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.

Community Collaboration: Book Making in the Makerspace

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I love opportunities to connect with community and bring expertise, talents, and interests to our students.  Recently, a parent contacted me to tell me that her child’s grandmother was traveling to Athens to visit and would love to do book making with some students at our school.  I immediately responded back that we would love to have this opportunity in our makerspace, and the planning began.

Grandmother Kathleen sent me a list of supplies we would need, so I ordered those from Amazon in advance.  She packed everything else on her flight from Texas.

I also communicated with Gretchen Thomas at UGA to let her know that her students could help Kathleen during this makerspace time.  I let teachers know the topic of the makerspace in advance and students signed up to participate across two days (Tuesday and Thursday).

When Kathleen arrived, her enthusiasm for art was contagious.  You could tell that she was an amazing art teacher in Texas.  She had multiple examples of books she had made from instruction found in Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn.

So many amazing book making projects in this text. #librariesofinstagram #bookmaking #makered

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She had a different kinds of book planned for each group who visited the makerspace: 1st & 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 4th grade.

Before each group arrived, she put materials at each chair with the  help of Gretchen’s UGA students.  She gave very clear, step-by-step instructions for each group and me and the UGA students went around assisting students as needed.

Book making in today's makerspace #makered #librariesofinstagram #bookmaking

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A grandparent from Texas is leading book making in makerspace #librariesofinstagram #makered #bookmaking

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Because each project took more than 30-minutes, we reached a stopping point and then stored the projects for Thursday.

Each book had its own purpose and made me and the students think about so many possibilities. One book allowed you to record things from different perspectives. Another book allowed you to write your own Choose Your Own Adventure story with pull out cards.  Another book fanned out like a flower and allowed you to put poems, photographs, and more within the folds.

Each time Kathleen showed us a book, my mind was swirling with connections to each grade level’s curriculum.  Students were focused, productive, and buzzing with excitement about today’s makerspace.  I bet that when students are involved in the process of creating their own published books, they are more likely to fill those books with productive writing.  I know that when I personally made my own book during the final 30-minute session, I really wanted to go home and fill it with writing and photographs.

This book I made in makerspace today amazes me. #makered #bookmaking #librariesofinstagram #community #grandparentsrock

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I was reminded once again about how many interests and talents are hiding within our students, families, extended families, and community.  Alone, I would not have thought much about book making or how to attempt it with groups of students.  However, now that the expertise of a grandparent was shared with me and our students, I’m considering new possibilities with projects.

How many more talents and interests are just waiting for us within our communities?  How do we tap into these resources? This was an opportunity that was given to me, but I know that if I had a way of unearthing and organizing the wealth of talents and interests in our community that more opportunities like this would make its way to our students and teachers.

 

 

 

The Makerspace Is Open with a New Badging System

img_8887UGA 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.

1st and 3rd grade are building towers with strawbees in makerspace. #tlchat #makered #projectsparkuga @andreabeatyauthor

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thanks to @gretchen_thomas and her #projectsparkuga students, we have a makerspace badging system. #makered #tlchat

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I can’t wait to see where this goes, and I’m so thankful for Gretchen and her class making this happen!