Punkin’ Chunkin’: A Halloween Makerspace Event

Our makerspace sessions this year have been following a month-long theme, but for Halloween, we decided to have a one-time special makerspace.  In the past, we’ve done a “design something spooky” challenge where kids designed haunted houses, ghosts, etc and used littlebits to give them lights, sound, and movement.

This year, Gretchen Thomas from UGA suggested pumpkin catapults, and it was the perfect suggestion. Ahead of the session, students signed up on a Google doc with their teacher for a 30-minute slot.  As students arrived, they checked in with a UGA student and sat on the carpet in front of the projector.  While we waited on arrivals, they watched a video of the Punkin Chunkin event in Delaware.

We chatted about observations. Many students noticed the different styles of catapults that were made and we wondered about how many times they had to work on their inventions before they worked the way they wanted them to.

Next, I muted a video showing students working on a smaller scale pumpkin catapult.

While the video played, we talked about the day’s challenge. Students were challenged to design a catapult that could launch a candy pumpkin across the library. They used the video to name some of the materials they would need: plastic spoon, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, tape, and a pumpkin. Students also saw in the video that there were many designs of catapults and that adjustments were constantly being made to improve the catapults.

When they were ready to take on the challenge, students gathered their initial materials from a supply table and made their first attempt at a pumpkin catapult. Some jumped right in while others went back to watch the video again. Some chose to work together, while others chose to work alone.

As first attempts were finished, students picked up a candy pumpkin and moved to our launch zone. This was a crucial piece of the experience. I wanted a designated area for launching in order to contain the mess but also to keep students safe from flying projectiles. We launched pumpkins in the back of the library toward our green screen wall.

Most students had mediocre first launches, so we chatted with them about what they thought might improve their design.  Students went back and forth from the launch zone to the building areas.  UGA students spent most of their time at tables assisting students who were stuck or needed an extra hand. Some of them also helped with keeping students safe from flying pumpkins in the launch zone.

Even with pumpkins flying in the back of the library, this was a surprisingly peaceful makerspace. Students were very focused on their designs, especially as we moved higher in grades. Pairs of students worked well together and students were for the most part safe when launching pumpkins. I loved seeing the many different designs. Some were very simple and some attempted to make very elaborate catapults.

This experience could have many extensions if we had more time. I would love to add a measurement component to see which catapult threw pumpkins the farthest. We kept things very open-ended, but you could also establish some boundaries as to what elements of the catapult were required, how many materials could be used, etc.

With the time we had, this was the perfect setup. Students had plenty of time to make a catapult that had some type of success and they were able to take what they made with them to continue working on or exploring.

Makerspace Begins: Themes and Options

Our makerspace has once again cranked up for the 2018-19 school year. Once again, I’m collaborating with Gretchen Thomas and her class of over 30 undergraduates from the University of Georgia. Every year, Gretchen and I meet to think about what our open makerspace time might look like, ,and every time we make some changes and try something new.

Our idea for this year is offer specific themes around materials or tools rather than try to squeeze in so many different things in a short amount of time.

For September, we’ve chosen cardboard as our material.  Across 3 weeks, we hope to offer 3 short-term challenges using cardboard.  One of those challenges will be a “making with a cause” challenge.

  • Week 1: Design a hat. This can be interpreted however students want.
  • Week 2: Making with a Cause. Make an award. Students will choose someone who deserves an award. Make the award. Give the award to that person with an explanation of why they deserve the award.
  • Week 3: Make a puppet. Use cardboard tubes to create unique puppets and hopefully begin storytelling with them.

For the second open makerspace, we know that there will be students who aren’t interested in the short-term options and want to branch out to their own projects that take longer than 1 or 2 sessions. For these students, we will offer them a space to plan, design, and create their own inventions that have a purpose.  We wanted to keep this option open ended, but encourage students to develop something using cardboard that actually has some sort of function/purpose.

In each Tuesday/Thursday session, groups of UGA students come to work alongside students. They come in 30-minutes waves so that each round of students has me and UGA students to support them. I’ve put a bit more structure on the front end of makerspace this year. Students check-in with a UGA student and then sit on the carpet. I offer a quick intro to what we are making and connect it to a book. For cardboard, we used Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. Then, students move to tables to do some planning before they start grabbing cardboard and cutting.

This week, we launched into the first challenge of making a hat. Students had access to cardboard, Makedo safe saws, scissors, duct tape, and coloring supplies. Students sketched hats onto cardboard and started sawing.  There was a learning curve on the best strategies for sawing. Some students were more patient than others with the cutting process. Be warned! It was very loud and very messy. All adults circulated around to support as many students as possible.

At the end of session 1, students labeled all of their pieces of cardboard and we stored them in the makerspace.

For session 2, we spread all of the pieces out so that students could locate their cardboard to start again.

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Our hats continue. #makerspace #barrowbuddies

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I loved seeing the hats that students came up with in such a short amount of time. At dismissal, I could see the cardboard hats parading down the halls and lots of students were curious about where they came from. Many students needed more than 2 sessions to finish. Some chose to take the materials with them to finish at home. Others left their hats behind to continue working on next week.

I have a lot of questions about how this is all going to work. It’s fast-paced and a challenge to get one group finished and cleaned up before the next group comes in. It’s also a mess of cardboard dust and bits, and I hate leaving that for our custodians. However, we’re pressing forward, expecting the miraculous, and making changes as needed along the way.

Wolf in the Snow Puppets and Storytelling

In just 2 weeks, we will welcome author/illustrator Matthew Cordell to our school. Small groups of our Kindergarten students have been coming to the library to work on a special project. This project came about because our Kindergarten classes are unable to attend our regularly scheduled makerspace times. I wanted to offer them some special opportunities throughout the year because of this. Thankfully, I now have a high school intern, Andrea Arumburo, who is collaborating with me in the library most afternoons. Her focus is art, so I knew she would align perfectly with Kindergarten makerspace opportunities.

For this first round of classes, groups of 5 students from each Kindergarten class came to the library to create puppets based on Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow.  We began by refreshing students’ memories on what happened in the story with a quick flip through the book. Then, Andrea talked with the students about creating characters on paper plate circles. She offered that they could replicate the characters in the story, or they could design a character that looked more like themselves.  She had several examples to show them.

Next, students moved to tables and sketched out their characters on paper plate circles and colored them. We placed examples on each table as well as a copy of the book. As students finished a puppet, they glued a tongue depressor stick onto the circle to create the puppet. Most students chose to make a 2nd character so that they had one human and one wolf.

Once students finished, we sent them to spots around the library to practice retelling the story. Kindergarten talks a lot about 3 ways to read a book: read the words, read the pictures, retell the story. This was a great opportunity to practice retelling.  Some students referred back to the book. Others remembered every detail. Others used their artistic license to completely change the story and make it their own.

After practicing, they found a partner and shared their puppet show story with a partner.  For many, this was the stopping point in our time limit of 40 minutes.  However, a few students were able to come over to the green screen and practice retelling their story in front of the camera.

In one session, we decided we didn’t have enough time to film anyone so instead, we all sat on the carpet with our puppets and we walked back through the pages of the book together. I told the story and students used their puppets to act out the story.  I loved watching them hide puppets behind their backs when that character wasn’t in a scene.  This unexpected closing was actually something I wish I had done with the other groups because it made a connection between the puppets and the story.  I think it would have helped students in making their own puppet shows.

Our hope is that Andrea and I can continue to offer these opportunities throughout the year. Some will be low-tech, high-tech, or a mix of it all.

Star Wars Day: May the Fourth Be With You

I’ve wanted to hold a Star Wars Day in the library for a long time, but it seems like every year something comes up that prevents me from doing it. However, this year, I put it on the library calendar early and crossed my fingers. By the time May 4th arrived, I had protected five 45-minute slots on the library calendar to host classes.

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Use the force #starwarsday

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The signup was open to any classes. Three 5th grade classes, one Kindergarten, and one 2nd grade class signed up. We opened each session with Star Wars music and a reading of Chewie and the Porgs by Kevin Shinick. As students were seated, they selected one of four cards: porgs, jedi, storm troopers, and wookies. This sorted them into 4 groups to move into centers.

I knew our time would disappear quickly, so I wanted helpers at each rotation. I made a signup genius to send out to families, but I also invited 4th and 5th grade students to sign up.

Origami Yoda

This station was inspired by the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger.  Students saw the book series and then followed either a Youtube video (more difficulty) or printed visual instructions (easier) to create their own origami Yoda. The finishing touch was using black marker to add eyes, mouth, and any other details.

For the Kindergarten class, this station adjusted to making a Yoda headband since their fine motor skills aren’t as great for creating origami. They traced Yoda ears on green paper and added them to paper headbands.

Star Wars Name

This station was combined with origami. Students used a formula to create a new name for themselves. For the first name, they used the first 3 letters of their last name combined with the first 2 letters of their last name.  For the last name, they used the first 2 letters of someone’s last name and the first 3 letters of city where they were born. This name was written onto a “hello my name is…” tag and taped on their shirt. I loved to watch the concentration it took to figure out the correct letters and then the laughs as people tried to read one another’s name. It was a great lesson in spelling and phonics.

 

Tiny Light Sabers

This station was a hit. We used finger lights that I purchased on Amazon and put straws over the LED light. Students cut the straws to the length they wanted and used washi tape and feathers to jazz them up. We loved watching the tiny light saber battles that ensued. I put book at this station that featured light saber duels on the cover.

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Tiny light saber battle #starwarsday

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Chewbacca Puppets

Students used brown paper lunch bags with white & black construction paper to create a Chewie puppet. I didn’t use stencils for this station. I simply made an example and let them cut out teeth, eyes, and a nose in their own style. We did offer the Kindergarten class a few pre-cut objects to choose from.

Star Wars Doodles

At this station, students finished partial Star Wars drawings by adding their own creative details and coloring. I loved the impromptu storytelling that happened as students created their scenes.

Next year, I want to think about how I can expand this opportunity to more classes. I also want to think about more stations that connect with various areas of the curriculum. Each of these stations connected with a book, writing, or storytelling, but I would love to weave in some space science and some math. I’ll think on that, but overall, I loved seeing the enthusiasm of students especially in the Kindergarten and 2nd grade classes.

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Star Wars creativity. #starwarsday

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May the Fourth be with you!

 

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.

 

Epic Halloween Makerspace

We returned from fall break this year on Halloween.  The kids were of course pulsing with energy as they awaited a night of trick or treating, so we held a special makerspace session to harness their energy and have some fun.  Gretchen Thomas and I already wanted to try something a little different on Halloween for makerspace.  When her group of UGA students started investigating Halloween and fall themed makerspace activities, they asked if they all could come instead of just one small group.  So…half of her class came at 11:00 and half came at 11:30 and we added extra slots to our signup sheet.  We had anywhere from 25-40 students who signed up for each session.

There were 5 stations for students to choose from and each station had UGA students to support students.

Ghost Rockets

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Ghost rockets #makerspace #Halloween #steam

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Students made 3-dimensional ghosts out of paper and launched them into the air by putting them onto the end of a straw and blowing. Many students adjusted their ghost design or tried different techniques for launching.

Catapults

Students used Popsicle sticks, spoons, and rubber bands to create catapults that would launch pom pom balls into the air.  A Halloween treat bucket was the target, but students also loved becoming the target themselves.  This was a rowdy but fun center, and once again, we saw students adjust their designs for a better launch or even build catapults that would launch 3 pom poms at a time.

Leaf Chromatography

Students folded coffee filters into triangular shapes and colored them with markers to make a color pattern.  Then, they dipped the filters into water to see how the colors would move across the coffee filter.  This center needed a drying area since each filter was very wet after the activity.

Make a Monster

Students used a variety of supplies to design their own monsters. This included cupcake wrappers, pipe cleaners, eye stickers, pom poms, glue dots, and more.  The thing I loved the most about this center was the character traits that each monster developed. Many students described their monsters in great detail as they worked and developed an impromptu story about each one. Again, students would look at their design and think about what they could add. Some even created parts of their monsters that moved so that they truly came to life.

Haunted House Construction

Students used Strawbees and straws to construct haunted houses. This center evolved as we went, and many students started building other things along the way too.  For example, a student built a bird cage with a perch, but the bird was invisible because it was a ghost.  Another student build a table-length monster and we talked about how he could have added paper onto his Strawbee skeleton to make a complete monster.

There was a lot of energy, noise, and fun during this makerspace, but it was so organized and focused.  Students were engaged the entire time and had many options of what to go to.  I wouldn’t run makerspace like this every time, but it was a great alternative to get more kids into the space and meet a variety of needs.  Thank you Gretchen Thomas and UGA students for an awesome day of learning and fun.

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.

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Grandparents day and dot day #dotday #grandparentsday

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The library was buzzing for almost an hour.

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.

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.

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.

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Dot gallery walk #dotday #creativity

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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.