Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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! We're 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. 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.

Below is a document with some of the questions we ask when deciding whether or not to accept or host a program.

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 the battery on a Mac

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:

  • We pay $75 per class.

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!

In order to be paid, you will need to submit a filled out W-9 form. Erie County will mail you a check in the weeks following your class. The W-9 form is linked below. You only need to fill out page 1 - the other pages are instructions.

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: Classes that are 1 or 2 hours long work best.. This gives enough time to introduce a topic, make something, and have open time for questions. Classes longer than 2 hours tend to be too long for most patrons. 
  • Are not for promoting your business or service: If your main goal is to showcase your business or product, that is not a fit with the Idea Lab's mission. You can certainly mention if you have a business or do work in a field, but the focus of the class should be on the learners and the project.

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 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, you should...

  • Think through every step of what you will do and say. What will you say to start class? What will you say next? What will you show people first? When will  you stop to check for understanding? It's a lot, but a good lesson plan has all this thought out!
  • Focus on what your class is about. The more focused your class can be on a single thing, the better. You can mention related topics or ideas to let people know they're out there, but your class time should be focused on your project. Once people start asking questions, time goes by quick!

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

Another important question to ask yourself is "What knowledge am I assuming people have?"

If you are good at something, it can be easy to forget all the little things you know that a beginner does not. 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 knows the difference between right- and left- clicks and 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. And if you realize there are smaller skills people will need to know, you can be sure to budget time or focus your class on a simpler project.

We have some expectations that apply for all classes:

  • Safety: Every class should be safe for patrons, both physically and emotionally. You must be able to safely use and teach people how to use the equipment and materials needed for class and you must be able to be kind and supportive to all people during class.
  • 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 cannot 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 want Idea Lab classes to be safe and enjoyable for all.