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.

 

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!

Exploring Makerspace through Alternative Recess

makerspace recess (7)Since the beginning of the year, students have been itching to get into our library makerspace to use the many tools housed there.  As the librarian, I try to weave as many of these maker tools into curriculum as I can, but the truth is that it’s just not fast enough for our students.  Telling them, “I’m waiting to find the right piece of the curriculum to use the littlebits with”, is not acceptable.  They want to tinker and explore and see how things work.

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Recognizing this, I had to find a way to give them more access.  I can’t say that I’ve found the perfect solution, but I’m working on it.  I’m blessed to have the University of Georgia right next to our school.  I’m even more blessed that the College of Education is within walking distance and Gretchen Thomas teaches in the instructional technology department.  Gretchen is an educator who truly gets the realities and challenges of school.  She wants her students to have experiences with what instructional technology really looks like in a school rather than guess about it in the college setting.  She and I have been brainstorming about challenges that I face in the library and the makerspace has come up a lot in our conversations.  We’re trying to create a plan to have adult support in the makerspace on a regular basis for students to explore during their recess time.  This alternative to going outside isn’t the only solution, but it’s one that many of our students are willing to do in order to get their hands on the makerspace tools.

Even though we don’t have details worked out for Gretchen’s students to be in the makerspace, she has volunteered her own time once per week to come in and help.  For the past 3 weeks, we have offered makerspace recess to our 4th graders.  A whole range of students have shown up.  I was very excited to see such a mix of boys and girls as well as several other kinds of diversity within the group as well.

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During the 1st recess, Gretchen and I quickly showed the tools in the space: Sphero, littlebits, and MaKey MaKey.  Students chose a starting place and jumped in.  It didn’t take long until the Sphero was being driven around the library, being programmed to drive and jump over a ramp of books, and a maze of books, shoes, and legs was being created on the floor.

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Students used the littlebits cards to snap together several suggested circuits, but it didn’t take long for students to start snapping random bits together to see what would happen.

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Students at the MaKey MaKey got out balls of Playdoh and started plugging in alligator clips.  Gretchen showed them how they could type using the balls of Playdoh, and they also explored how to play the piano on the MaKey MaKey site.

This alternative recess is certainly supporting my library goal of allowing students to dream, tinker, create, and share.  This free time to dream and tinker will only strengthen the curriculum work we do within the makerspace in grade level projects.

At some point, I’m sure we’ll create some structure to our alternative recess, but for now it just seems right to explore.

Empowering Student Voice through our Makerspace

3empower

 

At our “Meet the Teacher” night back in August, several students raced into the library to tell me about project ideas that they dreamed up over the summer.  As soon as I heard their enthusiasm, I knew that one of my library goals, “To empower student voice”, was going to be an important one for this school year.  One student shared about his idea to design his own Skylanders and 3D print them.  Another wanted to create a set of model trains on the 3D printer.  Another wanted to explore the MaKey MaKey. and program things.  I told them all that we would figure out how to make this happen this year, but I needed some time to get the library going.

As usual, the start of the school year has been busy getting projects, lessons, and technology off the ground, so I had not gotten back to these students.  I just love when students feel comfortable to raise their voices.  I received an email a few days ago from two students that went something like this:

Dear, MR Plemmons

We would like to come to the makerspace once a week during recess if possible. We would love to use the makey makey to possibly control Sphero. If this is possible please email back.
I knew I needed to make this happen fast because I had already waited too long to let these guys start tinkering, so I responded back:
When is your recess and what day are you thinking of?  I want to make this happen for both of you.
And then they responded back with the day, time, and:
Thank you for giving us this opportunity.
The first day of tinkering was just awesome.  Within a matter of minutes, Kearn had the MaKey MaKey connected to Play Doh and was controlling a train simulator on the computer.  Ludwig controlled the horn and Kearn drove the train.  Kearn wanted to make a video to show what he had done, so we pulled out an iPad and made an impromptu video which he wanted to add to his Youtube channel.  He also started following my blog and even left a comment about how much he loves the makerspace.  Both students were completely independent and were perfectly capable of dreaming, tinkering, and making on their own.  I was available for support as needed, but they really just wanted a space to explore.  As they continue, I want to connect them with some experts that might mentor their ideas and curiosities, but for now, they just need to tinker.

This is what I’m talking about when I say “empower student voice”.  These two guys are full of energy and passion about making.  I am sure that they will figure out so many things that I couldn’t even imagine myself during the course of this year.  They willingly share their knowlege and expertise, and I’m sure that their tinnkering, failures, and successes will inspire and support many other student projects during the year.  When I see two students get so excited about learning like this, I can’t help but think about what other opportunties students need to spark their own passions for learning.  I hope that our makerspace is just one space that ignites students’ curiosities this year.

Coders, Innovators, Makers…Please donate to our Donors Choose Project to build our library makerspace

FireShot Screen Capture #019 - 'Coders, Innovators, Makers_ Creating a Library Makerspace' - www_donorschoose_org_project_coders-innovators-makers-creating-a-l_1253089__rf=link-siteshare-2014-07-teacher_accoun

Update:  This project was fully funded in less than 24 hours.  Thank you to all who contributed and shared!

View our project here!

(Don’t forget to use the code “INSPIRE” at checkout!)

Here are the details of where this project is coming from:

Our library has always been a space where we value creating and sharing just as much as consuming information.  Last year because of a Donors Choose project, our library received a 3D printer and it allowed our students to create things that they had never even thought of.  The makerspace culture is alive and well in our library, but we have  a long way to go to exploring makerspaces and how the culture of a makerspace supports students, teachers, and families.

Over the summer, I had an article published in Teacher Librarian about the culture of creation that we are developing in our library and school.  In that article, I talk about the culture, but at some point you have to get some “stuff” to create with.

“Building a Culture of Creation” in the June 2014 issue of Teacher Librarian

This year, one of our library goals is to give students, teachers, and families opportunities to dream, tinker, create, and share.  A part of this is developing the tools that are available for creating in our library.  Our space which we thought was going to be a studio is now going to be a makerspace within our library.  A portion of our library funding this year will be dedicated to developing our makerspace.  After attending an Invent to Learn workshop and focusing on makerspaces at ISTE this summer, I have chosen some next steps for our makerspace.

Our library budget this year will fund:

A littleBits workshop set:

 

A litteBits Space kit:

 

4 MaKey MaKey kits:

 

A Hummingbird robotics kit:

 

This Donors Choose project will extend our budget and give students even more access to maker materials by adding.

littleBits Cloud:

4 additional MaKey MaKey kits:

Sphero:

 

I hope that you will consider supporting our project.  It will impact numerous students, teachers, and families within our school through projects, alternative recess activities, enrichment clusters, and afterschool workshops. Even if you can’t contribute financially, please consider sharing this project within your own networks. I will be sure to blog about our explorations throughout the year.  Thank you in advance!