UGA is back in session which means our makerspace is cranking up again. We already have some curriculum connections planned for special projects, but our students look forward to the weekly open makerspace times on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-12:30.
Gretchen Thomas and her UGA class collaborate with us to provide a weekly time where students can signup to explore various tools and projects in our makerspace. Four UGA students come each time and lead up to 15 students every 30 minutes in the makerspace so that I can also teach classes at the same time.
Gretchen and I are have learned a lot during our collaboration together, and I love that she’s always pushing her class to try something new. For our first few sessions this year, the UGA students are presenting a maker-related book to the students and an activity to accompany that book. There’s not really enough time to read the entire book and still make something, but they at least are able to show the book, talk a bit about it, and then make something with the students.
For our first session, the UGA students read or showed Iggy Peck Architect. At the end of the book, they invited our students in 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades to become an architect and use Strawbees to build the tallest free standing tower.
I loved watching the UGA students decide how much information to give the students versus when to let them discover things on their own. In one group, they just gave them the Strawbees and straws and said “build”.
Then, in another group they gave some examples of how the straws and Strawbees could connect to one another. The amount of guidance definitely impacted the type of structures made.
I don’t know that we have a firm answer on how much structure to offer to the students, but I’m glad that we are always thinking about how much is too much. I think we certainly stayed conservative on how much we told the students. Every structure was different and students found things that worked really well and things that failed miserably. In the end, the important thing is that we really didn’t have students who gave up or who even got extremely upset because they didn’t “win”. That’s the true spirit of making.
One new addition this year is something we’ve talked about for a long time. So many students come to the makerspace, that it’s hard to track who has learned what tool or skill. I really wanted a badging system but didn’t think I had time to make it. Gretchen and I have talked through this many times and discussed the idea of badges for specific tools like Sphero, Duct Tape, LittleBits, etc and badges for skills such as problem-solver, thinking outside the box, teamwork, etc.
Gretchen took it upon herself to make this happen for us. She started making badges that students would attach to chain necklaces. Students would earn a badge for the tool they explored and the group they worked with as well as have an opportunity to earn rare badges for skills or qualities. Gretchen and her students will continue to design badges and add them to the collection. They will be stored in plastic drawers in the makerspace. Students will hang their necklaces on a hook in the space and grab them when they come to makerspace.
We’ll easily be able to look at badges and see which students have learned which tools and which students have demonstrated the skills of a maker.
I can’t wait to see where this goes, and I’m so thankful for Gretchen and her class making this happen!