Garbage, Knolling, Sorting and the MakerLab

Garbage after MakerLab

Mondays is MakerLab. This is a chance for a bunch of third, fourth and fifth graders to get to gather and share ideas about what to build and how to build it. Lately they’re absolutely mad for the tools and weapons from the book, <b>Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction. Which is fine by me. After getting $50 of office supplies and bits and bobs of things, I have enough materials to keep them going for quite a while… and along the way they’re learning quite a bit about physics and good design. And gradually they’re learning that the expensive office supplies are not as good at doing what they want to build as the cheaper things that came from the dollar store, like straws and BBs.

But the amount of garbage it generates upsets me…
Sorted Garbage, post-MakerLabWhich is why I sorted it. And knolled it. (“to Knoll” is a verb that means, “to organize and sort into like types.”

And the result was this collection of objects. And it became clear that most of what I was left with was a collection of objects which might, at some point, be reused and repurposed from the garbage pail to some other project designed by some other person. And so I’m keeping this ‘garbage’, and saving it for another occasion and another project.

What’s in that garbage?  A crazy collection of interesting and potentially useful materials for budding inventors and tinkerers: torsion, in the form of rubber bands. Direction, in the form of straws, and barrels from cheap mechanical pencils. Funnels, in the form of the heads to the self-same cheap mechanical pencils.  Pattern-making, in the form of a pattern from a girl who wanted to make a human-shaped doll.  Plastic covering.  A cardboard disk.  Reinforcement, in the form of a trio of popsicle sticks wound with rubber bands.  Grippers, in the form of the advancement mechanisms from the mechanical pencils.  Eraser tips from the mechanical pencils.  Cylindrical mounts, in the form of the holding cups for the erasers.

Some of it is clearly garbage. Some of it has to be thrown away.  Of course.  But, if you’re a MakerLab leader, you go through this every single day. What should I save? What should I keep?  What is garbage? What could be useful to someone else? I’m genuinely curious how other MakerLab groups handle the responsibility and manage this stuff.  The small containers of parts and materials and tools that I have in the Lab regularly proliferate beyond my ability to manage the parts and materials.  And it sometimes leaves me dumbfounded. What becomes garbage after one use? What should be disassembled and saved? What is ‘broken beyond repair’ look like, and what is ‘fuel for someone else’s creativity’?  

After four years of running our DesignLab, I don’t really have good answers to these questions.

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