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.

 

A Rock Exploration: Researchers, Photographers, and Poets

Our 3rd graders study rocks every year as a part of their science curriculum. This year, we brainstormed some new ideas to support this study and scheduled two 45-minute sessions for each 3rd grade class.

Session one focused on facts and observations. To begin, I asked student to put themselves in the shoes of a researcher and consider what someone researching rocks might do. They named things such as reading books, talking to experts, doing experiments with rocks, going outside and looking for rocks, and visiting websites and videos. For this session, students rotated between 3 stations. Each station lasted for approximately 10 minutes.  I didn’t want them to be slowed down by writing down facts, so this day was just an exploration to mentally gather as many facts as they could. Some students still chose to write things down but most took my advice of making mental notes.

Center 1: Books

I gathered multiple books from our nature section of library. Prior to this center, I reminded students how they might dive in to multiple books without reading entire books. We reviewed the table of contents, index, and captions. As students explored this station, the teachers and I noticed students talking about photographs that caught their attention so we jumped in to the conversation by directing students to text or captions that supported the conversation. So often, I see students chat about photographs and forget to read the text, so we tried to gently intervene to make sure the conversation was based in fact rather than speculation.  One of the biggest hits at this stations was learning about birthstones and making a personal connection to gemstones.

Center 2: Rocks

When I was growing up, my grandmother and grandfather took me to Cherokee, North Carolina to visit ruby and gem mines. My grandmother would save her money all year and then buy multiple bags of dirt containing gems and we would spend hours sifting through the dirt in a water trough. I saved the rocks from all of those trips and now they have become a part of my educator collection.

At this station, students used this mix of rocks to make observations and sort rocks in different ways. I included to large circles that students could use as a Venn diagram and compare and contrast rocks based on texture, size, shine, and more. All students worked together to sort as many rocks as time allowed.

Center 3: Websites and Videos

Amethyst is February’s birthstone and also Georgia’s state gem. This station focused on exploring amethyst through websites and videos using a Symbaloo. One of our favorite sites is Gem Kids because it allows students to see gems under a microscope, on a map of the world, and see photos of gems with captions full of info. Students also loved watching the Jackson’s Crossroads video from Georgia to see what amethyst looks like when it is found.

Day 2 of our exploration focused on creativity. We read the book A Rock Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija. At the conclusion of this poetic book, it says “go a discover what else a rock can be”. This invitation brought us to our next explorations. This time rather than rotating every 10 minutes, students rotated as they finished each step.

Center 1: Artistic Creations

Students once again found boxes of rocks that they could observe. However, this time, their goal was to use the rocks to create something new. They could create a word, shape, object, or anything their creativity sparked. Once they made this creation, they used an iPad to snap a photograph.

This center was fun to watch because every student had a different way of making something. Some had an object in mind already like a football, and they used the rocks to make that shape. Others found one rock that inspired them and they used that rock to form what came to their mind. This was also the station where we saw so many students shine. I loved that whether a student had an English barrier, a reading challenge, etc, this was a visual station that allowed so many voices to be heard in a strong way.

Center 2: Poetry

As students finished photography, they moved to writing in another part of the library. If students had a poem already forming in their mind, they could use a blank piece of paper to create it. However, if students needed some extra support, they used A Rock Can Be… as a mentor text. I had a simple organizer with a structure already formed for them with “a rock can be” and some blanks to create two-word lines in their poem.

The teachers and I did a lot of conferencing at this station to help students focus on the photograph that they created. Most students had their photograph pulled up on their iPad as they wrote. Some chose to focus more on rocks in their poem while others focused on whatever shape they had created.

Center 3: Recording

Students moved to quiet space in the library to put all of their creativity together in Flipgrid. I setup our grid to have a guest code so that students could scan a QR code, enter their first/last name, and start recording. They could record their face on the video or flip the camera and record their poem. During the final step, students imported the photograph of their creation and then used the Flipgrid stickers to add another layer of artistic expression. This final step was tricky because it was tempting to add lots of the fun stickers. However, I encouraged the students to think about what stickers added to their photograph and brought their rock to life. I loved seeing what some of the students chose from the sticker assortment.

Going into these 2 days, I was really unsure of how it would all connect together, but once I saw the flow, I really like what happened. I especially enjoyed day 2 and the creativity that came from our students. I need to do a bit more thinking about day 1. I think it was a great mix of modalities, but I do wonder about what I could do to keep the students more focused in the centers, especially the reading center. It might be as simple as drawing out a card that says “pick a word from the index to read more about” or “flip to a random page and read a caption”.

All in all, I’m excited about the creations we made. I invite you to visit our Flipgrid and view and like the student poetry videos.

Punkin’ Chunkin’: A Halloween Makerspace Event

Our makerspace sessions this year have been following a month-long theme, but for Halloween, we decided to have a one-time special makerspace.  In the past, we’ve done a “design something spooky” challenge where kids designed haunted houses, ghosts, etc and used littlebits to give them lights, sound, and movement.

This year, Gretchen Thomas from UGA suggested pumpkin catapults, and it was the perfect suggestion. Ahead of the session, students signed up on a Google doc with their teacher for a 30-minute slot.  As students arrived, they checked in with a UGA student and sat on the carpet in front of the projector.  While we waited on arrivals, they watched a video of the Punkin Chunkin event in Delaware.

We chatted about observations. Many students noticed the different styles of catapults that were made and we wondered about how many times they had to work on their inventions before they worked the way they wanted them to.

Next, I muted a video showing students working on a smaller scale pumpkin catapult.

While the video played, we talked about the day’s challenge. Students were challenged to design a catapult that could launch a candy pumpkin across the library. They used the video to name some of the materials they would need: plastic spoon, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, tape, and a pumpkin. Students also saw in the video that there were many designs of catapults and that adjustments were constantly being made to improve the catapults.

When they were ready to take on the challenge, students gathered their initial materials from a supply table and made their first attempt at a pumpkin catapult. Some jumped right in while others went back to watch the video again. Some chose to work together, while others chose to work alone.

As first attempts were finished, students picked up a candy pumpkin and moved to our launch zone. This was a crucial piece of the experience. I wanted a designated area for launching in order to contain the mess but also to keep students safe from flying projectiles. We launched pumpkins in the back of the library toward our green screen wall.

Most students had mediocre first launches, so we chatted with them about what they thought might improve their design.  Students went back and forth from the launch zone to the building areas.  UGA students spent most of their time at tables assisting students who were stuck or needed an extra hand. Some of them also helped with keeping students safe from flying pumpkins in the launch zone.

Even with pumpkins flying in the back of the library, this was a surprisingly peaceful makerspace. Students were very focused on their designs, especially as we moved higher in grades. Pairs of students worked well together and students were for the most part safe when launching pumpkins. I loved seeing the many different designs. Some were very simple and some attempted to make very elaborate catapults.

This experience could have many extensions if we had more time. I would love to add a measurement component to see which catapult threw pumpkins the farthest. We kept things very open-ended, but you could also establish some boundaries as to what elements of the catapult were required, how many materials could be used, etc.

With the time we had, this was the perfect setup. Students had plenty of time to make a catapult that had some type of success and they were able to take what they made with them to continue working on or exploring.

Making Inferences Through Picture Books

Our 5th grade recently spent some time in the library exploring places in texts where the reader must make an inference in order to know the full story. This is a standard that our 5th graders work on in the first quarter.

ELAGSE5RL1: Quotes accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

To prepare for this lesson, I spent some time reading several picture books as well as exploring what other educators have done with inferences. This post by Pernille Ripp was especially helpful.  Anytime we work on language arts standards, I want a good portion of our time to be spent actually reading rather than just practicing a specific skill.  With picture book month approaching, I thought this experience would be a good time to reiterate with our older readers that picture books are for all readers and to give them time to read at least 2-3 books during our time together.

Here are the books I decided to pull for this experience:

  • The Skunk by Mac Barnett
  • We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
  • Shhh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
  • Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna
  • The Rough Patch by Brian Lies
  • Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
  • Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
  • The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
  • After the Fall by Dan Santat
  • Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza
  • Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley
  • Unspoken by Henry Cole

For each book, I made a folder with instructions and a guiding question. Inside the folder, I placed some blank post-it notes.

As students entered the library, we began our time on the carpet. I launched right in to talking about a picture book author, Bethan Woollvin. I let students know about her subversive, fractured fairy tales and also that she leaves some of her story to the reader to figure out.  In each class, there was usually a handful of students who mentioned that this was an inference. If they didn’t then, we talked about how we would need to make inferences when we read her stories.

I read aloud Little Red.  We paused a few places to talk about inferences we must make as the reader:

  • When the wolf makes a plan
  • When the wolf climbs into Grandma’s bed looking completely ridiculous
  • When Little Red makes a plan
  • When Little Red is wearing a wolf costume at the end of the book

This whole read aloud experience was setting students up for their own task. With a partner, students chose one of the picture books I had pulled.  Their goal was to enjoy the book together. While they were reading, they were invited to think about places in the text and illustrations where the author/illustrator left the story up to the reader to figure out.  Any inferences could be written onto a post-it note to add to the folder for future readers to read and consider.  As more students read each book, more post-it notes appeared in the folders and readers could compare their own thoughts to those of others.

The teacher and I were able to sit with pairs of students and listen to their reading. Sometimes we read aloud with them as well and became a natural part of the conversation on inferences.  What I loved the most was looking around and seeing so many 5th grade readers engaged with a text and having a genuinely good time reading them.  The inference part was low key enough that the enjoyment of the book was the more central part of their time.

We closed our time by having any pairs of students who loved a book do a short book talk for others and highlight where that book could be found in the library.  My hope was that this would be a spark to our picture book month challenge where students are encouraged to read a picture book from each genre section of the library.

 

Making with a Cause: Cardboard Awards

One thing I’ve been very interested in with our makerspace is “making with a cause”. I see so many posts on social media where someone has done something amazing for someone else by using skills and materials often found in makerspaces. From 3D-printed shells for turtles to scarves for the homeless shelter, there are so many ways we can give back to our community through making.

I love that my friend, Gina Seymour, has created a whole book on “making with a cause” and I look forward to my copy arriving in the mail.  Her book, Makers with a Cause: Creative Service Projects For Library Youth, has a whole section on getting started and another section with examples of projects from animal welfare to health/wellness to community service.

For this month’s theme of cardboard, we asked students to think about someone who deserved an award. What would the award be? What would it look like? Why would the person receive the award?  Students designed their awards out of cardboard.  Some made medals to hang around necks.  Others made trophies or even booklets. The only requirement was to use cardboard.

We asked students to start by brainstorming ideas on paper, and then they transferred those ideas onto cardboard. Using Makedo saws, scissors, and canary cardboard cutters, students worked with UGA mentors to cut out their award designs.  They embellished these with duct tape, string, washi tape, and other supplies from our makerspace supply cart.

As students completed their cardboard awards, they came to me at the computer to print a certificate to accompany the award. I found an easy certificate generator called Certificate Magic.

It allows you to choose the type of award you want to print and then fill in the details in a very simple form.  Then, you can download your award as a PDF and print. Students named their award, identified who they were giving it to, and chose a reason for the award. I loved hearing who they were giving the awards to and why.

A few examples included:

  • A T-rex award given to someone’s sister for acting like a dinosaur
  • A Golden Bracelet award given to someone’s sister for being a good sister
  • A Golden Butterfly award given to someone’s whole family for supporting her
  • A Football Trophy given to a dad for being a supporter of the Georgia Bulldogs
  • A Butterfly Necklace award given to a friend for being a good friend

There was even a special surprise award for me.  Somehow this student kept his award details a secret until he gave me the award.  He even asked if he could have privacy while he filled in the Certificate Magic form.  My award was called “Read More Books” for being a great librarian.  He even made the cardboard award look like a book with the award details inside.

I’m loving this component of our makerspace so far this year and I look forward to seeing what people end up creating for others in the coming months.

 

Makerspace Begins: Themes and Options

Our makerspace has once again cranked up for the 2018-19 school year. Once again, I’m collaborating with Gretchen Thomas and her class of over 30 undergraduates from the University of Georgia. Every year, Gretchen and I meet to think about what our open makerspace time might look like, ,and every time we make some changes and try something new.

Our idea for this year is offer specific themes around materials or tools rather than try to squeeze in so many different things in a short amount of time.

For September, we’ve chosen cardboard as our material.  Across 3 weeks, we hope to offer 3 short-term challenges using cardboard.  One of those challenges will be a “making with a cause” challenge.

  • Week 1: Design a hat. This can be interpreted however students want.
  • Week 2: Making with a Cause. Make an award. Students will choose someone who deserves an award. Make the award. Give the award to that person with an explanation of why they deserve the award.
  • Week 3: Make a puppet. Use cardboard tubes to create unique puppets and hopefully begin storytelling with them.

For the second open makerspace, we know that there will be students who aren’t interested in the short-term options and want to branch out to their own projects that take longer than 1 or 2 sessions. For these students, we will offer them a space to plan, design, and create their own inventions that have a purpose.  We wanted to keep this option open ended, but encourage students to develop something using cardboard that actually has some sort of function/purpose.

In each Tuesday/Thursday session, groups of UGA students come to work alongside students. They come in 30-minutes waves so that each round of students has me and UGA students to support them. I’ve put a bit more structure on the front end of makerspace this year. Students check-in with a UGA student and then sit on the carpet. I offer a quick intro to what we are making and connect it to a book. For cardboard, we used Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. Then, students move to tables to do some planning before they start grabbing cardboard and cutting.

This week, we launched into the first challenge of making a hat. Students had access to cardboard, Makedo safe saws, scissors, duct tape, and coloring supplies. Students sketched hats onto cardboard and started sawing.  There was a learning curve on the best strategies for sawing. Some students were more patient than others with the cutting process. Be warned! It was very loud and very messy. All adults circulated around to support as many students as possible.

At the end of session 1, students labeled all of their pieces of cardboard and we stored them in the makerspace.

For session 2, we spread all of the pieces out so that students could locate their cardboard to start again.

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Our hats continue. #makerspace #barrowbuddies

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I loved seeing the hats that students came up with in such a short amount of time. At dismissal, I could see the cardboard hats parading down the halls and lots of students were curious about where they came from. Many students needed more than 2 sessions to finish. Some chose to take the materials with them to finish at home. Others left their hats behind to continue working on next week.

I have a lot of questions about how this is all going to work. It’s fast-paced and a challenge to get one group finished and cleaned up before the next group comes in. It’s also a mess of cardboard dust and bits, and I hate leaving that for our custodians. However, we’re pressing forward, expecting the miraculous, and making changes as needed along the way.

Wolf in the Snow Puppets and Storytelling

In just 2 weeks, we will welcome author/illustrator Matthew Cordell to our school. Small groups of our Kindergarten students have been coming to the library to work on a special project. This project came about because our Kindergarten classes are unable to attend our regularly scheduled makerspace times. I wanted to offer them some special opportunities throughout the year because of this. Thankfully, I now have a high school intern, Andrea Arumburo, who is collaborating with me in the library most afternoons. Her focus is art, so I knew she would align perfectly with Kindergarten makerspace opportunities.

For this first round of classes, groups of 5 students from each Kindergarten class came to the library to create puppets based on Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow.  We began by refreshing students’ memories on what happened in the story with a quick flip through the book. Then, Andrea talked with the students about creating characters on paper plate circles. She offered that they could replicate the characters in the story, or they could design a character that looked more like themselves.  She had several examples to show them.

Next, students moved to tables and sketched out their characters on paper plate circles and colored them. We placed examples on each table as well as a copy of the book. As students finished a puppet, they glued a tongue depressor stick onto the circle to create the puppet. Most students chose to make a 2nd character so that they had one human and one wolf.

Once students finished, we sent them to spots around the library to practice retelling the story. Kindergarten talks a lot about 3 ways to read a book: read the words, read the pictures, retell the story. This was a great opportunity to practice retelling.  Some students referred back to the book. Others remembered every detail. Others used their artistic license to completely change the story and make it their own.

After practicing, they found a partner and shared their puppet show story with a partner.  For many, this was the stopping point in our time limit of 40 minutes.  However, a few students were able to come over to the green screen and practice retelling their story in front of the camera.

In one session, we decided we didn’t have enough time to film anyone so instead, we all sat on the carpet with our puppets and we walked back through the pages of the book together. I told the story and students used their puppets to act out the story.  I loved watching them hide puppets behind their backs when that character wasn’t in a scene.  This unexpected closing was actually something I wish I had done with the other groups because it made a connection between the puppets and the story.  I think it would have helped students in making their own puppet shows.

Our hope is that Andrea and I can continue to offer these opportunities throughout the year. Some will be low-tech, high-tech, or a mix of it all.