Monteney Nursery, Sheffield, UK

Case Studies of Makerspaces in Kindergartens / Nurseries and Schools


Monteney Nursery is part of Monteney Primary School, and serves children aged 3 and 4. The nursery is based in the north of the city, in Parsons Cross. The project focused on the neighbourhood.

The project involved University of Sheffield researchers Professor Jackie Marsh and Beth Nutbrown, who worked alongside James Wallbank, a Sheffield maker who runs his own maker business, ‘Makers’.

The aims of the project were to enable children to explore and celebrate their neighbourhood, and to learn about circuits through creating lights for model houses and streets.

The project began with a training day offered by the research team, in which staff had an opportunity to explore the concept of makerspaces, play and experiment with a range of materials and create a range of artefacts themselves. The staff also planned the MakEY project activities with the research team.

Prior to the project starting, the children were invited to create models of their houses with their parents at home. The families enjoyed doing this, producing houses using cardboard boxes. Some parents tweeted about their children’s efforts (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: A parent’s tweet about making a house

The nursery wanted the makerspace workshops to focus on the making of simple circuits, which was done through the children creating lights for their houses. James created a laser cut base and post for this purpose, and the children made the lights using copper tape, LEDs and batteries (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: A base and post for the lights

The children also made street lights to go alongside their homes. The street lights were also made by using a template, that was then adapted by the children. In Figure 3, James can be seen supporting the children to complete their lampposts.

Figure 3: James working with the children to make lampposts

Finally, the children created Christmas trees, supported by James, through the use of laser cuts of paper collages of trees they had made, which were lit up using copper tape, colour changing LEDs and batteries. Therefore, through repeating the process three times, children reinforced their learning about making circuits. The Christmas trees, when clustered together, created twinkling forests (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: A twinkling Christmas tree forest

The teacher, Alex Ardron, ensured that the tree collages, which had led to the creation of the laser cut trees, did not go to waste, and these were re-purposed as Christmas cards (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: A Christmas tree collage card and its laser cut version

The children also created green screen films using the app Green screen by Do Ink. In Santa outfits, the children sang Christmas songs in front of a green screen, then used the app to place themselves in front of their twinkling forests (see Figure 6).

Figure 6: A green screen Christmas films

Finally, the houses, lamp posts and Christmas trees were displayed in a room so that parents and others from the school could view them, and they were subject to appreciative tweets from teachers and governors (see Figure 7).

Figure 7: A tweet from a school governor about the exhibition

Alex was impressed by the persistence that many of the children demonstrated in the project. Creating the circuits was challenging, yet many children spent a long time focusing on the tasks. She commented that:

“They know batteries make things work, but I think it’s because they could then actually physically see that the light lit up, or it didn’t light…they probably learnt that through trial and error, and it’s just their persisting in an activity, that staying focused and trying again, it’s just succeeding isn’t it?”

The children also attended the project exhibition at Sheffield Winter Gardens in June 2018, in which they not only saw their own work on display, but had an opportunity to view the work of other children (see Figure 8).

Figure 8: Children from Monteney Nursery at the project exhibition

The project was highly successful, exceeding its original aims and leading to a range of learning outcomes across science, technology, language and communication, and art.