Izzy Gizmo: The Perfect Book for Library Makerspaces (and a giveaway)

I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for the new book Izzy Gizmo written by Pip Jones, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, and published by Peachtree Publishers.  The very first time I read this book, I knew it was a perfect match for makerspaces.

Izzy Gizmo tells the story of a young inventor whose wheels are always turning to create the next great contraption. From her hair-taming Beard-Tastic to her hostess Tea-Mendous, Izzy is always looking for ways to make life a little bit more convenient.  Of course, her inventions don’t always go as planned and she must work through the frustration and thoughts of giving up.  When she discovers a hurt crow, Izzy must use her creative energy to tackle a real-world problem.  Will the injured crow ever be able to fly again? Read this colorful, thought-provoking book to find out.

In library makerspace, we talk a lot about the mindset it takes to be a maker.  Creativity, problem-solving, perseverance, growth mindset, and risk-taking are just a few of the pieces of the maker mindset puzzle.  Izzy Gizmo features all of those mindsets. Every page is filled with illustrations showing Izzy’s many complex inventions, and I could imagine readers staring at the pages and sparking their own creative ideas.

I love that as Izzy invents things don’t always go the way she planned them.  That’s the realistic world of being a maker.  Things rarely go right, and I really appreciate that she is a character who is honest about her feelings.  She lets her emotions out and shows us that making can be frustrating. There are moments that you want to quit, but even though she may come close to quitting, Izzy is not one to give up.  It’s important for our readers to see her persevere and that it’s ok to get frustrated.

We have a lot of fun in our library makerspace, but I always encourage students to think about purpose. All around us there are real problems and issues that we could possibly tackle during makerspace time. I love that Izzy finds the crow and goes through a whole range of inventions to make the crow’s life better.  It reminds our readers and makers that even kids can find solutions to real world problems.

As we study the invention cycle, we explore the idea of remixing. You may have parts of an invention that work and parts that don’t, but the learning that you took from that experience can be remixed into something new. Izzy does this often. She pulls parts of other inventions in order to create her next solution.  This of course leads to a bit of a surprise ending in the book, but I think Izzy is a character who will be up to the new challenge she faces.

I’ve shared this book with elementary students and I’ve also read it to a class of college students at the University of Georgia who work with my young makers. It’s a great read for all ages.

Congratulations to our winner: Lisa Seymour!

I’m giving away one copy of the book. Click the Google form below or follow this link to enter.  Please read all the rules and enter by 12PM EST on March 9th. Good luck!


Grandparents, Dots, and Making Our Mark

We had a very short week due to Hurricane Irma, but we still had time for some miraculous things happening in the library. September 15 was International Dot Day, but at Barrow, we also celebrated Grandparent’s Day for the very first time.

These two events fit perfectly together because it gave grandparents and grandchildren a space of time to share conversations, stories, creativity, and think about how we are all making our mark in the world.

The morning started in the cafeteria with a donuts and coffee event organized by our amazing PTA.  Well over 300 grandparents & children gathered in the cafeteria and shared table conversations around these questions.

Then, I shared Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson’s Last Stop on Market Street. I loved sharing this grandparent story about seeing the beautiful in the world. So many grandparents came up to me to talk about how much they loved this story and how much it meant to them to hear it. I was so worried about choosing a book for a crowd this large, but this one spoke to so many.

Following the story, I showed the table conversation questions again and invited families to stop by the library to record some of their conversations using Flipgrid. The library was filled with grandparents and grandchildren. Several did record their stories, and there are so many special moments in the videos.  I hope you’ll take a moment to listen, react, and respond to some of them.

Grandparents and grandchildren also sat down together all around the library reading stories to one another. Some visited our Lego wall and build creations together. Others took coffee filters and design collaborative dots in honor of International Dot Day.

Grandparents day and dot day #dotday #grandparentsday

A post shared by Andy Plemmons (@andy.plemmons) on

The library was buzzing for almost an hour.

Pairing these books for Dot Day #dotday #dotday17 #makeamark

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

After grandparents left, our day continued with many classes coming to the library for Dot Day. We of course read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, but we also read The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken.  I loved how these two books paired together. Both spread the messages of getting started, persevering, making a mark and seeing where it goes, and realizing the potential that is hiding inside you.  During the stories, we had conversations about what it means to make your mark on the world and students shared many of their ideas of how they are already making their mark.

Making our mark for dot day #tlchat #dotday #creativity @peterhreynolds

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

After each story, students practiced the idea of physically making a mark on paper and seeing where it took them. Students took a coffee filter and made one mark as a symbol of starting and then each students continued the dot creation to see what emerged.

I loved walking around and seeing the individuality of each student and dot. No two dots looked alike even though every one started with just one mark.

So many dots #dotday #tlchat #creativity #librariesofinstagram

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Sometimes it’s hard to explain Dot Day to people who haven’t heard of it, but when you experience the story, conversations, and creativity that are made public on this day, it brings Dot Day to life in a whole new way.

Dot gallery walk #dotday #creativity

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

How did you make your mark on Dot Day? What did you try that was new?  I hope that this year (and next) I can continue this conversation between students/families about how we are all making our mark in the world.


Weaving Together Social Studies and Makerspace

inventors-24Our 5th grade is currently studying the impact on American life that several famous inventors had. When I was brainstorming with Shelley Olin, 5th grade social studies teacher, we began to wonder about connections these standards had to makerspace.  It started as an idea seed and grew into a set of experiences for all 5th graders to engage in.

I wanted students to put themselves into the shoes of an inventor so that they could begin to understand the perseverance and curiosity that inventors have. We focused on 3 of the inventors: Thomas Edison (electricity), Alexander Graham Bell (communication), and the Wright Brothers (flight).

I prepared 3 centers on electricity, communication, and flight.  Each center included a biography about the inventors, instructions for an activity, and a clipboard to leave wisdom for the next group to learn from.

For flight, I selected some paper airplanes that could be made from a full sheet of paper.  I also included books about other paper airplanes.

For communication, I created 2 choices.  One was to use littlebits to create a tool for communicating using Morse code. I included a buzzer and LED bit as well as button, pulse sensor, and slide dimmer bits.  The other experience was to create a tin can phone.  I provided coffee cans and cups and various kinds of string.

For electricity, I copied instructions for making a simple paper circuit using a coin battery, led light, and copper tape.  I put materials in Ziploc bags so each group would have what they needed to create a circuit.  I added extra led lights for tinkering beyond an simple circuit.

It took a long time to prepare all of the materials for 3 back-to-back 5th grade classes.  I had to have everything ready for an immediate turn round between classes.

Before coming to the library to engage in some makerspace activities related to these themes, students read about each inventor in textbooks and on PebbleGo.  They gave Ms. Olin their top 2 interests out of the 3 themes so that she could put them in groups.


In the library, we started by looking at the littlebits invention cycle.  There’s not just one place to start in the cycle and it doesn’t necessarily follow a linear sequence.  We talked about how students could start with “create” by following the directions that I had given. Then they could play with their creation and begin to remix ideas to create an improved version or an alternative invention.  By the end, I hoped that they would have something to share with the rest of their class or group.  It really seemed like it could be linear in talking about it, but I quickly saw that it is very fluid.

After our quick intro, students sorted into their chosen task and got to work. Luckily, Ms. Olin and other collaborative teachers joined the class during this session. At times, we had me and 3 teachers supporting students around the library.  It was 3 very different activities, so having the extra support was beneficial.

Inventions in action #5thgrade #invention #librariesofinstagram #makerspace #steam

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

What I quickly saw was how much students wanted to just jump in and put things together without reading directions.  At paper airplanes, students started folding paper in all sorts of folds and testing them out.


At paper circuits, students were sticking down tape and connecting the led to the battery without reading  the instructions or even formulating a plan.


At tin can phones, students immediately started connecting cans.


But…as I stepped back and thought about it, isn’t that really what inventors do?  They don’t necessarily have a set of instructions to follow. They just try things out to see what happens.

After some initial tinkering, several students did in fact try to read the instructions and many said that they wished they had read them at the beginning. It was an important lesson that we talked about and learned from. It’s hard to read all the instructions before putting something together when all you want is to see the finished product.  I do that myself as an adult.


One thing that was really interesting was when students finished their first prototype and they started remixing. One example at the tin can phone center was when 2 groups decided to combine their two phones and see if they could make a four-way call.


At the paper airplane center, students started combining their planes together to see if a combination would create a better flying plane.  They were truly embracing the idea of remixing.


When we came back together at the end, I asked students to think about what it was like to be an inventor.  We had some great conversation about perseverance, staying calm through frustration, trying again, problem solving, and taking plenty of time to invent. We circled back to our inventors and considered how much time, frustration, and perseverance they each put into their inventions.  I think the experience gave the students a greater appreciation for the inventors they were learning about rather than just passively reading about them.


We even had a moment to talk about continuing inventions in our makerspace or at home and entering them into our school maker faire coming soon.  I loved how a simple idea from a social studies standard was able to weave together growth mindset, literature, social studies, and makerspace all into one experience.