Anyway, today, I needed Velcro for our visual schedule, an example of which is pictured to the right. I also needed masking tape and Manila folders in large supply. For just these three things, I entered the One Dollar Market off Route 7 in Middlebury, VT.
And down the rabbit hole I fell.
Last year at this time, I was at the very same One Dollar Mart (let's call it the ODM for short) buying notebooks, pencils, and other little goodies for birthday bags and sunshine prizes. It was my first year back at Monkton Central School and I knew I didn't want a full-scale extrinsic motivation program, just some things so that, every so often, I could make one of my students smile and feel cared for. I found all kinds of cute trinkets that the kids loved and I didn't have to break the bank buying them. Further, things like duct tape, string, and everyday supplies could become a useful part of my tool box at a fraction of the cost. With the rate we would be using such staples--and for the temporary types of needs they would fulfill, like hanging posters or patching ripped Math book covers--I knew I could get away with buying generics.
Now, in need of masking tape, Velcro, and Manila folders, three of the most boring office supplies known to humankind with many of the same quotidien purposes ahead of them, I stepped into the ODM prepared for a quick in-and-out procedure to the tune of $3.18 (remember, there's tax...). Of course, I did the perfunctory lap, you have to because you never know, and saw some sort of interesting stuff here and there, but nothing that blew my mind.
I guess it hit me somewhere around a pretty rad stash of plastic organizers most people use for picnic silverware or as a shower caddy, that I was mining in a makerspace mother lode. Duh! This place was more than just a mere one-use tchotchke and potted meats graveyard, it was a warehouse of potential. Here is what I suddenly saw (you might have to click through, but trust me... it's worth it):
Dollar Store Magic by Slidely Slideshow
As the title of this posts suggests, it was not long after that when I realized I needed to step away from the ODM and give myself a chance to think about all of the possibilities in those shelves (not to mention the damage I could do with a Benjamin or two). In fact, it was getting close to the point where I would never look at stick-tack in quite the same way. Breathe, Gagner. Breathe.
When you are viewing the world through a given lens, you always start to see things like never before. I think one of the key pieces of the maker education movement is to help students see that a box isn't always just a box. A busted toy might not deserve to be added to the landfill. When is a pipe cleaner not a pipe cleaner? When you give it to an 11-year-old and tell them to go fix something with it, make the world a better place, solve a problem, make something of it... Make something of themselves. Now that's magic.