Barrow & CCSD Maker Faire

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to maker faire #ccsdmaker #makerfaire #librariesofinstagram

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

 

Here are a few:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scribble bot #makerfaire #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram #makerspace

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

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

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

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

 

Building Community: An Avid Bookshop Storytime with Philip and Erin Stead

Philip & Erin Stead (37)

We have an amazing independent bookshop in our community called Avid Bookshop. Our library has been collaborating with Janet Geddis before the storefront of Avid existed, and it has been so much fun to watch how this community-focused bookshop has changed over the years. They have been hosting some dynamic authors and illustrators for children over the past few months. When I saw that Caldecott medal-winning duo Philip and Erin Stead were coming to the shop, I was over the moon excited and didn’t want to miss the chance to see them. Then, I got an email from Rachel Watkins asking if our school might be the site of the pajama storytime. We’ve never hosted an event specifically for Avid that wasn’t an author visit for school, but I didn’t hesitate in exploring how to make it happen.

The opportunity aligned perfectly with my goal of supporting the reading interests and curiosities of students, teachers, and families. I’ve been thinking a lot about the family part. What do I do to support families and reading? It’s something I need to work on, but offering a nighttime event for the community with Philip and Erin Stead was the perfect opportunity to show families at our school and in the community an amazing author/illustrator team they may not have heard of, exploring some new books together, and taking a look at the illustration process. Our students have benefited from many author and illustrator visits thanks to Avid, but I loved that this gave families a chance to have the same experience alongside their child and ask questions and learn together.

Avid and I advertised the event heavily. Students did book talks of one Stead book each day on our morning broadcast along with a reminder about the pajama storytime. An electronic flyer went home to all families. I posted the flyer on the doors of our library. Numerous tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram pictures were shared. We had no way of knowing how many people would actually show up, and by 6:20PM we were pretty nervous that no one was coming. Suddenly at 6:25PM people started pouring in and they just kept coming. We even delayed until 6:35 and they still kept coming in.

If you’ve never met Philip and Erin Stead in person, they are just a delight. Both are soft spoken, which has a naturally calming effect on the wiggly small ones. Phil did most of the talking, but I loved that at the beginning he started by telling about how Erin is shy and had all the kids say their names aloud to introduce themselves all at once. Erin replied, “It’s nice to meet you”, which just felt right. It showed the kids that it’s ok to be quiet and that you can do amazing things to put your voice into the world without actually speaking the words out loud.

Phil read A Sick Day for Amos McGee and had the kids participating along the way with movements and chants. He knew just how to keep their attention.  At the close of the book, they paused for questions. I loved that several parents chimed in with their own questions which were peppered with comments and questions from the kids too. We had questions about the red balloon in Amos McGee and whether it was an homage to Good Night Gorilla.  There were questions about the process of creating a book together as husband and wife and whether or not the illustrations or the writing came first.

Next, Phil introduced us to his new book Ideas Are All Around and we found out we were the first group that he had actually read part of the book to. He teased us with just a few of the pages and gave us a taste of how the book takes us into the head of a writer and illustrator on a walk and that ideas are really hiding all around us.  Then came probably the most special moment of the night: an art demo.

Phil invited all of the little kids to come up and gather around a table where he had his art supplies. Then adults gathered around behind the kids.  It was a large group and yet somehow most people found a spot they could see.  Kids seemed to be literally on top of the workspace, but Phil worked his magic and made the art come to life. He talked through each step of his art for Ideas Are All Around and modeled it as he went. Some kids even got to help a bit during the process.  In the end, he created 3 illustrations of a bear: two he was happy with and one not so great.

We love these bears from Philip Stead's art demo. #avidevents #avidinschools #illustrator #authorvisit #event

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I loved this! It connected so well with the book that an artist goes through many pieces of art until the right one is created. Lots of versions go in the trash or at least to a “fail” box.

We love these bears from Philip Stead's art demo. #avidevents #avidinschools #illustrator #authorvisit #event

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To close the night, Phil read aloud Special Delivery and we learned that the idea was really something that he dreamed about. Once again, he had the audience participating along the way even while they were bouncing on cushions around the library.

The crowd lingered for a long time looking through the books from Avid, making purchases, and getting autographs. So many families left with new books to take home and share together along with the personal experience of meeting the author and illustrator that created the book.

Philip & Erin Stead (30)

I’ve often encouraged families to attend Avid events or to go to author events in nearby Decatur such as the Decatur Book Festival, but I don’t really see that encouragement pay off as much. There was something about the familiarity of the school community, a place where we have connections to one another, to host an event like this. I think we’ve tapped into something we need to explore even more in the future.

Thank you so much to Avid for trying something new for an author event. Thank you for bringing the Steads to our community. Thank you to Philip and Erin for your long travels to reach our community and for sharing your inspiring work with us all. Thank you to the Publisher who makes these kinds of book tours and events happen for independent bookshops, schools, and communities. Finally, thank you to our families.  Whether you were a Barrow family or a visitor from another school or county, thank you for spending a night with us in the library connecting with one another through art and story.

Polar Express 2012 & Participatory Culture

5th Graders received special blue bells this year

5th Graders received special blue bells this year

Every year our Polar Express Day is an event that students, teachers, and families look forward to.  We of course wear our pajamas and listen to the story in the school library, but it’s much more than that.  We want students to experience the story.  A conductor with a flickering lantern meets classes and leads them to the train tracks of the Polar Express.  The path is lined with multiple decorations:  lights, student-made art, train tracks, a ticket booth, railroad signs, and more.

Here’s what the students saw this year:

A sample of music from the Polar Express movie plays while students enter the library and take their seats.  A spotlight illuminates the book that awaits them.  The hot chocolate song comes on and students are served hot chocolate with marshmallows.  After listening to the story, every child receives a bell placed around their neck with the words “always believe” whispered in their ears.  Students immediately begin shaking their bells, which sounds like this:

As they exit the library, they receive a candy cane.  Many of our 5th graders cry on this day as they experience their final Polar Express Day.  We have even started having a Polar Express alumni night for people to come back and experience the magic.

This year, I’ve been thinking about our participatory culture and how much participation is involved in this event.  Here are some examples:

  • Our principal organizes a schedule, volunteers, and materials
  • Our lunchroom staff makes hot chocolate
  • Parent volunteers purchase all of the materials and supplies
  • Parent volunteers (and some students) string the 450 bells
  • Parent volunteers pour and serve the hot chocolate and place bells around students’ necks
  • Teachers and students work with me to decorate the library and hallways.  Many teachers come back at night to decorate in order to have the element of surprise on the morning of Polar Express.  Every year, the decorations are different depending on what the teachers dream up in the moment.
  • This year, for the first time, many students made decorations to line the hallways with.  One of our enrichment clusters made decorations and some students made decorations on their own.

At times, I’ve felt guilty that so many people help with this event, but this year things began to click in my mind as I realized that this is an event sponsored by the library that is truly owned by the entire school.  I hope to think more about this in years to come and look for more ways that students can be involved in this special day.

 

Exemplary Elementary Media Program Open House

Mark your calendars.  On Thursday March 3, 2011, the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center will hold an open house in honor of its distinction as the Georgia exemplary elementary media program for 2010.  The event will last from 7:30AM-4:00PM with student showcases of work and opportunities to tour and explore the kinds of learning that take place inside the Barrow Media Center.  Everyone is welcome to attend.  RSVPs are greatly appreciated, but not necessary.  Stop by for a few minutes or spend the whole day!

If you plan to attend the Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature on March 4-5, 2011, this is a great reason to head into Athens early and explore a media center that is just one block away from the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

David C. Barrow Elementary is located at 100 Pinecrest Drive Athens, GA 30605.  Parking is limited in Barrow’s upper and lower lots on Pinecrest Drive, but additional parking is available across Lumpkin Street at the Campus View Church of Christ.  Do not park on Rutherford Street or in any UGA lots.

We hope to see you in March.

Send RSVPs or questions to plemmonsa at clarke.k12.ga.us or call (706) 543-2676 ext 38280