ALA Midwinter 2020

#ALAmw20 – How the maker movement can promote empathy

This morning I went to a session entitled “The Library, Not Just For Books” which focused on how social-emotional learning can be integrated into maker activities. We all know how important social-emotional skills are, yet they are often set aside in schools in favor of more “important” traits like math and literacy.

Libraries already play a huge role in social-emotional learning through the services they provide, but Velear Schrupp had some great ideas for how we can be more intentional in planning our maker activities to promote these skills. Here are a few highlights and ideas for you to implement at your library!

Learn to focus.

We started off by listening to a chime and having to indicate when we could no longer hear the sound. By having to focus on the diminishing sound, we were forced to tune out the noise of the rest of the conference and focus on the moment. Mindfulness is a wonderful way to get someone in the right headspace to problem solve and begin making.

Get those ideas flowing.

Next, we had to try to list 100 uses for a pencil in 2 minutes. Go ahead and try it. How many can you come up with? Another challenge was to list unusual uses for dental floss.

Not only did these exercises focus us once again, but they got us thinking about everyday objects in new ways. This can help prepare children to use materials in unconventional ways, but also to think of new solutions to problems or new ways of looking at the world.

This type of activity also provides opportunities for both adults and fellow kids to positively reinforce another’s ideas and build self-confidence.

Make with a purpose.

Give the children an imaginary client for whom they are creating. This is a great way to incorporate literacy as well! Read the kids a story and then have them think about what problem the characters are facing and how they can help that character solve their problem.

When kids are forced to make something for someone else (even if that someone else isn’t real) they learn to think about another’s needs and view things from a new perspective.


It was great to get my own ideas going and begin to think of things from new perspectives. I know I’m not alone in saying I left this session inspired with some great plans for future maker programs at my library that incorporate storytelling and social-emotional skills.

Christina Carpino is a children’s librarian, MLIS student at Kent State, crocheter, and coffee snob.




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