Zines on display in our library
Projects, Uncategorized

The Zines Project

I’ve always been intrigued by Zines. The connection to feminism and counter culture is a potent, attention-grabbing mix. The Riot Grrrl movement in the 1990s, my introduction to zines, is fascinating. Current applications for zines still combine creative self-expression and providing a platform for under-represented voices. In this case the voices of kids.

Zines Defined

So what exactly are zines? They’re independently-produced, small run magazines. Before the proliferation of Internet-based blogs and social media, this was a powerful way to express ideas, particularly those outside of the main-stream. It still is.

Scaffolding a Zines Project

When introducing a zines project with kids start with some zines history. Follow this up by explaining that this is their opportunity to tell the world about something that matters to them. This could be a passion, something they know how to do, a story, or really anything else that’s meaningful. Zines can be words, images, or a combination of the two. Show them a few examples of kid-appropriate zines (or at least zine covers).

Since we made zines that were displayed to parents, sent to other schools, and to two independent bookstores, I asked students to make sure that their zines were appropriate for any age-group and didn’t include weapons or anything else frowned upon in the school setting (and I double-checked).

Zines on display during our parent night

I had them create a story outline using a beginning-middle-end storyboard. We practiced folding a mini-zine, using a template, to get the hang of it and so that they could visualize the pages and layout of their zines.

They created their zines on blank paper using their mini-zines template as guidance and I made four photocopies of each of their completed zines. Some students chose to add color and additional details to their copies before putting a copy into separate tubs to be distributed to; two schools, two independent bookstores and one copy to put on display for our parent night, (and take home to keep after). Next time we do this project, I’ll make one additional copy that they can share or trade with a friend.

Collaborating with Other Schools

Collaborating with other schools was serendipitous. One of my colleagues messaged that she was thinking of making zines with her students at the exact same time I was starting my lesson planning. She, another interested librarian, and myself shared resources and sent completed zines to each of the other schools. My students loved seeing the zines made by students at other schools.

Real-World Connections, Profits and Student Choice

The zines we sent to the bookstores were put on display. One of the stores sold each copy for $1. The proceeds were then used to purchase books for the library. The other store gave copies away and donated books to our library.

Books on display at local bookstore.
Photo Credit Meagen Kucaj – Schuler Books

The new books were chosen by the zine authors. I gave them links to a Google form to vote for the titles they wanted to see in our library, and links to resources such as the middle-grade New York Times Best-sellers list (and our online library catalogue so that they weren’t suggesting books we already owned). I made a compilation of their suggestions (with a little help from my fabulous library clerk), and had them vote for their top 3 choices.

You Should Make Zines Too!

I highly recommend making zines with kids. It’s exciting, incredibly engaging, has real-world connections, raises student voices and covers a whole host of leaning standards along the way.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share questions, comments and other zine-related ideas in the comments below.

#zines #realworldconnection #studentvoice #studentchoice #library #makerspace #makereducation #schoollibraries

Projects, Utilizing Your Makerspace

Still waiting on your COVID vaccine? Combine hygge and makerspace to make staying home more tolerable

It’s February. Here in Michigan that means it’s bitterly cold, and most days are gray. Snow, ice, and temperatures in the single digits make socializing out-of-doors a challenge. For those who are unvaccinated, socializing indoors is tempting, but it’s certainly a risk. So, how do you make staying home more tolerable?

Embrace Hygge

Instead of railing against the cold weather, why not embrace it by adopting Hygge. Think fuzzy socks, warm beverages, comfort food, candles, and anything else that helps you feel warm, cozy and content. Hygge is lovely. It can change your perception of Winter from something that has to be endured, to something truly enjoyable. Embracing Hygge is a good start, but I encourage you to take it even one step further.

Combine Hygge and Makerspace to Make it Even Better

When I’m at home, one thing that takes my mind off things (like the fact that my freshly washed, still damp hair – froze – when I stepped outside for half a second), is immersing myself in a project. If you aren’t already in the middle of a project, consider starting one now…and pick a project that embodies Hygge. Maybe for you that means knitting a pair of fuzzy socks, cooking a pot of soup from scratch, or building a rack for your wood pile from repurposed lumber. For me, it means making hand-poured candles scented with essential oils. If you’d like to give this a try, I’ve included step-by-step instructions below.

How to Make Hand-Poured – Essential Oil Scented – Container Candles

What You’ll Need

  • Heat resistant containers (mason jars, jelly jars, coffee mugs or tea cups)
  • Wicks
  • Glue dots for bottom of the wicks
  • Wax (I used soy natural candle wax flakes)
  • Something to hold the wick straight (bow tie clip, tongue depressors or craft sticks)
  • Stainless steel pouring pot
  • A second, bigger pot, to create a double-boiler
  • Water
  • Towels
  • Essential oils 
  • Long stirring spoon
  • Oven mitts
  • Food scale
  • A Tablespoon measure
  • A stove or hot plate
  • Baking soda (in case of fire)
  • Fire extinguisher

Note: You can buy most of these materials, fairly inexpensively, as part of a candle making kit. Wax flakes and essential oils may need to be purchased separately.


Weigh your stainless steel pouring container on your food scale. Make a note of how much it weighs when empty. Add a pound of wax flakes. If you don’t have a food scale, you can just eyeball this by filling your wax pouring container until you have about 2-3 inches of space at the top.

Measure out a pound of wax flakes

Next, set up your heat resistant containers. Make sure you have several containers prepped. I found that a pound of wax filled about 4 jelly jars. Start by attaching a glue dot to the bottom of the wick.

Attach a glue dot to the bottom of your candle wick

Use the other side of the glue dot to attach the wick to the inside, center, of your candle container. Secure the top of the wick to your bow tie clip, tongue depressors or craft stick, to make sure it stays straight when you pour in the wax, later. Place your prepped containers on top of a towel to catch any wax drips.

Make sure that the wick is centered

Create a double boiler by placing the wax pouring container into a larger-sized pot, with a few inches of water inside the larger-sized pot. It should be enough water that it won’t all boil off while you’re melting the wax, but not so much that water will pour over the side of your wax pouring container and into your melting wax. 

Place your double-boiler on top of the stove top or hot plate, and turn the temperature up to medium-high.

Use a double-boiler to melt your wax

Keep an eye on your melting wax at all times. Make sure you have the baking soda and fire extinguisher within reach. You can’t use water to put out a wax fire. Baking soda or a fire extinguisher will work. Stirring the wax with a long spoon will help it melt more quickly. Once your wax is completely melted, remove your wax pouring container from the double boiler and place on a towel.

If you’re using wax with a higher melting point than 130 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to wait until the wax cools to 130 degrees Fahrenheit before adding in your essential oils, or they can burn off, leaving you with a lightly-scented, or unscented candle. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can also just add the essential oils once the side of your wax pouring container is still warm to the touch (but not so hot that it burns your hand) and the wax is still liquid.

Measure out 1 Tablespoon of essential oil (this can be just one scent or several blended). Pour your essential oil into the melted wax, a little at a time, continuing to stir the wax as you’re adding the oil. This is the part of candle making that my kids liked best, they really enjoyed coming up with recipes for the candle scents. One of the completed candles ended up smelling a little bit like bug spray, so we named that one “Summer Nights”. If you want better control over the scent, you might want to stick with just one essential oil.

Pour your wax into your prepared containers, leaving about 1/2 -1 inch of space at the top.

Pour the melted wax into your prepared containers

Once your wax has cooled enough that it’s solid, remove your popsicle stick (or whatever you used to secure your wick). Using scissors, trim your wick to 1/2-1 inch above the top of the wax.

These candles make great gifts too!

Good luck! Stay safe. If you have a maker project that’s also Hygge, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.