shells, seaweed, driftwood, sand, rocks, and pebbles. Photos and short videos can generate classroom discussion.


Ward's Science Essentials® Metamorphic Rocks Collection

Perfect for teaching properties of metamorphic rocks.

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Traveling to the mountains? Collect twigs, bark, leaves, moss, rocks, soil, insects, and photos.


Sun and Shade Leaves Slide

Shows variation between leaves grown in sun and shade.

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Taking a trip abroad? Bring back paper currency and coins, photos, foreign language magazines and newspapers, menus, and brochures.


Money Bag

Contains fake US currency in a variety of denominations. 

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At the grocery store and farmers markets, collect fruit baskets and nets, fruits and vegetables, and their seeds and pits. Collect clear plastic food containers and plastic bags, glass jars (including glass baby food jars), plastic and paper straws, wire, cardboard, shoeboxes, rubber bands, cotton balls, tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, plastic utensils, markers, crayons, glue, and related items.

At the dollar store this summer, you’ll find seed packets, foam beach noodles, blow up toys, balls, buckets, toy shovels, and more.

At garage sales: old jewelry, beads, chains, marbles, toys (including old, broken, and mechanical toys to take apart), Legos, books, board games, old appliances, fans, typewriters, computers, cameras, (any of these can be taken apart for exploration and discovery), musical instruments, clamps, screw-drivers, wire-cutters, thread, string, fabric, measuring cups and spoons, tape measures, yardsticks, and so on.

At your school, get permission to comb through the storage closets and cabinets to salvage old or broken microscopes, balances, beakers, weights, and materials, including books and curriculum guides. Even if the equipment is broken, students could repair it or use the parts for other projects. How about old computers and printers? Which unused furnishings in your school could be re-purposed? For example, old library card catalogs.


Boreal C-SCOPE Compound Microscope

Boreal C-SCOPE Compound Microscopes

A robust microscope that provides crisp and clear visual and digital results!

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Still missing key components? You and your students can post your makerspace wish list on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also head to to tap into your network and request crowd-sourced funding for special equipment you may not otherwise be able to afford. Those ideas above should be plenty to get your creative juices flowing.

But, if you’re looking for even more ideas, download our STEM/Makerspace Recommended Materials List here.

Don’t miss the third and final part of our makerspace series, chock-full of activity ideas for connecting to your curriculum - no matter which subject you teach - right here.

(Check out part one of our makerspace series here).

As always, if you have any questions about makerspaces or anything else, just ask the Ward’s Science Plus Us team at Our in-house scientists and technicians are ready to answer even the toughest questions.

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