Category Archives: Events for the Public

Benzonia’s Holiday Party!

This past weekend, Making in Michigan Libraries took to Benzonia for a fantastic winter extravaganza! We spent a wonderful weekend helping out at Benzonia’s annual Holiday Party joined by Tori Culler and Caroline Wack from our Michigan Makers project.

Benzonia has a lovely tradition of hosting a holiday party to celebrate the approaching holiday season. The event started with baked goods, punch, and a puppet show hosted, as always, by Dr. Fizz and Boomer the Rat. The puppets asked the audience about their holiday traditions and sang Christmas carols. In case you missed it, Boomer likes all things cheese during the holidays.

After the puppet show came a fantastic balloon animal making event with Neil Sauter, the Michigan Stilt Walker!


Neil made reindeer balloon animals and other festive creations. He also taught the kids how to shape the balloons as well — all from his high-altitude position. He even made balloon creations upon request during the final hour of the event.

The final hour was a whirlwind … kids could get a custom balloon creation from Neil, get their photo taken with an elf straight from the Detroit Parade Company, and let their creativity fly. BPL’s Repurposeful Librarians organized an ornament and craft workshop on one side of the room, and we hosted a gift making and wrapping workshop, bringing back some favorite materials (like making your own LED-illuminated holiday card and using paint pens to create a one-of-a-kind glass votive holder) and adding some new ones (like decorating chalkboard frames for loved ones).

Make your own LED light up Christmas cards with Tori!
Decorating chalkboard frames and plaques in front; glass decorating with paint markers in back
Chalkboard frame decorating
Twin artists showing off their work

After everyone was done decorating and crafting  they wrapped their gifts at the gift wrapping station with Caroline so they could give it to someone they care for later.

When we weren’t creating things, we enjoyed admiring Beulah’s decorated holiday windows, doing a little holiday shopping from local artists, and cheering on the holiday parade. It was a wonderful and creative weekend.

Pro Photo Day in Benzonia!

We started off another great year of partnering with Benzonia Public Library with a day of photography workshops.

Photo of Jeff Smith demonstrating
Photo of Jeff Smith demonstrating how to hold your camera to minimize movement

The University of Michigan School of Information photographer Jeffrey Smith was our professional mentor for the day. Jeff has visited Benzonia before as a photographer and videographer for Making in Michigan Libraries, but this was his first time giving a presentation. He did a marvelous job! In fact, Benzonia’s director Amanda McLaren tells us she just ran into someone from the weekend workshop who was still raving about it days later!

The group taking practice shots
The group taking practice shots. Placing your subject near a window is one of Jeff’s tips for better photos. Never use a flash is another!

Jeff’s session was broken up into two parts. The first part was on Saturday morning from 10 to 12 where he explained tricks for taking high quality photos on a smart phone. Such tricks included holding your fingers down on the screen to lock focus, moving your finger up and down on the screen to adjust exposure, and using the volume buttons while in the camera app to take a picture. After he showed a few tricks for taking photos he then went on to demonstrate how to edit photos on your smartphone with an app called Snapseed and everyone got up and moved around to try it out!

A break was given for lunch and then patrons met up in downtown Beulah for the photowalk! The photowalk gave individuals with smartphones and more standard digital cameras a chance to practice their skills and learn about perspective, light, framing, etc. from a professional photographer.


Jeff took patrons on a walk around town in unexpected places. Our first stop was near a dumpster behind a building. Jeff explained that although this would not typically be viewed as a great photo opportunity the bright blue color and texture of the wall led to stellar shots. It just required a matter of framing things so that the dumpster didn’t show.


Our next locations were the top of a high hill that overlooked a few rooftops with a view of Crystal Lake in the background, shooting from behind weeds on a beach because layers help make a better image, and capturing action shots of seagulls. After the photowalk the group headed back to Benzonia Public Library for a tutorial on editing photos on a computer through Photoshop. The event ended with a showcase of the beautifully shot and edited photos taken on the walk!


It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday — trying to view the world in a new perspective. If you want to see more photos from the event feel free to check out our album on twitter here!


This not-awesome photo was not shot by Jeff!

Slides for Makerspaces Library 2.017 Webinar

Decorative - logo for Library 2.017 conference on makerspaces

Ben and Kristin are presenting today at the Library 2.017 mini-conference on makerspaces.

If you’d like to see our work in action, check out our Flickr page.

Header that reads "Getting Started with Design Thinking"

Getting Started with Design Thinking (Benzonia)

Flyer for Getting Started with Design Thinking. You can view the details in a machine-readable version at

Hello! Kamya and I are tickled to be back in Benzonia today, hosting a half-day workshop on design thinking for librarians and educators working with teens.

You can find the slides here.

If you’d like to try your hand at our prototyped design thinking game, click here for a word-based version and here for a pictorial version.

If you’d like to join us on Saturday, March 11, for another variation of this workshop in Saginaw, click here to register for free.

Exploring the Upper Peninsula – Making and Learning at the Pickford Community Library

We had a wonderful workshop at Pickford Community Library from June 20th to 22nd. Special thanks to Ann Marie Smith, director of the Pickford Community Library, for inviting us to her library and hosting our activities, with a special mention to Chris Smith and his talk on his use of Arduino microcontrollers in educational projects ranging from aquaponics to lightsaber design(!!!).

Chris smith passes around homemade lightsaber.

We also explored a number of other hands-on making activities to explore first-hand what it’s like to be a maker in a learning environment. We certainly weren’t teaching these people to be creative, but we were helping them think about creation in a new way. From board game design to squishy circuits made of conductive dough, we enjoyed a wide variety of creative activities in the activity space in the same space as the Friend’s Bookstore at the Pickford Community Library.

space2 space1

With attendees ranging from local artisans to middle school teachers, ISD executives to recent art-school graduates, it was one of our most diverse, exciting groups so far. With such a creative community we knew in advance that the maker activities would be some of the most creative and varied that we had seen, and we weren’t disappointed. People especially enjoyed hacking (that is, modifying) the simple LED flashlights that we made together into something unique to each participant.

Light-up feathered bracelet.
Small light-up robot.
Man made of pipe cleaners with an LED idea bulb over the head.
An actual LED lamp that stays on without pressing a button!

The squishy circuits creations were highly creative and varied as well, ranged from prototypes for wearable light-up shoes to an exploration of switches made of various colors of dough.

squish1 squish2 squish3

Various creations made of conductive dough combined with a title/subtitle activity.
Various creations made of conductive dough combined with a title/subtitle activity.

Once more we’d like to thank Ann Marie Smith for being a great host, her local planning committee for the event for putting together a wonderful space, great food prepared by the Iris and Main Street Cafes, and generally supporting our project. Final note, you can find more pictures of the event on the Pickford Community Library’s facebook page, found here.

A stamping activity with various words that capture our personal ideas of what a makerspace should be.

With all three days now completed, here are our slide decks:

Making as Learning: Houghton Lake

Created with flickr slideshow.

We kicked off our first three-day workshop June 15 – 17 at the Houghton Lake Public Library. Thank you to Kimberly Young, library director, and Sarah Maddox, youth librarian, for hosting us!

From designing the ideal work bag to making playdough circuits light up, making robots run to talking about making for those with special needs, 3D modeling and printing to designing our mission, we had a great time in this deep-dive into the why and not just the what of making.

Here is some of what we learned from our peer participants:

  • Making can be a way for those with disabilities to show what they can do.
  • Shifting kids from adult-directed activities and into open-ended, student-directed activities can be tough!
  • Prototyping is a lot of fun (and can even inspire the occasional runway show)!
  • Putting people with different jobs but similar missions together can create synergies.
  • Some people have really interesting hobbies at home (quilting, making log furniture)!
  • Hands-on skills can lead to real jobs.

We even got to meet (or see again) some kids and families at our community-focused Houghton Lake MakerFest. Not only could families see a 3D printer in action, make a marble maze, play with LEGO and K’Nex, make a Shrinky Dink souvenir, drive a robot, or make a Squishy Circuit, but they could go outside to see the mobile science lab from Saginaw Valley State University. There, they could peer into the microscopic world of butterflies and water; see the SVSU drone; learn about soil and other environmental testing; and meet some skilled professors eager to share their world with them.

You can view our activities by clicking through the slides above (or visiting our Flickr album).

Day 1 Slides 

Day 2 Slides

Day 3 Slides

Next week, we head across the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula and Pickford, the smallest town on this year’s road trip.

If you’d like to join us at a future workshop, we’d be glad to have you! You can find our complete calendar here.

Hope to see you soon!