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Teaching at the Idea Lab

Overview

Hello and welcome! This is a guide for anyone interested in teaching at the Idea Lab. Here you will find information on:

  • The kinds of classes we offer and are looking for
  • Our goals
  • How we evaluate and train teachers
  • Compensation
  • How to run a successful Idea Lab program

Click through the tabs above to learn about teaching and classes at the Idea Lab. If you decide you would like to teach, the Become an Idea Lab Educator box below has information on how you can do so.

Our main goal is to be an educational resource for the community to build creative skills, connect with other makers, and make cool stuff! Here's what that means:

  • Build creative skills: Making requires both knowing how to make something as well as trusting in your ability to try, fail, learn, and try again. We're looking for educators that can both teach how to do something as well as help people build the confidence to try.
  • Connect with other makers: it can be easier and more fun to make something when you are surrounded by community. Classes bring people together and we are looking for our educators to support kind, safe spaces where all people are welcome.
  • Make cool stuff: this isn't school - classes should be fun! Cool, interesting things grab people's attention. We're usually looking for classes that help people make or do something actively, rather than just hearing about how something is done.

Additionally, we are an adult maker space so most of our classes are geared towards adults. We also do some family friendly programming that works for people of all ages, but we do NOT do classes specifically for teens and children. The teen space and children's library within Erie County Public Library do teen and children specific programming.

 

A good class in the Idea Lab can cover any aspect of making, whether physical or digital. That said, it is extra helpful if a class relates to equipment we have in the room and is something people could continue to work on in the Idea Lab. The list of all topics related to making in the Idea Lab would be very long, but some of the main ones are:

  • Fiber Arts (sewing, crocheting, knitting, etc.)
  • Crafting (Cricut, button making, cards, etc.)
  • 3D Printing (modeling, printing, painting, etc.)
  • Vinyl (stickers, iron-on, stencils, etc.)
  • Woodworking (sawing, CNC machines, laser cutting, design, etc.)
  • Jewelry making (soldering, dremel tool, metal stamps, etc.)
  • Audio recording (podcasting, music recording, etc.)
  • Video (recording, green screen, editing, etc.)
  • Photography (DSLR cameras, editing, composition, etc.)
  • Video game design (coding, digital art, GameMaker software, etc.)
  • ...and more!

You can also check out our equipment list and software list to see what's available in the space. If your class would use our equipment or software, it's probably a good fit.

If your class or project cannot be done with equipment found in the Idea Lab, that's okay! If it relates to making, art, or tinkering it probably still works and we'd love for you to apply to teach.

We've found that there are two types of classes that work particularly well in the Idea Lab.

  • Project: In a project class, everyone attending will make or alter something, whether physical or digital.
  • Demo: In a demo class, you demonstrate a project, talk, and answer questions.

Some project classes we've had are:

  • record a podcast
  • make a vinyl sticker with the Cricut
  • make a Cosplay helmet with EVA foam
  • bind a book
  • sew a bag

Some demo classes we've had are:

  • woodcarving a rose
  • making a green screen photo
  • replacing a Mac's battery.

We try to have more project programs than demos because we want people to learn hands on. However, if you have a skill and want to share it, a demo might be right.

Occasionally, we also have traditional lectures in the Idea Lab with questions and answers after. We have found that lectures usually aren't a good fit for the Idea Lab - some kind of demonstration really helps! You can still apply to do a lecture, but it is less likely to be scheduled.

The Idea Lab supports makers, artists, entrepreneurs, and anyone who wants to share their skills and time. We have a budget to pay educators and purchase supplies for classes that need them:

  • For Project and Demo classes, we pay $75.
  • For lectures, we pay $50.

You are our partners and we appreciate and value your experience! If you'd like to volunteer your time or be compensated less, you can let us know and your generosity allows us to pay more educators and offer more programs. Regardless of your preferred compensation, thank you for teaching!

All the previous tabs have talked about what we do here at the Idea Lab. We choose to focus on these things so that our classes can run well and people can have a fun time and make cool things. Part of that is also being clear on what we don't do.

Typically, Idea Lab classes...

  • Do not require attendance at multiple sessions: We have found that attendance drops off in multi-session classes. Additionally, these classes punish those whose schedules do not allow them to attend all sessions. There could certainly be a series of related classes, but each one should be able to stand alone.
  • Are not longer than 2 hours: For most classes, we shoot for one hour because this is enough time to introduce a topic and make something. For more advanced projects, up to 2 hours is appropriate, but anything beyond that tends to be too long for most patrons. 

Become an Idea Lab Educator

If you read the overview and would like to teach at the Idea Lab, you can click the link below to fill out the interest form.

We review submissions quarterly and reach out to discuss your lesson plan, schedule your class, and do the necessary paperwork. Please submit an interest form for each class you'd like to teach.

We aim to give as many people a chance to teach as possible. So if you have already taught before, we may opt to not schedule your class. This can be highly variable and depends on time of year, budget remaining, and currently scheduled classes.

If your class idea looks like a good fit and we want to schedule it, we will reach out and let you know. The next step for you would be planning your class in a more detailed way.

We often find that many first time educators have a project or idea in mind that they think will be an easy, 1-hour class. But then class starts, people have questions, you didn't budget time for explaining... and suddenly the class is over and not everyone made something. We don't want this to happen to you.

To help you plan, you can use the program outline template below. Feel free to adjust or add to it as you wish or write your own custom plan on the blank second page. However you do it, think through every step of what you will do and say in your class and how much time it will take. This should help you notice if you are introducing too many concepts or asking students to do too much. The more focused your class can be on a single thing, the better.

If you want, you can include a full class outline with your class application in the attachments section.
 

 

Some other helpful questions as you're planning your class:

  • What knowledge am I assuming people have? For your class, think about any pre-requisite skills people would need to be successful. A common one is computer skills - many library patrons struggle to use computers, but many teachers assume everyone will be able to use a computer fast. It's okay if people need to have some experience and skills for your class, we just want to make sure we're aware so we can advertise and neither you nor the students are surprised!
  • Am I introducing lots of extra topics or only including what is necessary? New educators often try to include lots of background and explanations that aren't strictly necessary to complete the project. Too much information can be overwhelming, so try to only include what is relevant.

We have some expectations that apply for all classes:

  • Greeting: All patrons should be explicitly greeted and welcomed as they walk in or at the beginning of class.
  • Description: The class itself should match the description and lesson plan.
  • Time: The class should take the amount of time advertised.
  • Make/Demo: For Make classes, all patrons should be able to complete or make significant progress on their project. For Demo classes, all patrons should be able to see and ask questions.

Every educator should try to meet the above expectations. Additionally, we hope that classes can be fun, interesting, and enjoyable. Making that happen is something we can work on together.

Idea Lab staff will attend your class to learn, make with you, and see how it goes. We're also available to support you should something go wrong.

No matter how class goes, we talk with all educators afterwards for 10-20 minutes about how class went. This gives us a chance to discuss what happened while our memory is still fresh. We use the evaluation sheet below to guide the conversation.

 

The expectations are things that should happen every class no matter what and match our expectations from the previous tab.

The reflection questions are meant to guide an honest discussion on how things went and how they might be improved. We are not interested in critiquing you personally - we want to work with you to make your class successful and have teaching be a positive experience.

Our goal is always to work with you to improve your classes and help you grow as an educator. With that said, there are reasons and issues serious enough that we stop working with educators. Some, but not all, are:

  • Not meeting base expectations: Educators need to welcome and interact with all students, be on time, and teach what is in the lesson plan. If you struggle to do this, we may choose not to schedule your class.
  • Creating a hostile class environment: Educators need to be inclusive and welcoming to all students and must avoid language and actions that belittle, discriminate against, or make attendees uncomfortable. If you struggle to do this, we may choose not to schedule your class.

Hopefully the above and other issues do not come up, but we take the safety of our patrons seriously and will act to make Idea Lab classes safe and enjoyable for all.