November Makerspace with Doll-E 1.0

Our makerspace is taking a break for the next 2 months while we work on our student book budget project. We wrapped up November with a makerspace inspired by the book Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda Mcloskey. This book is about a girl who receives a doll that only says “mama”. She tries lots of ways to play with the doll but just can’t get past the fact that it only says one thing. Then, she figures out that she can hack the toy using her computer programming skills and a Makey Makey.  As soon as I read this book last year, I wanted to do a makerspace with it. Then, the amazing Colleen Graves put together an instructables with step-by-step instructions on how to create a toy programmed with Scratch and controlled by Makey Makey.  While we didn’t really follow all of Colleen’s instructions, we did have fun creating our own variations.  Here’s a look at what we did.

For context, this took place during our open makerspace time on Tuesdays/Thursdays. Students sign up through their teacher via a Google Doc. We have four 30-minute segments which allows students from grades 1-5 to try out our month-long theme. Students from Gretchen Thomas’s maker class at UGA help facilitate each of the segments alongside me.

Session 1: Tinkering

Since students have a variety of experiences with Scratch and Makey Makey, we wanted all students to have some time to tinker with both tools. Our UGA students made some example toys out of toilet paper rolls, aluminum foil, copper tape, and a variety of other objects. We stationed these at tables with Makey Makey piano and Makey Makey kits. Students had an opportunity to tinker with how to hook up the Makey Makey as well as how to use the toy to play the piano on the computer. In another area, students practiced creating blocks of code in Scratch with events and sounds.

Session 2 & 3: Coding

In these sessions, students considered the sounds they would like their toy to make. They could record their own sounds or use the gallery of sounds located in Scratch. Each student made an account in Scratch and worked to code all four arrow keys and the space bar to correspond with the front of the Makey Makey.  More advanced students could try out some of the extra pieces of code from Colleen’s instructions, but most students simply used an event block “when key is pressed” and a sound block “play sound until done”.

This was one of the most frustrating pieces of our project because with such as short time segment and students who couldn’t remember their email addresses and passwords, it took a long time to get accounts setup. Once we got through the initial setup, the coding wasn’t too bad, especially if students took the simple route.

Session 4: Toy Creation

In this session, students used toilet paper and paper towel tubes to create toys. We asked them to think about making up to 5 points of contact to connect their Makey Makey to. This was their first focus before adding details to give their toy character. Students used clothes pins, copper tape, brads, paper clips, aluminum foil, and other miscellaneous conductors.

We had a hot glue gun station with 5 glue guns to attach pieces. A UGA student stayed with the glue guns to facilitate safety.

Then, students used a variety of craft supplies to give their toy character: sequins, googly eyes, pom poms, feathers, etc.

I won’t lie. This was extremely messy and no matter how many hands I had helping or how many ways I tried to keep us organized, we ended up with supplies all over the tables, chairs, and floor.

As students finished their segment, we stored the toys in cardboard boxes by grade level.

Session 5:

This was the session to bring it all together. If students needed to finish coding or their toy, this was the session to do it. Then, their final goal was to hook up their toy to Makey Makey and see if their code worked. Many students realized that they had not created 5 separate contact points but had instead created contact points that touched one another. This resulted in 2-3 different sounds going off at one time. This was a good learning experience because they had to figure out a way to revise their design.  If we had additional sessions this could have been expanded on but most just got to the beginnings of revision.

Our youngest makers in 1st grade didn’t quite make it through all of the steps since they had so much to explore and learn. In this final session, we hooked up the UGA student toys to the 1st graders’ code and also had a computer with pre-made code where they could try out the toys they had made.  This was also true for students who had missed one or more sessions.  We just couldn’t get through all the steps.

There were a lot of moments during this month where I wanted to pull my hair out and moments where I had to stop and take deep breaths. I had to remind students that I didn’t hold all the answers and I couldn’t show them every step to do. I find that this is a constant struggle. Students can figure things out if they just have the space and encouragement. Many of them stepped up, persevered through frustration, and helped their peers when they figured things out.

In the end, I learned a lot about what this might look like as a class or grade level curriculum based project. We could do so much with storytelling and writing with this project in addition to the science standards involved. The purpose of our makerspace wasn’t to have a polished product at the end. We wanted to have fun, problem solve, and invent while learning a lot about coding and circuits. I think we accomplished that, even if there were moments that felt messy and chaotic. I would do it again and try to do a bit more to keep us organized and moving forward. More days would definitely have been beneficial.

Studying the Art of Mike Lowery (Plus a Contest)

 

We are eagerly awaiting a visit from author/illustrator Mike Lowery on October 24th to celebrate his new book Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve held a design-a-dino contest. Interested students picked up a blank design sheet from the library.  They could design a new type of dino and list out it’s many features in the style of Mike Lowery’s new book or they could research an actual dino and include true facts.  This was a very popular contest with students and we had to make additional copies of the entry form on numerous occasions.

It has been really fun seeing the student creativity in each grade level. Most students chose to create new dinosaurs and some of the designs and “facts” have been pretty humorous.

It’s going to be a hard decision as we choose 10 winners to receive an autographed copy of Mike Lowery’s dinosaur book.  Every design will be displayed in our library windows at Mike’s visit. Take a look at just a few of the entries.

 

The art teacher and I are also collaborating together with our 3rd graders. Each 3rd grade class came to the library during art time for a cartoon study.

We started out by learning a bit about Mike Lowery and his new book through these two videos.

We watched this video up to the point where Mike talks about the new book:

Then we switched to this video to learn about the new book:

Then we set students up for their work session.  Students were split between 3 tables.  One table had books written and/or illustrated by Mike Lowery.

The other 2 tables had a variety of graphic novels from different authors and illustrators. At each table, students were supposed to see what they noticed about line, shape, color, simplification, and how text was incorporated.

As students looked at books and talked, Ms. Foretich and I rotated to each table and had conversations with students about their noticings.

If a table was having trouble picking out observations, we offered some models.  For example, we noticed that many of Mike Lowery’s illustrations use dots for eyes and lines on eyebrows or mouths to create expression.

After students rotated to each table, we collected books and introduced a project. Students got to choose from 4 final products based on their observations from the tables.  They could:

  • Create an informational poster in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a character and book cover for a comic in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a self portrait in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a one page comic

For this first session, students had time to select the project they were most interested and then create some initial sketches, notes, or story lines in their artist sketchbooks.

Now, students will begin working on their final project in art class and the final products will be displayed on the walls of our school during Mike Lowery’s visit.  We can’t wait to meet Mike Lowery.  Look for a post at the end of October about our visit.

First Grade 3D Jewelry Design with Makers Empire

Each year, the art teacher and I collaborate on a 3D design and 3D printing project to accompany her art standards in 1st grade. Blokify has been a trusty 3D design tool that has served this project well due to its simplicity on the iPad. However, this year we hit a road block. Blokify is no longer available in the app store, and this was the year that our iPads finally quit supporting its functionality.

I began exploring alternatives.  There are so many 3D design apps and web tools out there, but the tricky part is finding one that is developmentally supportive to 1st graders.  The app I decided on was Makers Empire. This app has a lot of options for 3D design and also has some gaming built in, but it has a block based design tool called Blocker that works very similar to Blokify. This app is free to use but it’s not free to access the teacher dashboard and be able to download the STL files for 3D printing. It’s also not cheap, so we decided to test it out with a free 14-day trial and see how it served our project.

After tinkering with the app on my own, I decided on some steps it would take to get our 1st graders designing. Makers Empire is not an app you can just open up and start. There’s some setup involved, which I felt like was a bit of a barrier to our 1st graders. Ms. Foretich and I made a slideshow of steps to get students started, and we all sat in front of the screen to do these setup steps together.

First, students tapped on “new” to create new accounts. First, they create a hero. This is their avatar, but we didn’t want to spend much time on this so we just told them to tap each button and make a quick selection.

Next, students let Makers Empire assign them a random name and skipped the password step.

Prior to their arrival, I went into the dashboard and setup a class for each 1st grade homeroom. Students were able to select their class, grade, and type their real name so that I could easily identify their account in the teach dashboard.

This finally brought students to the screen where they were ready to create in Blocker.

At this point, we had students turn over their iPads so that they could see the steps needed to create a jewelry pendant for 3D printing. Since Makers Empire has so many things to click on, I really wish we had time for them to tinker first. However, we decided to focus them on a few buttons and promise them that when they finished their design that they could tinker with any of the other parts of the app.

In Blocker, we only needed students to use the add, delete, and view buttons to create their design, so we showed them these 3 buttons. We also talked to them about the requirements for a pendant. It needed to be one level tall. All pieces had to be connected by at least one side. There had to be a hole for string to go through. Students could design a specific shape or something abstract.

We sent them to tables with iPads and then rotated around to support students with any design questions or confusions they had. Once students were actually in Blocker, most of them had little to no trouble figuring out how to design. When students felt their design was done, they raised a hand for us to come and double check it. Then, they named the file with their name and moved on to tinkering with any part of the app.

Once students left, there were several steps for me to do. I loved that I could log in to the dashboard in Makers Empire and pull up each class, see their files, and download the STL file. This was such an easy step that was so much better than my experience with Blokify. I imported each filed into the Makerware software for our Makerbot and put about 8 files on each plate. On paper, I labeled each plate with student names so I knew which file belonged to which student.

Then, the printing began. Each plate took about an hour to print and there were about 3 plates per class. In all, it took about 12 hours to print the whole first grade’s files across a few days. As each plate printed, I put pendants in individual ziploc bags with the teacher and student name written on the outside.

When classes were finished printing, Ms. Foretich took the pendants to the art room for the final steps. Students colored their pendants with sharpie markers, placed string through the pendant, and added decorative beads to finalize their jewelry piece.

I loved seeing students wearing their necklaces around the school. They were so proud to show them off to me in the hallways.

Now, Ms. Foretich and I need to think through this tool, how often we might actually use it through the next school year, and whether it’s worth the lofty price tag. If you know of other 3D design tools that might be a good fit for this project and first graders, comment below.

 

The Winner of the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize Is…

Our 2nd graders gathered in the library for the 6th annual announcement of the Barrow Peace Prize. During this special ceremony, we connect with the team at Flipgrid. Each year, the Flipgrid team grows, and this year we connected with them at their headquarters in Minnesota and also in other locations where team members were working. The kids loved seeing their many faces on the screen celebrating their work.

Before our Skype, I showed students a map of places their voices were heard around the world. They were amazed by the pins in over 110 different locations and counting.

During our ceremony, we started with some introductions and greetings from the Flipgrid team. Then, we took time to hear some special stories from the project. Every year, we get comments on social media about the project which I share with the students. They love having a personal connection with people who have heard their voices.

This year, I had a message exchange with an individual from Canada. She messaged me through our library Facebook page, so I shared her message with the students.

Marion Hodges from Canada says: “greetings from Canada. For the kids who chose Jackie Robinson they might be interested to know that he started his pro career in Montreal with the Montreal Royals. He endured a lot of the same treatment but also a lot of respect. After that he went on to play with the Dodgers. For the kids who chose Rosa Parks – there is a lady named Viola Desmond who did something very similar in Nova Scotia in the 1940s as she refused to leave the “white-only” section of the cinema. She was a successful beautician and entrepreneur and you can see her picture on the Canadian 10 dollar bill.”

Next, we launched into awards. Each teacher selected 3 students to receive one of three awards:

  • Prolific Persuader: For using your persuasive techniques to encourage an authentic audience to vote for your civil rights leader.
  • Outstanding Openers: For using a creative hook to capture your audience’s attention from the very beginning of your persuasive writing.
  • Dynamic Designers: For creating an inspiring piece of art to accompany your persuasive writing and visually engage your audience.

Christine, Marty, and Sindy from Flipgrid announced these student winners. This is one of my favorite parts of the ceremony because the kids erupt in applause for their classmates as they walk up to receive the award. The Flipgrid team applauded each group of students and we took a quick picture with the screen.

Another tradition we have thanks to a former Barrow student is having students design the Barrow Peace Prize. This year, students applied to design the peace prize by submitting sketches or ideas for what it might look like. Six students were chosen. We met together in the library and found ways to combine our ideas into one prize. The design was created in Tinkercad and printed on our Makerbot 3D printer. Each of the designers received a medal. Every student who researched the winner of the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize also received a medal. Finally, each classroom received a medal for students to take turns wearing. Even though we have one winner of the prize, this is a project that we are all contributors to.

Finally came the moment kids have been waiting to hear. The Flipgrid team announced the winner of the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize.

Jackie Robinson received the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize. Kids once again erupted with cheers and applause.

All of the researchers of Jackie Robinson came up to received their medals and take a picture. As soon as students left, I updated our Smore page.

Once again, I was reminded of how special this project is. There are so many ways for students to get engaged with the content whether their strength is art, writing, reading, speaking, designing, or something in between. I love that it gets our student voices out into the world in a positive way and shows our students how far their voices can travel.

Thank you to all of our students and teachers for their hard work on this project. Thank you to all who voted. Thank you Capstone for getting us kicked off each year in our research with PebbleGo. Thank you Flipgrid for amplifying our student voice with your product and celebrating our work each year. We look forward to next year.

 

 

Kindergarten Exploring How Books Are Made: Authors, Illustrators, Editors, & Publishers

Kindergarten has launched into an exploration of “how-to” writing. In class, they’ve been thinking a lot about the steps it takes to make something. They’ve been taking these steps and writing their own “how-to” books.

As a part of this exploration, they are also exploring how books are made. The teachers each scheduled 2 sessions in the library. During the 1st session, we split the class into 3 groups to rotate through centers related to how books are made. Since this was Kindergarten, we had me, the classroom teacher, and the classroom paraprofessional to lead the centers that I planned.

Center 1: Read Aloud

We used How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex. In true Mac Barnett form, this book is filled with humor that was a little bit above the heads of some Kindergarten friends, but there’s a lot of great info on the process that a book goes through to end up in our hands. The book goes over the role of the author taking an idea and turning it into a draft. It also hits home the idea of writing multiple drafts of a book and getting feedback from an editor that is sometimes hard to receive.  Next the book takes us through the illustrator’s role of creating pictures for the author’s words. It shows students how the book is printed and put together before it is shipped to the shelves to await a reader.

To me, one of the best lines in this book happens at the end when Mac writes, “a book can have words and pictures and paper and tigers, but a book still isn’t a book, not really, until it has a reader”.

Center 2: Video

I pulled together a variety of videos so that we could pick and choose pieces of videos to play and discuss with students. One video from Capstone walks through the process of making a book from an idea to the printing.

If students were really interested in how a book is actually put together, we spent more time with this Discovery video.

I also wanted students to hear from some authors. There are many options to choose from, but I pulled an interview with Jacqueline Woodson. She shares more details about ideas, characters, and rewriting.

Since students are exploring how to make their own books, I also wanted them to see some different options than what we might have in our library. They watched just a bit of this video showing elaborate pop-up books by Robert Sabuda.

We could pause the videos along the way and let kids make noticings or ask questions about how books are made.

Center 3: Writing & Illustrating

At this writing center, students put themselves in the shoes of an author and illustrator. Since our time was limited, we weren’t writing a full story. Instead, students finished the stem “Once upon a time there was….”.  Students filled in whatever they wanted to as the author.

We talked about how often an author and illustrator don’t meet in person. The publisher might assign a text to an illustrator and the publisher is the one who communicates with that person. To mimic this, students sent their writing to someone else at the table. That person read the text and created an illustration to go with the text.

This was a challenge for some students because they saw that the illustrator didn’t always draw things the way they had pictured it in their mind. We used this “conflict” to connect with what published authors and illustrators sometimes face.

Closing:

We came back together after our 3 experiences and took a glance around the library as the books sat on the shelves around us. We talked about how every book on our shelves has gone through a journey to make it to our shelves. Students shared some of the journey that they remembered from the various centers.

Next up, students will be working in the art classroom to make their own bound book.  Then, they will return to the library to explore the “how-to” books.

 

Max and the MidKnights: A Visit with Lincoln Peirce

We’ve been building excitement for weeks to get ready for an author/illustrator visit with Lincoln Peirce. Many people know Lincoln from his bestselling series Big Nate, but he has an equally fantastic new book out called Max and the Midknights. This new book is a spoof on the Sword in the Stone and other medieval stories. It is filled with surprises, adventure, a wicked king, an evil sorceress, unlikely knights, a dragon, a few zombies, and plenty of humor. (And the best part is that there are more Max books in the works).

Prior to Lincoln’s visit with 3rd-5th grade, we held a one-page comic contest and used those comics to fill our windows of the media center to welcome him. When he arrived, he was so impressed by how many of our students expressed their creativity through comic art.

Lincoln arrived a little bit early so he took time to sign the many books that we pre-sold through our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop. He also had one adoring fan spending recess time in the library, and Lincoln took time to chat with this student who has read all of the Big Nate comics. This student even drew a comic for Lincoln using Big Nate and his other favorite topic, the Titanic.

Before his chat with all of the students, Lincoln had just enough time to create a special Max drawing for our library. I’ve made it a habit now of framing an illustration from each illustrator who visits and is willing to leave behind an image. With 3 author/illustrator visits just this year, our walls are becoming a mini-museum.

A few lucky students arrived early and got to see Lincoln create the drawing.

In his presentation, he of course acknowledged Big Nate at the beginning because that’s what he’s famous for. I loved how when he showed each character from Big Nate, the kids shouted out their names. These illustrated novels have made quite an impact on many readers.

Lincoln then backed up and showed us where a lot of his inspiration has come from. He referenced books he read as a kid and many comics that inspired him. I’m always impressed when an author/illustrator shows things that they kept from their childhood, and it reminds me the importance of holding on to at least a few things from my own children each year.  He had drawings of Peanuts characters that he created and super heroes based on his love of Batman.

Lincoln took students up to the point where he created the Big Nate comic strip for newspapers and how it became wildly popular. We were all surprised when an image of another famous author made its way into Lincoln’s presentation because Jeff Kinney was a key player in how the comic strip turned into an illustrated novel series.

It was very evident that Lincoln has had a lot of fun moving away from the Big Nate novels to a new series. He’s coming up with so many new, fun characters that are based in medieval tales he’s read or watched in the past.  Students loved seeing how he took some small ideas and eventually turned them into a much longer story. He introduced them to all of these key players in the book without giving away any of the fun secrets from the book.

One of the most fun parts of Lincoln’s presentation was seeing him draw. He emphasized to students that the smallest lines and symbols convey big messages to the reader. A simple letter z tells you someone is sleeping. A slanted eyebrow can change a character’s emotion.

He drew one character on our whiteboard and then erased and drew over and over to show how small changes can make a big difference in the message you are sending to the reader. This was so helpful to our young artists and I can’t wait to see how this impacts the images, comics, and stories that they create.

After Lincoln’s visit, we rushed all of the signed copies to classrooms. Students immediately started opening them up to read. Students came in the next day buzzing about what they had read.

Our 6 copies of Max and the Midknights immediately got checked out and a “hold” list started to develop throughout the day. Every signed copy of Big Nate was also checked out right away. I started to get messages from parents whose kids came home and wouldn’t stop reading the book and stories of kids who went home and made their own comics. I heard stories from teachers who had students begging to have the book read aloud in class or to the be the first student to read the class copy of the book.

This is what an author visit does. It inspires students to create. It creates a buzz of conversation. It encourages readers to read and readers who haven’t found the right book yet try something new. Thank you to all publishers who send authors and illustrators to schools and bookstores. For this visit, thank you to Random House Kids & Crown Books for Young Readers for sending Lincoln Peirce to our school. Thank you to Avid Bookshop for advocating for this visit and for taking care of all of our presales of books. Finally, thank you to our amazing PTA who made sure every class in 2nd-5th grade received a copy of Max and the Midknights for their class library.  These books will make an impact for years to come.

 

Celebrating International Dot Day 2018

September 15(ish) is International Dot Day. This day celebrates The Dot by Peter Reynolds and the idea that we are all creative and unique and can all make our mark on the world. Every year, we use this week to make Skype connections with classes around the country, share dot-related stories, and realize that we are all connected to each other.

Some years I try to host many dot-making activities in the library.

This year, we are doing creativity challenges every week as a whole school, so I asked my principal if we could make this week’s challenge dot-related. At the beginning of the week on our morning broadcast, I explained the purpose of Dot Day and challenged all classes to see what they could make out of dots. They could create something as a class, create individual ideas on post-its or index cards, or anything else. Each class was encouraged to hang their work outside their door for all to see. They were also encouraged to bring their creations to Skype sessions to share with our connecting classes.

I really loved this new addition because I feel like more people jumped into celebrating Dot Day. On Friday, we invited everyone to wear dots, and I was surprised to see how many students created their own shirts at home with dots.  One student even hid a Mo Willems pigeon in his dots on his shirt.

For our Skypes we connected with:

  • Donna MacDonald at Orchard School in South Burlington Vermont to read Little Elliot by Mike Curato.
  • Craig Seasholes in Seattle, Washington to read Yo! Yes! and The Dot
  • Shannon Miller at Van Meter Elementary in Van Meter, Iowa to read Ish
  • Mrs. Shekleton at Howard Winneshiek School District in Iowa to read Say Zoop by Herve Tullet
  • Mrs. Guardiola at Caldwell Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas to read I Don’t Draw I Color by Adam Lehrhaupt
  • Mrs. Snead at Central Elementary in Carrollton, Texas to read Say Zoop by Herve Tullet
  • Mrs. Schnurr in Dallas, Texas to read I Don’t Draw I Color by Adam Lehrhaupt

As usual, every connection was filled with special moments. One of my favorites was reading Say Zoop with so many students. It’s a book that puts you a bit out of your comfort zone, but the kids had a blast making all of the noises.

I also loved seeing all of the creativity of dots from place to place and hearing students ask questions and share with one another. These Skype connections always remind us how we are sometimes stuck in our routines and forget that there’s a whole world of people out there doing some of the same things we are. It just takes reaching out and having a conversation to connect yourself to one another.

Thank you to everyone who connected with us and to all educators and students who reached out, tried something new, and connected the dots around the world.