Susan Riley | October 2017

3 Budget-Friendly Makerspace Organizational Hacks

When it comes to offering opportunities for students to create, space can quickly become an issue.  Organized makerspaces in schools is critical if you’re going to have any chance of keeping to room from become a big black hole.  But that kind of organization doesn’t always come cheap.  In fact, if you look at most suppliers’ websites, makerspace storage solutions can cost hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars.  What’s a teacher to do?

Thankfully, we teachers are MacGyvers when it comes to making things work.  We can always find a work-around for our students.  With that in mind, here are 3 budget-friendly makerspace organization hacks. So you can go from maker-crazed to maker-confident in no time flat.

#1: DIY Maker Cart

First up – you’ve got to give your materials a space to live.  And while shelving is nice, it’s not always available or practical.  Having a cart that you can pull out when it’s time for a maker project is handy and helpful.  You can also wheel it around to student tables or desks and share it between classrooms.  And if you have in-progress projects, these carts can be a place for students to quickly store their work.

These carts can often be pricey – between $300-500 each.  Instead, try creating a PVC maker cart.  You can use these directions from the Free PVC Projects and Plans site for any kind of cart you can dream up.

Photo credit: Formufit –

There’s some of large containers, as well as ones with space for smaller trays and bins.  While you’re over there, be sure to check out the project for creating an outdoor sink.  Those of you stuck in the portables will find that super helpful.

#2: Creative Containers

All those color-coded containers we see on Pinterest look beautiful, but once you start purchasing those tubs, it can really add up.  While you definitely want a few sturdy plastic containers (with lids), you can supplement these with recycled containers as well.  Try using things like:

  • Cardboard boxes – wrap them in colored paper or paint them for color-coding purposes
  • Egg cartons – keep the lids on and use these for smaller items like paperclips, bolts, beads, etc.
  • Old spice jars – also good for small items. Add some magnetic tape to the sides and add them to your chalkboard/whiteboard so students can easily grab what they need.
  • Recycling containers – sometimes, these get updated for communities.  When that happens, ask folks to donate their old ones to you.  These are great for large-scale items.

With any of these, do be sure to label each container with the item category (like tubes, wheels, attachments, etc) and color-code with post-it notes.  This helps for easy visual organization as well.

#3: Rethink Tech Support

Often, we think we need these huge carts to store iPads, robots, and other plug-in items.  Not true!  Check out this innovative use of a simple plastic bin, a power strip and some dowel rods:

Photo Credit: A Love of Teaching:

Colleen Graves shares this  “Charging Box” for Spheros out of an old plastic tub and some zip ties.  Think of all the other ways you could get creative with what you already have!

Makerspaces are meant to be messy, hands-on learning opportunities for students to create and explore.  But that doesn’t mean they need to overrun your classroom learning space. You can have organization and chaos at the same time.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan