The Meaning of Home: A 5th Grade Art Project

For the past month of our 5th graders have been exploring the meaning of home through art. They began their journey by reading Home by Carson Ellis and watching a video of Carson in her home.

They brainstormed what symbolized home for each of them. It is more than the physical building. It’s what you miss when you leave. It’s what comforts you.  It’s what makes you feel at home.

Using a variety of materials such as tissue paper, cardboard, construction paper, paint, and more, they began to construct a scene.  A portion of every student’s scene was made using a 3Doodler pen. These pens warm filament into a steady flow of material to 3D design in a freeform style. It took some tinkering to get used to these pens, but once students figured out the best strategies, they were designing swings, trampolines, bedrooms, trees, and more objects that symbolized home.  This work began in the library and continued in art until students finished.

As students finished their work, we began to construct an exhibit on the shelves of the library. Students filled out an artist statement to accompany each piece so that people touring the exhibit could learn more about each representation of home.  They also took time to record a Flipgrid to show and talk about their art.  This allowed people who aren’t at our school to also take a tour and meet the artists.

Click to hear the voices of our artists

We also wanted to inspire our youngest artists with our project, so once the project was on full display, we invited Kindergarten classes to come to art class with each 5th grade class.  The 5th graders were in charge of the lesson and tour (with the facilitation of Ms. Foretich, art teacher).

5th grade is reading Home to Kindergarten and sharing their art projects #art #home #librariesofinstagram

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The Kindergarten classes started on the carpet. A 5th grader read Home by Carson Ellis and students viewed a few of the Flipgrid videos. Ms. Foretich invited students to think about some questions they might ask the artists as they toured the exhibit. During this time, the rest of the 5th grade class was making sure their art pieces were ready and waited on the Kindergarten to begin touring.

Kindergarten is hearing all about our 5th grade Home exhibit. #librariesofinstagram #home #art #studentvoice

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Classes began wandering through the exhibit and listening to 5th graders talk about the process and materials of their art. One of the special things was when a student would make a connection to a piece of art and share a special moment about “home” from their own life.

The Kindergarten students left the library buzzing with excitement and talking about a project that they hoped they got to do in 5th grade. I’m sure Ms. Foretich is already brainstorming what these students might do next year so they don’t have to wait until 5th grade to do a project like this one.

This project was filled with student voice and ownership, and we learned something about each student that we might not know. It was also filled with perseverance and creativity. We were so impressed with what the students created. When we take time to get to know our students, it leads to connection, understanding, and new conversations. I would love to think about more opportunities to make these connections, especially earlier in students’ elementary years so that we can grow together through the year.

What represents home for you?

Barrow & CCSD Maker Faire

A goal I’ve been trying to achieve for awhile in our makerspace is to have ongoing individualized projects.  In the fall of this year, the media specialists started brainstorming having a district maker faire to showcase projects from all of our schools.  In the spring, Gretchen Thomas, had over 30 students in her UGA class that collaborates with our makerspace.  Normally, 4 students from Gretchen’s class come to our makerspace on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but with 30 students, it would be hard for her students to make it to our school multiple times.  We started pondering this new dilemma and realized that Gretchen’s dilemma aligned with my long-term goal.

Gretchen divided her class in half.  Half of her students continued Tuesday/Thursday makerspace times, and the other half became maker faire mentors on either Tuesdays or Thursday.  I gathered students who were interested in making something for maker faire and put them into a Tuesday or Thursday group.  Gretchen did the same with her students.

Maker faire projects and leprechaun traps #makerspace #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram

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At the first meeting, Gretchen’s students learned more about what students were wanting to make. I supported these conversations too, and we started gathering materials students needed for projects.  Each Tuesday and Thursday since February, these maker faire students have worked on an individual project while regular makerspace continued to run simultaneously.  It was loud and chaotic but productive.  Our makerspace storage also became very unorganized and I realized that I have a lot of work to do in order to store multiple on-going projects.

Maker faire is in full swing #makerfaire #makerspace #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram

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During our very first school maker faire, we setup tables around the library to showcase projects. I created a schedule for teachers to signup to bring their class.  Some times classes came and walked through to look.  Later in the day, the maker students were at their tables to demonstrate their products and answer questions.  Again, this was loud and chaotic, but it was organized and productive.

Welcome to maker faire #ccsdmaker #makerfaire #librariesofinstagram

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Many kids found ideas that they were excited about and wanted to try out.  Many kids got to test some of the products that were made.  Gretchen’s entire class also came during the day to listen to students talk about their projects, keep tables organized, and introduce students to Ozobots and Cubelets.  As usual, miraculous moments happened throughout the day.

 

Here are a few:

Dominique developed her leadership skills as she ran the robotics table for most of the day.  Two students who had made robots were unable to come, so she stepped up and demonstrated their robots for them and kept the table orderly and made sure people had a turn to try out driving a Finch robot.

Speaking of robots, one of the robots had a name: Bob Jello.

Throughout the day, his personality seemed to develop on its own as kids began to talk about Bob Jello rather than just talking about a robot.  Before we knew it, the other robots had been deemed the “evil kitties” and a battle ensued between Bob Jello and the kitties.  Students were huddled up cheering on the robots and it had me thinking about how much we could do with storytelling and robotics.

Evil cats vs Bob Jello #battlebots #ccsdmaker #makerfaire #makerspace

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My daughter, Alora, made a butterfly sculpture with a 3Doodler pen.  She taught group after group about how the pens worked and managed kids taking turns and making very small sculptures. It was fun to see her as a 1st grader teaching kids in much older grades.

Several students made projects with their dads, and it was fun to watch the students share about their work with others. Patrick’s dad came and presented alongside him to talk about catapult gliders.  They had a tri-board, video, and several models.  It was a popular table that many students were interested in exploring.

Father and son sharing glider catapults at our maker faire. #makerspace #makerfaire #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram

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Linden had a freestyle Tic Tac Toe game he made with his dad, and we loved learning the story of how the game originated at a restaurant table using sugar and sweet n low packets.

Finally, Forrest made  documentary with his dad about Zepplins.  This is a topic that many kindergarten students might not take on, but Forrest was super knowledgeable and shared his expertise along with playing his video.

Kindergarten film maker chatting about Zepplins. #makerfaire #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram #documentary

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Josie had made a robot from carboard and duct tape, and she really wanted to make it move.  She used littebits and fishing line to make its arms move up and down. Rather than just sit at the table the whole time talking, Josie worked!  She continuously made improvements to her design so that the arms would move more and more.  Students started giving her ideas of what she might do next, and she may even attempt that soon.

Cardboard robot using @littlebits #makerspace #ccsdmaker #makerfaire #librariesofinstagram

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Our intern, Jen Berry, worked with four 1st graders to submit maker projects, and all four of them had projects that were of high interest to visitors.  Many students wanted to make their own terrarium after seeing Zarema’s 2-liter bottle terrarium.

Prepping for tomorrow's maker faire #ccsdmaker #terrarium #makerfaire #makerspace

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Students made art with Shanti’s scribble bot.  Parachutes were launching and being dreamed up thanks to Eric and Kaden’s garbage bag parachutes.

Scribble bot #makerfaire #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram #makerspace

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Last minute entries rolled in like Aley’s handmade wooden guitar he is using for his music project.

It was so hard to capture every moment.  It was so exhausting, and I’m already thinking about how I will organize it differently next year to involve more students and more classes touring the projects, while also calling on more volunteers to give me a bit more sanity.

Many of these projects will now be showcased at our district maker faire which will take place on Saturday April 1 from 2-4:30PM at Clarke Central High School.  I highly encourage you to attend if you can.  There will be over 100 makers featured from Prek-12th grade. It’s a great opportunity to see the amazing creativity we have in our district.

I’m so thankful for Gretchen and her students for supporting our students. It is a great collaboration that benefits many student voices.  Thank you Gretchen for staying most of the day to help and to Jen Berry for jumping in the chaos and helping the day be a success.

 

Design Challenge Makerspace

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I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. We are so fortunate to have the University of Georgia right next to our school and even more fortunate to have instructors like Gretchen Thomas who collaborate with local schools.  Gretchen and I have been collaborating for about 3 years now, and each year we try some new things.  We’re always looking for ways to improve the makerspace time at our school as well as the opportunities available to students.

Gretchen teaches an undergraduate course at UGA all related to maker education, design thinking, STEAM, and more. Every Tuesday and Thursday, at least 4 of her students come to our library to work with students who sign up for our open makerspace time.

This semester we are once again trying something new. Rather than try to do something new on Tuesday and Thursday, students sign up for a 2-day makerspace that gives them time to work toward finishing a project rather than feeling rushed. In addition, we are thinking about design challenges as well as seeking solutions to authentic problems.

Sketching plans for @sphero chariots #librariesofinstagram #steam

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This week, we had our first UGA group of the semester and they offered a chariot building design challenge.  Students had access to Strawbees, popsicle sticks, cups, straws, tape, paper, scissors, and anything else in our maker supply cart.  Students from 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade came to the sessions.

So many chariot designs #designchallenge #steam #librariesofinstagram #makerspace

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The UGA group started out my explaining what a chariot is.  Then, they gave students the task.  Design a chariot that can be pulled by a Sphero robot.  Students grouped themselves in groups of 2-4 and brainstormed designs on paper.

Sphero chariot in action #makerspace #librariesofinstagram #steam #designchallenge @sphero

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Next, students started construction of their chariots.  There was a lot of trial and error during this process.  Designs on paper didn’t always translate to physical designs so adjustments were made.  The UGA students also got out some Spheros so students could check their design to make sure the Sphero fit in the right places.  No driving was done on day 1.

Students left their designs on the table in the makerspace so they were ready for day 2.  On day 2, students finished designs and began testing their work with a Sphero.  Most designs did not work out on the first try, so students brainstormed modifications and got to work. I loved listening to their thought process in deciding what was problematic and how they could fix that aspect of the design.

I also saw students considering the settings of the Sphero to change the driving speed in order to navigate an obstacle course of coffee cans and ramps with their Sphero.

I really loved this two-day model because I saw students able to finish a project and actually take time to redesign.  Students loved coming to makerspace 2 days during the week rather than just one.  We’ll keep considering how this supports students creation and how it might get in the way of opportunities.

I also have a group of students who are wanting to work on individual projects and Gretchen is going to help me pair UGA mentors with these students as a 2nd piece of makerspace.

We’ll see where this goes, but the potential is looking pretty miraculous!

Kindergarten Makerspace Exploration

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Every Tuesday and Thursday from 11-12:30, we have an open makerspace time for students to sign up to explore the world of making.  This time supports students from many of our grades, but it doesn’t support all students.  In addition to weaving makerspace into projects, I’ve been trying to host times for grades who can’t come at our normal makerspace hours to come and explore

Kindergarten is one of these grades. The Kindergarten teachers came to a maker professional learning session I did in the new year, and they really wanted to work out times for small groups of students to come to makerspace. We made a plan to have a couple of days each week where 3 students from each class came for a 30-minute maker time.  That equals 12 students.  For now, the students are different each time until we see the students who really get hooked into some of the maker tools. That means I have to offer the same experience multiple times so that all students get to try it.

The first day, we made kazoos out of rubber bands, popsicle sticks, and straws. This is an activity straight from Aaron & Colleen Graves’s Big Book of Makerspace Projects.  It honestly wasn’t the best experience for this age or maybe just this group.  The fine motor skills in the group had a hard time putting the pieces of the kazoo together, and tears flowed if the kazoos didn’t make a sound. Even with some growth mindset reminders and walking through how to back up and try again, there were still students who just gave up.  The students also needed a lot more assistance with this project than what I wanted for makerspace.  We still had fun and hosted a mini-parade around the library with kazoo.  We also had a great conversation about what we might try if we made our own adjustments to the kazoos.

Kazoo parade #librariesofinstagram #steam #makerspace #ccsdmaker

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I decided to abandon that project with the next group and try something new.

Next, we tried stop motion videos and Lego construction.  Magic started to happen with this experience.  We started by looking at a 4th grade stop motion project from last year and seeing what we noticed.

I have a box of Lego mini-figure pieces, so I pulled that out and asked students to construct one mini-figure and put it on a base plate.

In a matter of moments, they not only created the mini-figures, but they also started adding accessories that really started to create a story right before our eyes.

Preparing for more kindergarten stop motion. #librariesofinstagram #lego #stopmotion #ccsdmaker

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Next, I asked students to take their mini-figure and place it at an iPad I had setup at tables around the library.  Then they came back to me at the building table.  I demonstrated the Stop Motion Studio app on the iPad and used a mini-figure to show how to keep the iPad and base plate still while making small movements with the mini-figure.

Seeing what kindergarteners put together out of a big box of random Legos was awesome. #librariesofinstagram #lego #kindergarten

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Finally, students went to their tables and gave it a try.  It was magical to look around and see such engagement. Every student was focused. Every student was creating a story.  Every student was eager to keep going even when I said time was up.

This is what 12 kindergarten students doing stop motion looks like. So peaceful. #librariesofinstagram #lego #stopmotion #ccsdmaker

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Now I’ll be  honest that the quality of the stop motion created has a lot of room for improvement.  The fine motor skills still got in our way, but I’m really thinking about how I can help students keep their plates and iPads still while only moving their figures.  They really tried hard not to move things around, but they just couldn’t help it sometimes.

Kindergarten stop motion in progress. #librariesofinstagram #lego #stopmotion

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At the end, I asked them if they would continue working on this type of project and all students in 2 separate groups of 12 said yes.  We talked about how you would need more time and how you would create more elements of a narrative story.  The engagement was high, and it has my wheels turning about how this can be done with more students and how I can support the students in creating higher quality projects in the end.  There is great potential for storytelling projects in the future.  For a 30-minute session, it was a great start.

If you have stop motion tips for our earliest learners, please leave a comment.

Weaving Together Social Studies and Makerspace

inventors-24Our 5th grade is currently studying the impact on American life that several famous inventors had. When I was brainstorming with Shelley Olin, 5th grade social studies teacher, we began to wonder about connections these standards had to makerspace.  It started as an idea seed and grew into a set of experiences for all 5th graders to engage in.

I wanted students to put themselves into the shoes of an inventor so that they could begin to understand the perseverance and curiosity that inventors have. We focused on 3 of the inventors: Thomas Edison (electricity), Alexander Graham Bell (communication), and the Wright Brothers (flight).

I prepared 3 centers on electricity, communication, and flight.  Each center included a biography about the inventors, instructions for an activity, and a clipboard to leave wisdom for the next group to learn from.

Invention centers are being prepped for our 5th graders. #librariesofinstagram #makerspace #invention #bitmoji

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For flight, I selected some paper airplanes that could be made from a full sheet of paper.  I also included books about other paper airplanes.

For communication, I created 2 choices.  One was to use littlebits to create a tool for communicating using Morse code. I included a buzzer and LED bit as well as button, pulse sensor, and slide dimmer bits.  The other experience was to create a tin can phone.  I provided coffee cans and cups and various kinds of string.

Invention centers are finally ready for 5th grade #librariesofinstagram #invention #makerspace #steam #socialstudies

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For electricity, I copied instructions for making a simple paper circuit using a coin battery, led light, and copper tape.  I put materials in Ziploc bags so each group would have what they needed to create a circuit.  I added extra led lights for tinkering beyond an simple circuit.

It took a long time to prepare all of the materials for 3 back-to-back 5th grade classes.  I had to have everything ready for an immediate turn round between classes.

Before coming to the library to engage in some makerspace activities related to these themes, students read about each inventor in textbooks and on PebbleGo.  They gave Ms. Olin their top 2 interests out of the 3 themes so that she could put them in groups.

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In the library, we started by looking at the littlebits invention cycle.  There’s not just one place to start in the cycle and it doesn’t necessarily follow a linear sequence.  We talked about how students could start with “create” by following the directions that I had given. Then they could play with their creation and begin to remix ideas to create an improved version or an alternative invention.  By the end, I hoped that they would have something to share with the rest of their class or group.  It really seemed like it could be linear in talking about it, but I quickly saw that it is very fluid.

After our quick intro, students sorted into their chosen task and got to work. Luckily, Ms. Olin and other collaborative teachers joined the class during this session. At times, we had me and 3 teachers supporting students around the library.  It was 3 very different activities, so having the extra support was beneficial.

Inventions in action #5thgrade #invention #librariesofinstagram #makerspace #steam

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What I quickly saw was how much students wanted to just jump in and put things together without reading directions.  At paper airplanes, students started folding paper in all sorts of folds and testing them out.

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At paper circuits, students were sticking down tape and connecting the led to the battery without reading  the instructions or even formulating a plan.

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At tin can phones, students immediately started connecting cans.

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But…as I stepped back and thought about it, isn’t that really what inventors do?  They don’t necessarily have a set of instructions to follow. They just try things out to see what happens.

After some initial tinkering, several students did in fact try to read the instructions and many said that they wished they had read them at the beginning. It was an important lesson that we talked about and learned from. It’s hard to read all the instructions before putting something together when all you want is to see the finished product.  I do that myself as an adult.

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One thing that was really interesting was when students finished their first prototype and they started remixing. One example at the tin can phone center was when 2 groups decided to combine their two phones and see if they could make a four-way call.

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At the paper airplane center, students started combining their planes together to see if a combination would create a better flying plane.  They were truly embracing the idea of remixing.

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When we came back together at the end, I asked students to think about what it was like to be an inventor.  We had some great conversation about perseverance, staying calm through frustration, trying again, problem solving, and taking plenty of time to invent. We circled back to our inventors and considered how much time, frustration, and perseverance they each put into their inventions.  I think the experience gave the students a greater appreciation for the inventors they were learning about rather than just passively reading about them.

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We even had a moment to talk about continuing inventions in our makerspace or at home and entering them into our school maker faire coming soon.  I loved how a simple idea from a social studies standard was able to weave together growth mindset, literature, social studies, and makerspace all into one experience.

 

Holiday Makerspace

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Our regular makerspace time is on break since UGA is out until spring semester.  However, our students are still eager to come. This week I hosted a special holiday makerspace at a different time than our typical makerspace time.  I created a Google doc and offered two 30-minute sessions for students in any grade to sign up to make holiday-inspired crafts using books weeded from our library collection.

Ready to make ornaments and paper chains out of old books in makerspace tomorrow #librariesofinstagram #makered #reuse #ornaments

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Prior to the makerspace, I took several weeded books and ripped out pages.  Volunteers and people walking into the library thought I had gone crazy, but I loved finding a new use for books that would likely go to recycling or sit unused in a box.  Some pages I put in stacks and other pages I cut into strips.

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The two crafts offered were paper chains and snowflake ornaments. The paper chains were pretty self explanatory.  I just cut pages into strips so that students could create chains to use for Christmas trees or countdowns to whatever they hoped to countdown toward like Christmas, Hanukkah, a birthday, or something else.

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The snowflake ornaments took a bit more instruction.

  1.  Students took two pages from books that were close to the same size.
  2. They folded them like you would fold a paper fan.
  3. They tied the middle of the fan fold with string so that it would unfold.
  4. They glued the ends of the folded fan so that it could unfold into the shape of a snowflake half.
  5. They took the two fanned out halves and glued them together
  6. They added a string for hanging on a tree or other special place

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During the two sessions, I had a mix of 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th graders.  The all arrived at different times, so we found ourselves constantly restarting instructions.  The great thing was that in typical makerspace form, the students started to help one another.  I gave instructions as I could, but then the students passed on knowledge to one another.  The 1st graders needed the most support in tying string and folding paper, but other grades were very independent.

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I was really glad that paper chains was a choice because it was easy for students to take on with little explanation.  It was surprising to see how many students had never made a paper chain.  The pages from books made some of the most beautiful chains I’ve seen.  The ones I’ve made have always been from solid construction paper, and these had a bit of fashion and artistic vibes.

Ornament making #ornaments #makerspace #librariesofinstagram

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Our time was of course noisy, messy, and fun.  We could have done this project for much longer than 30 minutes.  If we hadn’t run out of time, we could have started exploring variations of the designs. Some students naturally started doing this but they just ran out of time.  We also could have individualized the chains and ornaments even more with craft scissors, possibly glitter (if we were that adventurous, or combined some other materials from our maker cart.

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I’m going to hold onto this idea and see where it takes us in the second half of the year or even next school year.

 

Closing Out Fall with a Makerspace Recess

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The fall semester is coming to a close at UGA, which means our open makerspace times on Tuesdays and Thursdays is about to take a small break until January.  To close out the semester, the entire Maker Dawgs class returned to Barrow to host a makerspace recess.

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Setting this time up take a little more work than having makerspace in the library, but each time we take our makerspace beyond the library, I’m reminded about how it makes the opportunity visible to students.

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Gretchen Thomas arrived early and started setting up tables under our pavilion on the playground. Each table featured something we’ve done in makerspace across the semester.

  1.  Duct tape bows and bow ties
  2. Kindness pins and necklaces
  3. Buttons
  4. Popsicle kazoos
  5. Strawbee architecture
  6. Cubelets

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Since we were outside, we could also have stations that are more difficult to do inside like sidewalk chalk art.  As UGA students arrived, they each took a station to facilitate any students who wanted to try that activity.  When students arrived at recess, they immediately gravitated toward the makerspace to see what was going on. One of the most common things I heard was: “I didn’t sign up”.  It was so fun to say that the makerspace was open to all.  Since we had numerous helpers and could spread out, it didn’t matter how many students wanted to participate or how loud they were.  Because of this, we saw students who had never been to makerspace suddenly get to experience what we do.

I know that I can’t do the scale of makerspace that we did today by myself, but I do want to think about how I can offer small opportunities to tinker with our makerspace tools in spaces where students are already gathered.  The tricky piece comes with managing the library while I’m in another space. Without a helper, I have to think about the best times I can do this while I have a volunteer or our computer technician in the library.

A great day for making at recess. #worldkindnessday #choosekind #makerspace

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As typically happens in makerspace, we saw big groups of students who might not play together on the playground suddenly crowded around the same table sharing materials, collaborating, chatting, and sharing their creations. There’s something magical about the atmosphere of a makerspace and the community it builds among makers.

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I need to keep this thought at the front of my mind as I move into the 2nd half of the year. How can I maintain the makerspace opportunities we have as well as expand the opportunities to students who haven’t had a chance to participate?

As always, thank you to Gretchen Thomas, her Maker Dawgs students, and UGA for exploring this complex topic with me each semester. We’re doing great work together.