Our Lego Wall: A New Way to Interact in the Library

Each year we add a little something new in our library. I’ve watched several libraries add a Lego wall to their libraries and wanted to do it for a long time. We have students who use Lego in our library and makerspace for stop motion videos and storytelling, so I’ve been curious about the possibilities of this collaborative building space and what projects or ideas it might spark for students.

Several librarians have posted helpful tips on how to create your own Lego wall. I looked very closely at Diana Rendina’s plans and considered building my own.

Our Lego wall pieces are here! #makerspace #librariesofinstagram #steam #lego

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Then, I saw a post from Shannon Miller about a company called Brik. This company has Lego-compatible plates that have a reusable adhesive on the back so that you can move it from one location to another if needed. You could order packs of 6 plates which came with an assortment of briks as well. This was appealing to me because of how much time it would save me in constructing a wall. I wouldn’t need to mount plywood to the wall or worry with liquid nails.

Lego wall beginnings #lego #makerspace #steam #librariesofinstagram

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Sherry Gick shared her own experience with Brik and said the adhesive seemed to be pretty reliable. I decided to give it a go.  Before ordering, I posted a Twitter poll and also sent a Google form to my students to ask what color wall they preferred: white, black, or blue.  The response was overwhelmingly blue.

Shipping was super fast, and within about an hour I had everything unboxed and on the wall.  I used Lego pieces to make sure the plates lined up and stayed together. I also made sure to firmly press each plate so that it secured to the wall.  I don’t really plan on moving the plates very much, so I would rather know they are staying on the wall.

Welcome our new lego wall! #barrowbuddies #librariesofinstagram #makerspace #steam

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After posting some pictures on social media, I started getting messages from families whose children were already excited about the wall. During open house, several students stopped by to check out the wall.

I’m sure we’ll learn a lot about how to best use the space and what rules need to be in place, but we are so excited to have this new space in our library for imagination, creativity, collaboration, and sharing.

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.

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!

Make Your Mark for Dot Day 2016…Let the Planning Begin

One of our favorite times of the year is Dot Day and September 15 will be here before we know it!  It’s a day to celebrate connecting, collaborating, and creating and seeing where our creativity takes us. Can you believe that it’s less than 2 months away?

Now is the time to start brainstorming ideas for celebrating creativity and supporting your students in making their mark in the world. You can read all about this special day and sign up here.  There is a wonderful educator’s handbook that you will receive as part of the registration.

Then head over to the Get Involved…Making a Mark page to be inspired to Read, Create, Learn and Visit on Dot Day too.

There are tons of ideas on Shannon McClintock Miller’s International Dot Day Pinterest Board

In our own library, we’ve enjoyed reading lots of stories related to dots and creativity as well as connecting Dot Day to core subject areas.

Check out these examples:

  • After reading the book, Going Places, with Sherry Gick’s students in Indiana, two of our students made their mark by teaching Sherry’s students how to create a beading craft from our makerspace

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  • We’ve enjoyed countless storytimes with classes around the globe reading dot-related stories and stories of creativity including Ish, The Dot, Press Here, Mix It Up, Let’s Play, Rose’s Garden, Little Elliot Big City, and more.

For the last several years, hundreds of us have used our Google Doc as a place to make and plan lots of special connections on September 15 and throughout the week of Dot Day. When we put our minds together, we come up with amazing new ways to celebrate the day with our students.

You can add your schedule, connect with others, and start making your mark with others around the world. Check out the doc here: http://bit.ly/dotday2016 

Please include your information including name, location, grade level and subject, Twitter handle and whatever else you’d like to share.  As you start planning, add your schedule and ideas.  Others can then look at your profile and connect if they’d like to on the Google Document with you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and ask.

Let’s Make Our Mark on the World! Happy Connecting!

Many thanks to Shannon McClintock Miller for co-writing this post.

 

 

Making Something New: A Makerspace Activity

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Recently, the Children’s Theatre Troup directed by Kelsey Brown presented “Another Kid’s Treasure Island” at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. This play also featured a makerspace activity for attendees to use a variety of objects to make something new.

Gretchen Thomas and her UGA students helped pack hundreds of plastic coconuts with craft supplies to support the play, but several coconuts were left over. Our makerspace was fortunate enough to acquire these leftover coconuts for students to explore.

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This week, we’ve been reading The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. I love the message that this book shares about perseverance and creativity. The character in the book tries multiple ways to make the thing she has in her head, but she just can’t get it quite right. At first, she easily starts over, but as time goes on, she gets pretty frustrated. However, even then, she goes on a walk to clear her mind. While reading the story, we paused along the way to setup some steps for “making”.

  • Have an initial plan after you gather your supplies
  • Try to make something
  • Take a look at what you’ve made and try again if needed
  • If something isn’t working, try to do it in a different way
  • If you start to feel frustrated, take a break or a walk, and come back
  • Don’t quit

We could keep adding to this list, but those were the basic principles we followed.

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I showed students one of the plastic coconuts filled with supplies and told them that their goal was to take the materials and make something new. We talked about how the girl in the story made something she could actually use, so they certainly could try to make something like a piece of jewelry, a hat, a container for rocks, or whatever else they wanted.

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I also put out some scissors, glue, crayons, and markers. Then, students got to work. Each student had a different strategy for how to work. Some got very frustrated and did indeed take a walk around the library. Some students collaborated with people at their table or traded supplies with a friend.  It was loud and messy, but I heard things from students like:

  • Is makerspace always this fun?
  • Do we really get to keep the things that we made?
  • When can I come back?
  • From a teacher: My students talked about what they did with you the whole next day.

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You could look at this and say….sure….this is just making a craft, but there’s really so much more there.

Making something new inspired by The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires #makerspace #makered #steam #librariesofinstagram

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Perseverance, problem solving, creativity, inventing, collaboration, and more were all there. Thank you to Gretchen Thomas for giving us an opportunity to bring makerspace to some of our grades who haven’t had a chance to use our makerspace quite as much. We have a lot of new students excited about finding more opportunities to use the tools in our makerspace because of this opportunity.

Celebrating Reading and Learning Styles with Bookapalooza

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This year, the school library media specialists in our district decided to start a new reading competition called Bookapalooza. In the past, we have participated in Battle of the Books, where students read a set list of books and compete on teams to answer questions about specific details from the books. We had lots of discussion about trying a reading competition that offered students more choice in the books that they read as well as gave students a chance to show off their creativity and interests in a variety of categories rather than just answering factual questions about books.

A subcommittee of our group met to work out some logistics of how a new reading competition might work, and a new Bookapalooza website was created.

Students in 3rd-5th grade could compete in the competition. They could choose any book, author, or genre to read and create a project around. Five categories were created to give students a variety of choices to celebrate their own learning preferences: Art, Performance, Trifold, Writing, and Technology.

In the past, teams of students have worked together in Battle of the Books. Bookapalooza did allow for some collaboration but most projects were meant to be done by individuals. I had to think about organizing our school competition in a whole new way. I’m not sure that I really did the best job, but it definitely was a great first try. In November, I started sharing with students about what Bookapalooza was all about. Some teachers brought their whole class to the library while others just showed a short intro video.

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I created a Google form where students could sign up for Bookapalooza and indicate the category they were most likely going to enter along with the title of the book. This could of course change, but the form allowed me to get a good ideas of how many students were going to enter the contest and to make sure we had projects in all of the 5 categories. I was also able to make an email list from this form so that I could email the participants with updates on the competition.

In the past, I’ve held practices for Battle of the Books during lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but this type of competition really didn’t lend itself to that structure. Instead, I blocked off various times on the library calendar for Bookapalooza help sessions. Teachers could sign students up to come during these times or they were welcome to just drop by to ask questions or work. Some teachers chose to the do the competition with their whole class so they scheduled time on the library calendar specifically for their class.

I also contacted our collaborating teachers to ask if they would help each grade level with projects. Natalie Hicks, Jan Mullins, and Heather Carlson were instrumental in making sure that each grade level had representation in the competition.

As the deadline approached, I checked in via email with students and teachers and the projects started to come in. I cleared off the library shelves for projects to be displayed. As they came in, I numbered the projects for judging.  For digital projects, I created another Google form for students to submit links to projects. I put all of these links on a Google doc that could be displayed on each of our projection boards for viewing. The day after the deadline, we held our school competition, which meant that classes were welcome to come through and look at all of the projects and a team of 5 judges used rubrics to judge and rank the projects. We had to select one project from each category to move on to the district competition at the Athens Clarke County Library.

Some of our technology projects included:

Some of our performance projects included:

Some of our art projects included:

Some of our trifolds included:

Since we had so many outstanding projects, I asked judges to write notes about things that stood out about various projects and we awarded many special certificates and bookmarks to students who didn’t necessarily place “first” in their category.

Congratulations to the following projects for moving forward:

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Our school level winners moved on to the district competition at the Athens Clarke County library where we were able to enjoy projects from most of the elementary schools in our district. Our school technology project placed 3rd n the district and our school art project placed 1st in the district.  Congratulations to all of the students in Clarke County who took time to share their love of books, their personal talents, and their creativity through numerous Bookapalooza projects.  We look forward to growing this celebration next year.

 

Winter Design Challenge Using Blokify and 3D Printing

Blokify Design Challenge (5)Our open makerspace on Tuesdays and Thursdays is taking a break while UGA is having finals and winter break.  However, the demand to use the makerspace doesn’t disappear just because UGA is on break.  I decided to have a design challenge makerspace on two days and feature the Blokify app and our 3D printers. Since 3D printing takes a long time to complete, I decided to create some rules to help us out with the number of pieces we would need to print in a short amount of time.

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Rules:

  1. Design a winter symbol.  Any winter holidays or winter objects could serve as inspiration
  2. Design in 1 layer.  The more layers we have, the longer it takes, so we want our designs to be 1 layer only.
  3. Use Blokify to design and don’t worry about the colors of the blocks since your print will be whatever filament color we use.
  4. All blocks need to be connected so that your design prints in 1 piece.

Since Blokify uses blocks to design in 3D, I found some 8-bit winter designs to serve as inspiration for student winter designs.  I blocked off six 30-minute time slots on the library calendar and made a Google doc for teachers to sign students up.  I shared it with all teachers and encourage them to let any interested students come.  There were 8 slots in each time block.  It didn’t take long for the slots to fill with Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

During each session, I gave a very quick intro to Blokify and shared the 8-bit winter designs to consider.  I went over the rules as well, and students jumped onto the iPads to work.  It was a short amount of time to design something, so I told students not to panic if they didn’t finish a design.  As usual, students began looking at one another’s work for inspiration and helped one another with Blokify tips such as how to zoom in, delete blocks, or change the view.

It was fun to see what some of the students came up with and which students naturally gravitated toward this type of design because of their previous experience with block tools such as Minecraft.  We had Santas, a menorah, Christmas trees, snowflakes, reindeer, presents, crosses, and a few randomly shaped symbols too.

A few students did get frustrated, but most of them persevered through their frustration to complete a design.

Once designs were done, we had a process for getting them to me for 3D printing.  I created a separate email account just for 3D files.  Students went to “3D print” on Blokify and selected “Email to me”.  They emailed the .stl file to the 3D printing email account.  In the subject of the email, they changed the “untitled” file to their first name and teacher’s name.  This would help me in getting the printed file back to students.

At the end of the day, I sat down, logged into the email account, and started putting the .stl files into Makerware and Cubify.  Makerware works with our Makerbot and Cubify works with our Cube 3D printer.  For Makerware, I put up to 3 student files in a row on the build plate.  On a separate piece of paper, I wrote down the main file name and then wrote the student/teacher name in the correct sequence that the files would print on the plate.  For Cubify, I could only put on design on the build plate at a time, so I named each of those files with the student/teacher name.

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Once all of the files were complete, I loaded them on a USB stick for the Cube and an SD card for the Makerbot.  Each day, I come in and crank up both printers right away and start printing the files.

I write the student/teacher name on a Ziploc bag and lay them out in the right order of the floor to await the finished print.  When a print finishes, I remove and bag them.  Then, I immediately start a new print.  I’m making good progress and hope to have all of the designs printed by Friday.  It takes a lot of organization to get this moving efficiently, but I finally have a process that is working faster than how I originally started.

Even with the speed I’m working at, the kids are still dropping by to ask if their design is done.

I loved the experience of having a design challenge and hope that the students did too.  I think if I offer these types of experiences more often, the students will start to develop their own ideas for 3D designs.  They will also get more comfortable with the 3D design tools.  We will try others in future design challenges along with Blokify.