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.

 

Storybook Celebration 2016

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Traditions. We have many. The annual storybook parade is one that has been around for a long time. Each year we try a few new things, but the hear of the storybook parade is celebrating books by dressing as our favorite characters, carrying the book, and showing off our costume and book to the community.

Trying to document the day. (Photo Credit: Paul Lee)

Trying to document the day. (Photo Credit: Paul Lee)

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Storybook family #barrowbuddies #storybook #parade

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The day begins with guest readers in every classroom. Janice Flory, our volunteer coordinator, sets up a Signup Genius to recruit 2 readers for each classroom. They gather in the library, select a book, take a group picture, and then get escorted to a classroom by a 5th grade BTV crew member.

I was really excited about the selection of books they had to choose from this year.

Next, the whole school gathered in the lunchroom for an assembly.  Since October 27 was Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, I read aloud The Bear Ate Your Sandwich and recorded approximately 675 listeners to the story.

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When we were a smaller school, we took time to walk across the stage and show off our costumes, but it is a challenge as we have grown. Now, we simply stand by row, do a little twirl, and then sit down facing the back of the cafeteria.  The costumes this year were amazing. I really pushed for students to think about characters they connected with and dress as that character.

At this point, we head out on our parade. Our route this year was the entire block of our school.

Students chant “read more books” as they walk down the sidewalk and parents and community members watch and blow their horns as they pass by.

Our Prek-4th grade classes return to school and begin literacy activities in their classrooms. Our 5th grade walks to the nearby Georgia Center to have hot chocolate and spend some time together.

Upon returning to school, our specials teachers, resource teachers, and media center offer special 30-minute sessions that classrooms can sign up to attend.

In the library, I offered a couple of experiences. Lower grades designed their own Halloween pumpkins using the Quiver augmented reality app.

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Pumpkin carving #ar #librariesofinstagram

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Upper grades used littlebits to make something spooky.  Both of these activities were connected to spooky stories we have in the library.

 

I loved seeing the designs that students came up with in both experiences.  It was a fast-paced session that pushed students to be creative, work together, problem solve, and innovate.  I hope that many will continue to explore littlebits beyond this fast session.

 

As always, this day was tons of fun but exhausting. It takes the whole community to make the event successful. Thank you to every student, teacher, family member, and community member who helped us make this day a success.

Fall Semester Makerspace Blowout!

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The fall semester at UGA is coming to a close, which means that our wonderful support in our makerspace is taking a break.  We will resume our open makerspace times in January when UGA cranks back up for spring semester.  Today, Gretchen Thomas’s entire class from UGA came out to support our young makers.  We pulled out many favorite activities from the semester: green screen, makey makey, littlebits, sphero, morse code bracelets, and safety pin bracelets.  It was noisy and fun.

Having this class come out has exposed our students to so many of the tools in our makerspace and also taught the UGA students what is happening in elementary schools today and just what elementary learners are capable of.  We are already brainstorming what next semester might look like.  I hope to see some more advanced projects come out of what the students know now that they have some familiarity with the tools.  Instead of just snapping littlebits together, I want to see them invent something.  Instead of driving Sphero all over the library, I want to see some programming or a use of Sphero that has a purpose.  Instead of playing a banana piano with makey makey, I want to see students designing their own programs that are controlled with all kinds of things that conduct.  The tinkering piece is important, and I love that so many students now have a level of comfort with the makerspace tools with a lot of room to grow.

We also want to look at how we can take the makerspace on the road by visiting classrooms and showing teachers and students what happens in makerspace, especially for those that are unsure or hesitant.  We started to notice the same kids always coming or teachers not sending kids for various reasons, so there’s  a need to get out into the classrooms.  We’ll also take a look at how to do another makerspace fieldtrip to the UGA campus sometime in the spring.

 

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.

 

Popup Makerspace at UGA with the Maker Dawgs and Flipgrid

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A few weeks ago, Gretchen Thomas, UGA instructional technology teacher, emailed me about a possible collaboration on the UGA campus. She wanted to bring her Maker Dawgs class to the UGA Tate Center Plaza to host a popup makerspace.  The idea would be to have a variety of maker tools available for UGA students to try on the spot.  She wondered if I had students who might join them.  Without hesitation, I said yes and  we started the logistics.  The more we planned, the bigger the trip got.  The biggest news was that 2 members of the Flipgrid and Vidku team from Minneapolis flew down to do a video in our library.  They wanted to go with us on our trip to see how students were getting their voice into the world and also how we planned to use Flipgrid to reflect on the day.

Our school is about a mile from the UGA Tate Center Plaza and our students have walking field trip forms on file so it was easy for me to create a field trip.  The hard part was working out the logistics for bad weather.  In true fashion, we had plan A, plan B, plan C, and maybe even a plan D.  It was right up to the wire deciding about going to UGA, but the rain held off and we made our trek down to Tate.

Students had a little bit of time to explore the maker tools that Gretchen brought before we prepped all of our supplies for UGA students to explore.

Students connected Spheros to iPads through bluetooth, setup a wireless network with Justin & Greg from Flipgrid, and made a playable piano with Playdoh and MaKey MaKey.

Then, we waited.  Traffic on the UGA campus quickly picked up at around 10:30 when classes changed, but most UGA students had their earbuds in and walked at a fast pace to get to the next class.  The kids were a bit timid at first, but with some encouragement, they began to develop techniques to get UGA students to stop and try out our makerspace stuff.

Several students started driving the Spheros right into the paths of walking college students.  At first, they dodged them, but eventually they started asking questions.  Other students started experimenting with phrases to get the UGA students interested.

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One student even put on silly costumes and made up dances to attract attention to our cause, and so many people loved his techniques!

It was really interesting to see the college students when they stopped.  Most of them wanted the students to demonstrate for them how each piece of technology worked.  They had to be nudged and encouraged to try them.  It made me wonder if there is less of a culture of risk-taking in this age bracket than with our elementary students.

Halfway though our makerspace time, Gretchen’s Maker Dawgs class joined us and helped talk with UGA students, demonstrate tools, and document the day through pictures and Flipgrid.

We used Flipgrid part of the time just to capture some video of what was going on.

Ludwig and Kearn spent a lot of time showing people how MaKey MaKey could control a computer.  They setup a piano and bongos that could be played with Playdoh, and they got several people to stop and try it out.  It was fun to listen them explain the science behind how it works.  When you touch the Playdoh and a piano plays, it seems like magic, but they did an incredible job of talking about circuits as they demonstrated the tool.

Many of our students worked hard to drive the Spheros around and demo them.  I wish that our Sphero students had been able to get some UGA students to try programming the Sphero, but most were just in too big of a hurry.  They mostly showed how you can use the Drive app to control the ball.  Maybe next time, we can be prepared to demo alternate apps.  However, they still had a good many students stop by and actually try out the ball after seeing how it worked.  The kids loved talking about how it worked and being able to teach students who were much older than them.

Another group of our students spent time making some things from duct tape and then teaching UGA students how to make them too.

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Others had a great time exploring littlebits, connecting blocks, and making friendship bracelets.

As our popup makerspace came to a close, we used Flipgrid to reflect on what we had learned.

Here are links to a few of those responses.

It was truly an amazing day of getting our students out into the world to share their knowledge and pass on their passion for makerspaces.  Gretchen was able to promote her UGA class.  We were able to show what’s happening in K-12 education right now with makerspaces.  Our students were empowered by the chance to be the experts in the room.  Gretchen and I are already brainstorming what this might look like next time.

Many thanks to Greg and Justin from Vidku and Flipgrid for tagging along and helping to document our day.

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Teachers in the Makerspace: An Exploration Experiment

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Each time I see students using our makerspace tools I see possibilities.  I see the problem solving that goes into each attempt and each failure.  I see the curiosity and energy that students bring with them.  I begin to make connections to the more structured curriculum that students use in their classrooms.  So far, I have been the main person to offer ideas to our teachers on how our makerspace supports the Common Core and the Georgia Performance Standards.  However, I don’t want to be the only one.  Since every lesson that happens in the library is a collaboration between me, the classroom teachers, and other support teachers, I want their wheels to be turning about our makerspace as well.

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The problem with this has been time.  Most teachers know we have a makerspace, but they haven’t actually had a moment where they could put their hands on the maker tools and experience tinkering and making for themselves.  I recently sent out a survey to see how many people would be interested in holding a teacher makerspace exploration

FireShot Capture - Staff Makerspace Exploration_ - https___docs.google.com_a_clarke.k12

I got an overwhelming response from our teachers that this is an area that they want to explore more.

FireShot Capture - Staff Makerspace Exploration - Google F_ - https___docs.google.com_a_clarke.k12

I met with my principal to talk about some possibilities for days to offer an exploration.  Luckily, we had a district professional learning day that offered some flexibility for school-based professional learning.  After all of us attended district meetings during the first half of the day, we returned to our schools for independent studies and choice offerings.  This was the perfect time for me to offer our first makerspace exploration because it gave us more time and it was on a day where teachers weren’t exhausted from teaching all day.  I offered an open makerspace on Feb 16th from 1:30-3:30PM.  Teachers from our school were encouraged to sign up and teachers from other schools were invited too.  We had 12 teachers from our school sign up, 1 teacher from JJ Harris, and a few drop-ins.

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I setup multiple areas of the library for exploration.  First, I pulled all of our maker books from the library and professional collection.

Then, I setup area with

  • 5 MaKey Makey kits connected to computers.  Playdoh was available
  • A box of duct tape and books on making from duct tape
  • Two spheros with ramps and iPads
  • Our workshop kit of littleBits
  • Our 3 Osmo kits
  • And our makerspace was open where our 3D printer is kept

I invited Kenneth Linsley from GYSTC to bring his squishy circuits, Spheros, and expertise.  I also invited Gretchen Thomas and her Maker Dawgs.  Two Maker Dawgs were able to come and spent much of their time at our Sphero and MaKey MaKey areas.

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We all started together at tables, but I wanted to keep my introduction extremely short.  I opened by thanking teachers for signing up to explore.  I invited them to give themselves permission to tinker, dream, create, fail, back up, and try again.  I also invited them to think about their curriculum as they tinkered.  I offered them a Padlet space to capture any brainstorming that they had during the session.

FireShot Capture - Makerspace Curriculum Ideas - http___padlet.com_plemmonsa_makerspace

I also showed them a Symbaloo with some instructional videos to refer to.  I know that some people prefer to look at how something works before they explore and some people prefer to just jump in.

FireShot Capture - Barrow Makerspace - Symbaloo - http___www.symbaloo.com_mix_barrowmakerspace

I finished by telling them to use this time to get their hands on as many things as possible and just give it a go.

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Teachers jumped right in.  I loved watching them make their first choices.  They really split themselves between every area and a few lingered at the tables to watch some videos.  I felt really good about the differentiation that was offered.

I walked around and offered a few tips when needed, but I was very careful not to take over or do the making for each teacher.  Ms. Olin and I had a great conversation about circuits in 5th grade and how littleBits and MaKey MaKey could be integrated into 5th grade science.  Ms. Hocking was busy brainstorming how the Sphero could be used in her math and writing time.  Ms. Stuckey was eager to get her 1st graders using the makerspace for their unit on inventors.  Brainstorming was definitely happening.

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This is exactly what I wanted to happen.  My hope was that as teachers used the tools, they would start to think about their students using them.  They would be less intimidated by the space and more open to trying the makerspace within their curriculum.  I don’t think a single person is opposed to using the makerspace.  It’s just hard to visualize how something fits into your curriculum if you’ve never used it yourself.

Our Padlet really wasn’t a success this time. There was just too much to explore to stop and write on a Padlet.  I don’t think it’s a bad idea, though, so I’m going to send the link back out and invite teachers to contribute to it now that they’ve had time to reflect.

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As we entered into the 2nd hour, Ms. Choate, a kindergarten teacher, walked up and said “I think I have something ready to 3D print”.  Sure enough, she had walked through a Tinkercad tutorial and figured out how to make a copy of the lesson file.  She was almost ready to print.  I worked with her to put her file into Makerware and onto the SD card for 3D printing.  We announced to the group that we were about to print and every person stopped to come and celebrate with Ms. Choate.

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I love watching people the first time they see something print.  It still amazes me to watch it, but when you see it for the first time, it’s just mind-blowing.  I answered lots of questions about how the printer works and showed some other tools that could be used for 3D design.  Ms. Choate stayed to watch her entire print, but in the meantime, she helped Ms. Li, another Kindergarten teacher, get her own file ready to print.  I loved seeing a teacher already passing on her maker expertise to another teacher.

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There are several other teachers who showed interest in exploring the makerspace who were unable to come, so I want to replicate this experience again.  It would be wonderful to have some of these same teachers return too and build upon what they learned as well as pass on their expertise to new teachers.

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This experience also makes me want to do this with our Barrow families too.  There’s a lot of potential, and once again, I’m just scratching the surface.  We have a lot of work to do in the coming years, and it’s going to be exciting.

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I’m also excited to share that a new school makerspace book is available.  It’s called Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School.  It’s by Laura Fleming but has contributions by Shannon Miller, Diana Rendina,and me!

Recent Scenes from Our Makerspace and an Exciting Update!

lego table

Our library makerspace has been a bustling place over the past few weeks.  I’ve still been holding some periodic makerspace recess sessions where students can signup to come and explore the space and what it has to offer.  Several students have been coming on a regular basis on their own.  This started as one or two students asking to come and then those students told some other students.  Before I knew it, I had a good problem on my hands.  I’ve been trying to find a good way to organize the process of students coming to use the space on their own.

At the moment, the process is that students send me an email if they want to start using the space on their own.  I make sure to put an appointment on the library calendar to introduce them to the space and set some parameters of what they can and cannot do.  Once I feel like the student is responsible, he or she can start coming without an appointment but still needs to tell me the plan of which days to come.  So far, this has been working with the exception of clean up and organization.  Often, these students are in a rush because they are using recess time.  Just when they get going with their making, it’s time to leave, so there’s little time to cleanup.  This is on my agenda to figure out, but I will have some help with this very soon.

robot dog

I’m partnering with Gretchen Thomas at the University of Georgia and some of her independent study students.  As their project, these students will be coming each day of the week from 11-12:15.  I will be able to tell students and teachers that they can come any day at that time.  The UGA students will be responsible for creating a sign in sheet so that we can track which students are using the space.  They will also monitor how often each student is coming.  Although I love having kids come and use the space, I think it is still important that they spend some time outside.  The UGA students will ask the students to limit their days so that there is space for others to try as well as time to go outside as well.  The UGA students will also help me establish a routine for keeping the space in some sort of organization.  Most importantly, they will explore alongside these students using the space.  All of this starts next week!

Over the past week or so, some amazing things have been made and tried in the space.  These have happened during our weekly enrichment clusters as well as these exploratory recess times.

A student spent time tinkering with LittleBits during enrichment clusters.  He would try one combination of bits and it didn’t quite do what he wanted.  He didn’t give up, and instead, kept trying different combinations until he made a type of microphone.  His next step is to figure out how to make this something we could actually use without having to lean right into the bit to talk.

Other students tinkered with littleBits in different ways:

There has been a lot of exploration of MaKey MaKey by using existing tools online and controlling those with the alligator clips and playdoh.

A challenge has been getting students to move beyond using the MaKey MaKey with existing tools and stretch their thinking to designing their own programs that can be controlled by the tool.  We finally had a breakthrough this week as some students began designing things in Scratch and controlling it with MaKey MaKey.

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Several students have been bringing in their own maker tools to share with the makerspace and classmates.  One student brought a robotic dog that can be controlled through an app and another student brought his snap circuits.  The Snap Circuits were very popular and students were screaming when they figured out how to snap pieces together to create an AM radio.

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I’m still seeing a lot of tinkering with Sphero.  The students love driving Sphero around and playing the various games, but this is another tool where I want to nudge students to begin programming.  I think they need this experimental stage, but I know they can create amazing things once they get going.

I’ve seen a lot of interest in duct tape.  This is the one area where I’ve seen students read the instructions in our duct tape books as well as watch videos about making things with duct tape in order to design something.  Now, a group of students have branched off to start making their own creations from duct tape.  One student made a flower from tape and then decided to add it to her headband.

So far, I feel like our 3d printing has been very teacher directed.  Because of safety concerns, I’m afraid to let elementary students use the 3D printer alone.  Now, though, I have some students who are really capable of this.  They know how to design something in tinkercad, export to Makerware, slice for 3d printing, save on an SD card, load the SD card, and get the print started.  I was startled one day when I heard the 3d printer start, and when I raced over to see what was going on a student had gone through this whole process alone.  I did remind him that due to safety I really wanted to be around when something was 3d printing, but I was also proud that an elementary student was able to go through all of the steps to print something.  Now, he has passed on that expertise to several other students.  Their designs are very simple at the moment, but I think they will get more complex as they tinker with the tool more and more.

I’m excited that Gretchen Thomas is bringing yet another fun tool for us to try when she comes next week:  Google Cardboard.  It’s sort of silly, but it’s a cardboard viewfinder that you stick your phone inside in order to create your own virtual reality on a budget.  Since Cardboard doesn’t officially support iPhones, we also used our makerspace to print an attachment from Thingiverse that will let us use our iPhones for the cardboard tinkering.

I’m still pushing to weave makerspace into classroom curriculum, and I think a next step is going to be to hold some informal teacher exploration time.  I think if teachers give themselves permission to tinker and explore, they will immediately start to see a use for their classrooms.

It is overwhelming and promising to see how many independent projects there are in our school and that students are coming to the library as a place to work on these projects.  I was amazed when I paused and took a quick look around.