How about a Popup Makerspace at Recess?

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The University of Georgia is winding down its spring semester, so that means our support for weekly makerspace is also winding down.  We only have 3 more weeks of school ourselves. Last year, Gretchen Thomas and I took our makerspace on the road to UGA to introduce random UGA students and visitors to the fun of making and tinkering. We really want to try that idea again, but this year we wondered, “How about a popup makerspace at recess?”.

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Many of our students come to makerspace during recess anyway, but some struggle with leaving their friends on the playground. We wondered if having the makerspace on the playground would bring in more students since they could easily run back and play if they wanted to. We also wonder if some students don’t come to makerspace because they are unsure of what happens at it. We thought putting it on the playground would make it much more visible and inviting.

Gretchen and her students planned several stations for students to explore. I also had some students prepare stations. Ahead of the recess makerspace, I advertised to teachers that we would be having the makerspace on the playground from 11AM-12PM. We also mentioned it on our morning broadcast on the day of the event.

Before 11:00 rolled around, we setup tables under the awning and sunshade on the playground and got the stations ready. My students and Gretchen’s students helped make this happen. Before we could even get setup, we already had students coming up from the playground asking if they could try something.

It was wildly popular! There were moments when 2-3 entire classes were descending on the makerspace, but being outside allowed us to spread out and really not worry about the noise. It also helped that Gretchen’s entire UGA class was here o

Here’s a look at what we offered:

Station 1:

Students constructed their own bubble wands and then tested them out. Some students chose to make a basic wand with a circle and stem, but as the station went on, we saw students really get creative in trying out different designs from very large shapes to tiny circles. This was also a great station to have outside because we didn’t have to worry about bubble spills. Next time, we will add beading to this center to allow students to personalize their wands. However, I loved that the focus this time was on trying different shapes to see what made the best bubbles.

Station 2:

We marked off an area and put a bucket of sidewalk chalk for students to create their own chalk art on the sidewalk.

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Station 3:

Students used marbles, orange cones, duct tape, and pipe insulation to create a marble roller coaster. This station really evolved as time moved on. Students began working in teams to try to make small changes to the pipe insulation to make the marble travel a longer distance. They even started gathering materials from other stations to add to their design, which is just what we want to see makers doing. I was amazed by the teamwork from students in different classes and grades. There’s something about the maker environment that cultivates teamwork.

Station 4:

Students used aluminum foil to build boats and test their floating capability in pans of water. Some students chose very simple designs just because they knew they would float, but other students really pushed their designs to the limit to see how much detail they could add to their boat or how big they could make it before it would sink.

Station 5:

Outside was the perfect place to test paper airplanes. This station allowed students to share their paper airplane building skills and test out to see who could make a plane that could really travel in the wind. We didn’t have any specific instructions or books at this center, so it really did take tinkering or sharing expertise to build the planes.

 

Station 6:

A group of 5th grade girls setup an art station filled with coloring sheets with dogs and cats. They are leading a changemaker project to encourage people to donate food to a local shelter, and the coloring sheets will eventually be used to help bring awareness to their campaign. Along with this center, students could learn how to draw a dog or cat using a series of circles or go on an observation walk with a 5th grade girl to sketch objects in nature. I think we forget the importance of coloring. Many of us know that adult coloring books are all the rage right now, so it only makes sense that kids are still into coloring too! there’s something soothing about sitting around with friends, pulling out the crayons and color pencils, and focusing on filling in the lines. This proved to be one of the most popular stations at makerspace, so it really made me curious about where we could go with this. My mind was racing about student-designed coloring pages, coloring tablecloths, and more.

Station 7:

A 4th grader and a 2nd grader assisted students in exploring Finch robots. They setup 5 computers, connected the Finch, and introduced students to the Snap program to code the robots. Then, they let students explore coding on their own. The 2 students only jumped in if someone was stuck or had a question about how to start. I loved seeing how 2 students who had spent 10 weeks learning about the Finch could allow people to start from the very beginning without telling them every step to make. They really understood the importance of tinkering and figuring things out for yourself.

 

 

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As the hour came to a close, we still had a circle of students coloring, and we sadly had to dismantle the roller coaster. The UGA students didn’t want to leave and students were asking if they could miss lunch. Moments like those make it a great day. Now, Gretchen and I have some thinking to do about next year. We have lots of ideas in the works, but I think one of the big things we will think about is how we can take the makerspace on the road around our school. I love having the space and opportunities in the library, but changes in venue bring in new voices. Changes in location also allow us to try things that maybe we wouldn’t try if we were inside. I think we will see a few more popup makerspaces next year. Who knows where we will popup next!

 

Kindergarten Mission to Mars: A Makerspace Tinkering Lesson

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Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class has turned a curiosity into a year-long project.  They became interested in space, and it has turned into a research project about planets, creating planet ebooks, writing original songs about the planets using ukuleles, and having a Fat Tuesday parade dressed as the planets.

Now, these students are on a mission to figure out how to support human travel to Mars.  They don’t actually want to go to Mars themselves, but they want to think about what might need to be invented in order to support human travel to Mars in the future.  Wow!  Some might look at a Kindergarten class and think this is silly.  How could students as young as Kindergarten come up with ideas for traveling to Mars?  I think Ms. Kelly’s class proves that even our youngest voices should not only be listened to but empowered as well.

Mars Makers

These students have spent extensive time researching Mars.  They know about the land, the weather, the atmosphere, and ways that Mars has already been explored.  They have brainstormed things that they might need to think about when traveling to Mars such as water, food, oxygen, and how to survive the dust storms.

They recently came to the library to read the book  You Are the First Kid on Mars by Patrick O’Brien.

She and I brainstorm a lot over email.  When working with her, nothing is impossible and our biggest limit is time.  She wanted a way to capture all of her students’ brainstorming, so I suggested a Padlet since they could post ideas, websites, pictures, and files.  I set one up for her and they got to work adding to it.

Within their brainstorming, they talked about creating robots that could help them explore Mars as well as several other technology-heavy ideas.  This brainstorm naturally brought us to our library makerspace.  We wanted students to have a time to explore some facts about robots, technology, electricity, circuitry, energy, and space exploration.  Ms. Kelly books an hour of time for student to explore, and I created some experiences for them to move through.

Experience 1:

I pulled as many books as I could find on all of our major maker concepts from 3d printing to robotics to circuitry.  I also pulled books about space.  This experience was a time for them to look at lots of pictures, read captions, and skim text with one another and an adult to get ideas that they hadn’t even thought of in their brainstorm.

Experience 2:

We have several robotics options in our makerspace.  Since robotics was part of their brainstorm, I wanted them to tinker with a robot that was manageable by a Kindergarten student.  I chose Sphero.  Since Sphero alone couldn’t do some of the things they were thinking of robots doing, I showed them a Youtube video of how Sphero can be combined with other things like a chariot to pull a camera or add an attachment.

Then, students used the Drive app to practice driving Sphero and brainstorming how this might help them explore Mars.

Experience 3:

Students have talked a lot about wiring and circuits during their brainstorming.  They really want to wire something that could actually work. I have 2 littleBits space kits which have instructions for creating things like Mars Rovers, Grapplers, and Data Collection Tools.  The age range is high for these kits, but age range never stops us from trying something.  We just look at what barriers are in place and then figure out how to build a bridge.  For this experience, I started students with the instruction booklets.  They got into 2 smaller groups and looked at the diagrams, instructions, and functions.  They started to think about their brainstorm and how these littleBits inventions might work with their ideas.  Then, they moved to a table of littleBits.  In pairs, they used a battery, power cord, and blue power switch to connect to one input (pink) and one output (green).  The idea was just to start tinkering a bit with littleBits to see how they work.  They weren’t necessarily making a space invention yet.

Here’s a quick look at what it all looked and sounded like:

Next, our students will go back into their classroom and continue working on their padlet using the ideas from the makerspace exploration and the books.  They also checked out some of the books to take back.  Then, students will begin constructing prototypes of tools that they might actually invent for space.

 

Skyping with Rube Goldberg’s Granddaughter: Improving the Student Voice Experience

rubeworks skype (2)Our 2nd grade is in the midst of another amazing project. They are studying simple machines, force, and motion as a part of their science curriculum.  We kicked off this unit by tinkering with a Rube Goldberg iPad app called Rubeworks.  Students worked in pairs to problem solve the many parts each Rube Goldberg puzzle. We allowed an hour for this experience and students persevered through the entire hour and supported one another.  Students continued to use this app in class.

Next, students had the opportunity to Skype with David Fox, the creator of the RubeWorks app.  He told a lot about how the app was made as well as listened to what the students loved and what they were frustrated with while using the app.

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In class, students read the book Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee. They used lots of tools to construct their own “roller coasters” and test them out.  This is all leading up to students designing and creating their own Rube Goldberg invention.

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This year, I purchased a book called The Art of Rube Goldberg. This book contains numerous pieces of Goldberg’s artwork, which was mostly selected by his granddaughter, Jennifer George.  Students have enjoyed studying these illustrations in class.  All of the puzzles in the Rubeworks game are based on pieces of artwork, so studying these images also supports students figuring out the game puzzles.

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Using Skype in the Classroom, we scheduled a Skype with Jennifer George.  Ahead of the Skype, students spent time in class preparing questions to ask Jennifer George.  The second grade teachers and I have really been fine-tuning a process for our skype sessions, and it is proving to create some very rich experiences for our students.  Students wrote questions about Rube Goldberg based on their knowledge of him from the illustrations in the book, their experience with the app, their observations of Rube Goldberg inventions, and their own drawings of inventions.

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During our Skype, Jennifer George told us just a bit about Rube Goldberg and herself, but she left lots of room for questions.  It’s times like these, that I’m so glad that the 2nd grade teachers have developed their Skype process.  Students had prepared questions on index cards.  The teachers quickly passed them out and we made a line of students who were ready to ask a question.  Students took turns stepping to the webcam, saying their name, and asking their question.  They awaited Jennifer’s response, and then said “thank you” before sitting back down.  Our questions really carried the Skype conversation today.  Each time a student asked a question, Jennifer commented on what a great question it was.  Students asked things like:

  • Did you aspire to be like your grandfather?
  • Do you have any of Rube Goldberg’s artwork?
  • How many drawings did Rube Goldberg make?
  • Did you ever help your grandfather draw his art?

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Each question was met with an extended story that uncovered pieces of Jennifer George and Rube Goldberg’s life.  We even got to see a sculpture that Rube Goldberg had created.

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I love Skype experiences where students get to interact with the presenter.  It empowers students to be able to ask the questions that they are curious about and have their curiosities answered.  I’m so thankful for teachers that give students the space to prepare for interviewing a Skype guest.  These interview skills will only continue to improve and will be a skill that students will carry with them throughout their lives.

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The teachers and I all commented on how different this Skype was compared to last year’s Skype with Jennifer George.  The time to prepare, the time to think about questions that matter and connect, and the trust to allow students to lead the conversation made this a memorable experience for us all.

Young Imagineers Digital Workshop

For the past few months, I’ve been working with 20 second graders on a project using Glogster.  These spectrum students have been studying inventions and have taken existing inventions that could be improved upon or invented their own creations.  As part of their study, they talked about costs, benefits, risks, and more.

None of these students had used Glogster before, so I started them out with a brief overview of what Glogster could do.  Then, as I’ve done in other projects, I let them explore.  As students had questions, they were more comfortable asking one of the adults (myself, Ms. Hicks, and Ms. Saxon).  Over time though, we pushed them to begin asking each other questions and sharing expertise with one another.  Students discovered things such as:

  • how to capture audio with a microphone and embed it on their glogster
  • how to use a webcam at home to video themselves talking about what was on their glogster
  • how to search Schooltube and embed a video
  • how to create a photostory and upload it
  • how to scan images of their invention and upload it or use it in a photostory

Each time a student learned something, the other students immediately wanted to do that too.  It was another great example of the power of students collaborating with one another and taking risks in their learning by diving into the unknown and figuring things out.  These students will now go into 3rd grade with a better understanding of how this tool works.  I just finished collaborating with the 3rd grade team and the art teacher on a project that will call upon these students as the experts who will teach the other students in their grade level how glogster works when this project launches next year.

I invite you to check out their work on the Spectrum Webpage.