2018 Barrow Maker Fest

In addition to having regular makerspace sessions every Tuesday and Thursday in the spring, students also have the opportunity to work on an individual project to showcase at our annual maker fest.  To participate, students fill out a Google form sharing their possible project topics and whether they will complete the project at home or in our makerspace during school hours.  They also have the option of working alone or having a UGA mentor to help them.

I collaborate with Gretchen Thomas at UGA College of Education. I love seeing the relationships that my students develop with the UGA students, and they thrive knowing that they have a mentor to visit with and work with while they make their creations.  In the spring, she divides part of her UGA students to support our Tuesday/Thursday makerspace sessions while the other part supports students working on individual projects. My maker students don’t always meet with the same UGA student, but they have someone every Tuesday/Thursday who can support their work.

When students begin preparing for Maker Fest, we meet with them individually to see what type of project they are thinking about.

This year, I offered several categories for them to think about:

  • robots
  • cardboard
  • makey makey
  • littlebits invention
  • duct tape creation
  • 3d design
  • Scratch program
  • finger knitting
  • origami
  • strawbees structure
  • stop motion video
  • magic tricks
  • puppet/puppet show
  • magic tricks
  • something else! (This category meant students might explore our many craft books for ideas on projects to create)

Once students decided, we gathered the materials they needed and stored each project on the shelves in our makerspace storage room. This part is hard to manage and it feels a bit chaotic until we have the materials that each student needs.  Each Tuesday/Thursday they come for a 30-minute work session, gather their materials from the shelves, and work with me or a UGA student.  Some students complete their projects at home.

During the actual Barrow Maker Fest, we created a schedule so that every student who made something had two 30-minute windows to showcase their work.  There was also a schedule for classes to sign up and come to view the projects.  The entire UGA class came as well so that they could view the final projects as well as help students at tables.

In the end, 26 students showcased creations on a variety of topics which included:

  • a cardboard Earth robot
  • mason jar lights
  • a robotic arm
  • a cardboard pirate game with secret codes and a spyglass
  • a Python computer program similar to Google Translate which translated English to Pig Latin
  • a shadow puppet theater
  • a Littlebits throwing arm and car
  • Lego scenes and building station
  • 3D slinkies, Rubik’s cube, and Minecraft swords made with 3D pens
  • 3D action figure designed in Tinkercad
  • a cardboard robot suit
  • a cardboard tower
  • a car made from a mail tube
  • a stackable jewelry holder
  • magic tricks
  • Merge cubes
  • Osmo

They were so excited to share their work, have an authentic audience to entertain and ask questions, and see that their work inspired other makers.  Several students who came said they wanted to make something next year.

You can see many of these projects along with projects from other K-12 schools in the Clarke County School District at our CCSD Maker Fest.  It will be Saturday April 14 2-4PM at Clarke Central High School.  It is free and open to the public.  We hope to see you there.

 

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.

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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

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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.

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

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At tin can phones, students immediately started connecting cans.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Can a Foodini 3D Printer Go to Space?: Empowering Student Voice in the Makerspace

Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class is continuing to explore how humans might one day travel to Mars and live.  You may recall that they spent a day in our makerspace exploring several tools that might help them in their research and inventing.

Students are now in the design phase of their project.  They have each thought about a topic that they want to focus on in relation to surviving on Mars.  Some have chosen topics like water, oxygen, food, shelter, robot exploration, and clothing.  They are continuing to research online and in books, but they are also taking time to think about their own dreams of what might be possible in 20 years when we might live on Mars.

A small group of students came to me in the library.  After a quick check in on topics, each student started sketching some designs on blank paper.  I walked around and listened to students describe their designs and asked follow-up questions or shared resources that I knew about.

One girl was focusing on food.  She wanted to create a machine that would dispense food as needed.  Since I knew the kids were familiar with our makerspace, I asked her what she knew about 3D printing.  It turns out that her brother is the very student who designed our Barrow Peace Prize medal, so she knew a whole lot!

I followed this discussion by telling her that there are many kinds of 3D printers including ones that print food.  She looked at me in disbelief, so we went to the computer to look for some information.  We came across the Foodini.  We read some information and then we watched a video about how it worked.

After watching the video, the student went back to her design and started drawing her own version of the Foodini.  She thought it would be great if we could take the storage containers of food into space, put them into the printer, and then print food as we needed it.

She was also very curious about whether a Foodini would work in space, so I said “why don’t we ask them?”  I pulled out my phone, opened twitter, and composed a tweet to Natural Machines (@NaturalMachines).  The student helped me write what to ask.

Later that day, we heard back from Foodini.

I thanked them for answering us back.

It was nice to know that there was a company out there willing to answer a question from a Kindergarten student, and it makes me wonder how many other opportunities are out there for our students if we just step up as the connector between the student and the company.  A Kindergarten student shouldn’t have a Twitter account, but the teacher or teacher librarian can harness the power of Twitter to make that connection for her.

I can’t wait to see what this student comes up with in the end, and I look forward to connecting even more students with the resources they need through my access to social media.

America Recycles Day: Connecting with the World and Making a Difference

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This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to collaborate globally.  In the past, I’ve participated in amazing events such as Dot Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and World Read Aloud Day.  Each of those events has connected our students to classrooms and authors around the globe, and I’ve found so many collaborative colleagues through these events.  It’s these very events that have pushed me to wonder what more we can do with our students.  I’ve been pondering how we can have collaborations that allow our students to make a difference in the world and share their ideas, their questions, their problems, and their solutions.

When our spectrum teacher, Natalie Hicks, came to me with a flyer about America Recycles Day, I knew that this day had potential to spark some action projects with our students and students around the globe.  I made a Google doc, crafted a blog post, and started inviting anyone and everyone to connect for America Recycles Day.  It didn’t take long for some of the very people I’ve connected with for other events to start posting their own schedules in the doc and making connections.  I want to thank Shawna Ford, Jenny Lussier, Cathy Potter, Donna MacDonald, Misti Sikes, Ly Phan, Kathy Schmidt, and Craig Seasholes for taking a risk with me and trying something new.  These people put their schedules out there and started making connections.

This week, my own students started making connections for America Recycles Day.  Each Skype or Google Hangout offered a little something different.

Ms. Clarke and Ms. Haley’s 3rd grade class connected with Kathy Schmidt and her 3rd graders in Gwinnett County, GA.  We learned about how her students are collecting items from home to put in the library’s tinker lab rather than throw them away.

Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade class connected with Cally Flickinger in South Burlington, Vermont.  We read the book Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter.  The story sparked a great conversation about how our trash can take over our world and how important it is to recycle or reuse instead of throw things away.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class connected with Donna MacDonald in South Burlington, Vermont.  Her students shared how they are using Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit to inspire a save the crayons campain.  Students are collecting crayons and sending them to be melted into new crayons.  Our students took time to offer some other ways that the crayons might be used such as making candles, melting crayons for artwork, fusing crayons together to make two-sided crayons, and investigating what crayons are made of so that they might discover even more things that crayons could make.

Ms. Li’s Kindergarten connected with Misti Sikes and her Kindergarten in Forsyth, Georgia.  They shared how they recycle at their school by separating white paper and color paper as well as other ways that recycling has to be prepared before it goes into the bin such as removing paper clips and staples.

Ms. Boyle’s Kindergarten connected with Holly Esterline & Katie LeFrancois’s grade 1 & 2 class in Bolton, Vermont.  We shared the book Compost Stew and heard about how their school is doing TerraCycling.  Even with our connection issues, we still learned a lot about something we don’t do much of at our school.

Ms. Tesler’s 4th grade students gathered a lunch bunch together to connect with Cathy Potter and her students in Falmouth, Maine.  The 1st graders at her school showed us a Google presentation with pictures of recycling and composting efforts in their school.  They have a whole process of how their scraps at lunch get put into a bucket to go to the composting bin.

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Finally, Ms. Spurgeon’s 3rd grade class connected with Karre Sloan’s 6th grade students in Nashville, Tennessee.  They shared the recycling program from their school and how their 3rd graders are in charge of recycling.  They also shared their ideas and tips for our own recycling problem at our school.

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In every connection, our students shared our own school problem.  We have recycling bins in every classroom, but we are finding that people are still throwing away recyclable things.  Even when we recycle, we have an additional problem.  People are parking in front of our recycling dumpster and the recycling truck can’t get to the recycling to empty it.  We posted these problems onto a Padlet.  We showed each connecting class the bins that we have in our classrooms and read the recycling instructions that can be found on the bag inside.  Sometimes our connecting classes gave us new ideas right on the spot or shared what their own school is doing that might support our problem.  Other classes added to our Padlet after we disconnected.  We also added to the Padlet.

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Our next step is to take this Padlet and share the ideas with our environmental committee which is chaired by Natalie Hicks.  We also have 2 enrichment clusters that we can share the Padlet with.  Our hope is that some of the ideas that came from so many perspectives will spark change within our school problem.  We want to connect back with some of the classes we met this week and share what we’ve done to improve our problem, and we want to see what they have done since our connection.

I loved that during our very last connection, students arrived in the library to put signs on our recycling bin that were sent by our recycling department.

 

Miraculous things came out of our connections:

  • We saw that we weren’t alone with our problem and that there were multiple things to test out to try to reach a solution.
  • We learned that recycling is very different from place to place.  We are so fortunate in Athens to have a state of the art recycling facility and single stream recycling.  Some communities have to put forth a lot of effort to recycle, and it is so easy for us.
  • We realized that there were so many things we could do with our “recycling” other than put it in the bin.  The concept of makerspaces is really causing a lot of us to think about turning trash into functional creations.
  • We saw that together we could come up with out-of-the-box ideas.  We often started with “put up posters about recycling”, but with the energy of collaboration, new ideas surface such as make smaller trash cans, create a recycling contest, write a catchy song about recycling to sing on morning announcements, and more.

My hope is that this week of connections really does spark change in our school and others.  At the very least, I think it made us more aware of what we are throwing away.  These types of connections have the potential to grow into large-scale collaborations around the globe.  The combination of powerful texts such as Here Comes the Garbage Barge and Eyes Wide Open along with the innovative ideas of students, teachers, and families fosters a healthy environment for long-lasting collaboration.  Our students are the future of our world, and when we allow them to unite with one another around authentic dilemmas in our world, we are equipping them with problem solving skills to keep our world a peaceful place.

 

 

Using Skype in the Classroom to Connect with Rube Goldberg’s Granddaughter

jennifer george (4)Second grade has been studying force and motion as a part of their science standards.  We kicked off this unit in the library by learning about the inventions of Rube Goldberg and exploring the Rube Works app for iPad.

In class, students explored force and motion through a Picture Perfect Science lesson about roller coasters.  During this exploration, they learned key vocabulary and concepts for force and motion.  After exploring, they learned even more about force and motion through informational text.  Finally, students worked in collaborative groups to build their own Rube Goldberg invention.  During this process, students were able to apply many of the concepts and vocabulary that they learned through the other experiences.  I loved peering into their classrooms from time to time to watch them try to get their inventions to work.  I loved how they tried something, failed, and then tried again.  This is something we’ve had a lot of conversations about.

Today, thanks to Skype in the Classroom, students had the chance to Skype with Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George.  If you haven’t taken a look at Skype in the Classroom, you should!  Teachers and guest speakers can post topics or lessons and classrooms can sign up to participate in those lessons.  Once you sign up, you go through a process of communicating with the creator of the lesson or topics in order to schedule your Skype connection.  Also, educators get a free Skype premium account for signing up.

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Our connection lasted from about 40 minutes.  During our time, Jennifer George shared some Rube Goldberg facts that only a granddaughter would know.  For example:

  • he wore shoes when he went swimming
  • he was always on time
  • he ate whip cream for dessert and when cool whip came out he ate it by the bowl
  • when he got his 1st car, there were only 12 cars in New York City

She talked about how Rube Goldberg never built the inventions that he drew, but many people have taken his drawings and built the machines or designed their own.  I loved how this fact fit in with our collaborative project and how each member of the team brings something different.

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We also loved meeting Jennifer’s cat.  The students couldn’t contain their excitement when the cat jumped up behind her on the counter.  Jennifer gave us a close up view of him.

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After Jennifer gave us some facts, she spent some time letting students ask questions.  They love to do this.  I loved how she listened to each student’s name and repeated it in her response.  It made the conversation connected and personal.

It was during these questions that we learned things like:

  • Rube Goldberg created over 50,000 cartoons
  • He started drawing when he was about the age of our 2nd graders
  • Jennifer is a fashion designer who has designed clothing for several big celebrities like Madonna and Aretha Franklin

The students really wanted to see some of Rube Goldberg’s drawings, but thankfully thankfully many of them are available in a new book called The Art of Rube Goldberg.  I think that students are going to be demanding that we get this book in our library.  Thank you Jennifer George for sharing the stories and inventions of your grandfather with us.   Thanks Skype in the Classroom for this fun time.  

You can learn more about Rube Goldberg at http://www.rubegoldberg.com/

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We have another Skype in the Classroom connection coming up soon with David Fox, developer of the Rube Works app that we have been playing.  We can’t wait!