Teachers in the Makerspace: An Exploration Experiment

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Each time I see students using our makerspace tools I see possibilities.  I see the problem solving that goes into each attempt and each failure.  I see the curiosity and energy that students bring with them.  I begin to make connections to the more structured curriculum that students use in their classrooms.  So far, I have been the main person to offer ideas to our teachers on how our makerspace supports the Common Core and the Georgia Performance Standards.  However, I don’t want to be the only one.  Since every lesson that happens in the library is a collaboration between me, the classroom teachers, and other support teachers, I want their wheels to be turning about our makerspace as well.

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The problem with this has been time.  Most teachers know we have a makerspace, but they haven’t actually had a moment where they could put their hands on the maker tools and experience tinkering and making for themselves.  I recently sent out a survey to see how many people would be interested in holding a teacher makerspace exploration

FireShot Capture - Staff Makerspace Exploration_ - https___docs.google.com_a_clarke.k12

I got an overwhelming response from our teachers that this is an area that they want to explore more.

FireShot Capture - Staff Makerspace Exploration - Google F_ - https___docs.google.com_a_clarke.k12

I met with my principal to talk about some possibilities for days to offer an exploration.  Luckily, we had a district professional learning day that offered some flexibility for school-based professional learning.  After all of us attended district meetings during the first half of the day, we returned to our schools for independent studies and choice offerings.  This was the perfect time for me to offer our first makerspace exploration because it gave us more time and it was on a day where teachers weren’t exhausted from teaching all day.  I offered an open makerspace on Feb 16th from 1:30-3:30PM.  Teachers from our school were encouraged to sign up and teachers from other schools were invited too.  We had 12 teachers from our school sign up, 1 teacher from JJ Harris, and a few drop-ins.

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I setup multiple areas of the library for exploration.  First, I pulled all of our maker books from the library and professional collection.

Then, I setup area with

  • 5 MaKey Makey kits connected to computers.  Playdoh was available
  • A box of duct tape and books on making from duct tape
  • Two spheros with ramps and iPads
  • Our workshop kit of littleBits
  • Our 3 Osmo kits
  • And our makerspace was open where our 3D printer is kept

I invited Kenneth Linsley from GYSTC to bring his squishy circuits, Spheros, and expertise.  I also invited Gretchen Thomas and her Maker Dawgs.  Two Maker Dawgs were able to come and spent much of their time at our Sphero and MaKey MaKey areas.

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We all started together at tables, but I wanted to keep my introduction extremely short.  I opened by thanking teachers for signing up to explore.  I invited them to give themselves permission to tinker, dream, create, fail, back up, and try again.  I also invited them to think about their curriculum as they tinkered.  I offered them a Padlet space to capture any brainstorming that they had during the session.

FireShot Capture - Makerspace Curriculum Ideas - http___padlet.com_plemmonsa_makerspace

I also showed them a Symbaloo with some instructional videos to refer to.  I know that some people prefer to look at how something works before they explore and some people prefer to just jump in.

FireShot Capture - Barrow Makerspace - Symbaloo - http___www.symbaloo.com_mix_barrowmakerspace

I finished by telling them to use this time to get their hands on as many things as possible and just give it a go.

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Teachers jumped right in.  I loved watching them make their first choices.  They really split themselves between every area and a few lingered at the tables to watch some videos.  I felt really good about the differentiation that was offered.

I walked around and offered a few tips when needed, but I was very careful not to take over or do the making for each teacher.  Ms. Olin and I had a great conversation about circuits in 5th grade and how littleBits and MaKey MaKey could be integrated into 5th grade science.  Ms. Hocking was busy brainstorming how the Sphero could be used in her math and writing time.  Ms. Stuckey was eager to get her 1st graders using the makerspace for their unit on inventors.  Brainstorming was definitely happening.

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This is exactly what I wanted to happen.  My hope was that as teachers used the tools, they would start to think about their students using them.  They would be less intimidated by the space and more open to trying the makerspace within their curriculum.  I don’t think a single person is opposed to using the makerspace.  It’s just hard to visualize how something fits into your curriculum if you’ve never used it yourself.

Our Padlet really wasn’t a success this time. There was just too much to explore to stop and write on a Padlet.  I don’t think it’s a bad idea, though, so I’m going to send the link back out and invite teachers to contribute to it now that they’ve had time to reflect.

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As we entered into the 2nd hour, Ms. Choate, a kindergarten teacher, walked up and said “I think I have something ready to 3D print”.  Sure enough, she had walked through a Tinkercad tutorial and figured out how to make a copy of the lesson file.  She was almost ready to print.  I worked with her to put her file into Makerware and onto the SD card for 3D printing.  We announced to the group that we were about to print and every person stopped to come and celebrate with Ms. Choate.

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I love watching people the first time they see something print.  It still amazes me to watch it, but when you see it for the first time, it’s just mind-blowing.  I answered lots of questions about how the printer works and showed some other tools that could be used for 3D design.  Ms. Choate stayed to watch her entire print, but in the meantime, she helped Ms. Li, another Kindergarten teacher, get her own file ready to print.  I loved seeing a teacher already passing on her maker expertise to another teacher.

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There are several other teachers who showed interest in exploring the makerspace who were unable to come, so I want to replicate this experience again.  It would be wonderful to have some of these same teachers return too and build upon what they learned as well as pass on their expertise to new teachers.

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This experience also makes me want to do this with our Barrow families too.  There’s a lot of potential, and once again, I’m just scratching the surface.  We have a lot of work to do in the coming years, and it’s going to be exciting.

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I’m also excited to share that a new school makerspace book is available.  It’s called Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School.  It’s by Laura Fleming but has contributions by Shannon Miller, Diana Rendina,and me!

Navigating the Information Tsunami: Engaging Research Projects that Meet the Common Core Standards, K-5

Cherry Lake Publishing has a new and exciting book coming out called, Navigating the Information Tsunami:  Engaging Research Projects that Meet the Common Core Standards, K-5.  This text offers 18 projects, three from each grade level K-5, that go well-beyond fact recall.  These lessons are all grounded in the new Common Core Standards and focus on quality student research from our earliest learners to our older elementary students.  Each lesson is written by an educator who is an expert on the many literacies involved in research projects, the school teacher-librarian.  While the  lessons are written for classroom teachers, they all incorporate collaboration with the school librarian at some point during the project.  Also within the pages of the book, there are many graphic organizers and tips on topics such as citing sources in a multimedia world, creative commons images, what to do when Youtube is blocked, and more.  I encourage every elementary library to own at least one copy of this book.  I have a featured 1st grade project about the 4 seasons and fellow school librarian, Linda Martin, from Hall County has a featured 1st grade project about animals.  Check out the attached flyer and order your copy today!

Great Early Elementary Reads book list – Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)

Great Early Elementary Reads book list – Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).


The ALSC 2011-2012 School-Age Programs and Services Committee recently announced the updating of the Great Early Elementary Reads book list. The committee recommends these titles for children who are just learning to read and beginning to read on their own. The books included were published between 2009 and 2011

Summer Reading Begins….

How is your summer reading going?  Have you visited the public library yet?  How about reading book online?  Have you stopped by a yard sale or thrift store to find some great used books?  How about browsing the shelves at your local bookstore?

Well…my summer reading is off to a great start.  I’ve been reading a chapter book by Polly Horvath called Northward to the Moon. I checked it out from the Watkinsville library.  I also visited the Winterville library and the Athens library with my 5-month old daughter, Alora.  She signed up for the summer reading program and has already earned her first prize, her name on the wall for reading 10 books.  Stop by the Athens Library and see if you can find her name.  Here’s a clue….it’s on a frog.

If you’re a Barrow parent, I would love to hear how your summer reading is going with your child.  Leave a comment and tell us.  If you’re not a Barrow family, tell us how your summer reading is going.  Especially tell us if you have any great resources for summer reading or incentives.

Before I go, I wanted to share one more reading incentive you might take advantage of this summer.  Borders has a reading challenge to earn a free book.  All you have to do is read 10 books and you get a free book.  Why not take advantage of all these great prizes?  You’re already reading anyway!  Happy summer!

Read to Succeed

In our media center, we try to have several different reading promotions during the year to support reading for fun outside of school.  Earlier this year, we did a “Read Around the World” program where students read books from each section of our media center and earned stamps in a passport.  This allowed students to explore genres of books that they might not read on their own.  Several students have continued reading out of these sections even after the “promotion” was finished.

This month, we are participating in the Six Flags Read to Succeed program.  Students read outside of school for a total of six hours, record that time on a log sheet, have it signed by an adult, and they earn a free ticket to Six Flags for the summer.  Many of our students already read this much outside of school, so why not earn a free ticket to Six Flags for something you’re already doing!  For our students who aren’t in this routine yet, we hope that this might be one incentive that will start a culture of reading beyond the school walls.  Reading logs were sent home in purple folders on January 5th and logs are due back to teachers no later than February 26.

Our media center will always encourage students to celebrate the love of reading.  If  you have ideas of things you would like to see us do to support this, feel free to email me or post a comment.

Book Review Resource

The Unfinished Angel review

I found this great book review resource on the Inky Girl site The Unfinished Angel is a book that is relatively new in our media center, but it’s a great one!  This year, we’ve explored writing book reviews in a blogging format, but this review offers a comic-style way of writing reviews.  If this style of writing reviews  is something that interests you or your child, I would love to display some comic reviews in our media center and on our website.  Just let me know!

Raising Young Readers

Last night at our PTA meeting, Georgia Collier gave a wonderful presentation on supporting readers from birth to into their independent years.  One of the most amazing pieces of information that she shared was about the Wee Read program.  This program is made possible through the Ferst Foundation, United Way Success by 6, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.  Any child in Clarke County below the age of 5 can register.  Registered children receive one book per month that is age appropriate.  These books build a wonderful home library before children even begin school.  In the media center, we have a table setup with information and forms to fill out if you want to register your child.  I hope you will all take advantage of this great program.  I know I’m signing up my child as soon as she arrives in December!