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.
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
I got an overwhelming response from our teachers that this is an area that they want to explore more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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I love that you created time for teachers to explore the space! It is wonderful that you had so many resources and materials available to help them learn about what is available to students. It looks like you had bunches of teachers participating. Have you seen an increase in teacher activity and/or inquiry in the maker space since the Open House?
There’s definitely been an increase in students using the open makerspace. I think teachers need more than one session. There’s an increase in talk about integrating the space into lessons, but I still think we just need more time and exploration.
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