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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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.


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.

Wrapping Up Enrichment Clusters: The Maker Faire Fanatics and The Power of Code


For 14 weeks, I’ve worked with a group of students in 2nd-5th grade to explore the world of making.  We met every Wednesday for one hour.  They used littleBits, MaKey MaKey, 3d printing, duct tape, cardboard, and robotics to dream up all sorts of things.  Ultimately, they were supposed to offer a service to an authentic audience or create a product to show.

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A few weeks into our clusters, Ms. Freeman, 5th grade teacher, asked if she could combine with our cluster.  Her cluster was The Power of Code and focused on the many tutorials available on Code.org.  What we both found was that each of our clusters had something that the other needed in order to create something truly miraculous.  The coding students knew some things about programming and the maker kids knew some things about putting things together.

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One example of a project that took off after our combination was a video game.  A few students banded together to design their own video game.  The plan was to create the program in Scratch, build an arcade game out of cardboard, and control the game using MaKey MaKey.  The kids made great progress on their work, but they didn’t quite get finished.  I hope that they sign up for open makerspace time to continue their work.


Our cluster time ended with 2 big culminating activities. The biggest was our field trip to UGA to host a popup makerspace and pass on our knowledge to others.

The last was to create a short video of our clusters to share at our school assembly.

This was an bright group of students to work with and I look forward to continuing to make and code with them the rest of this year and beyond.  They have taught me many things.

Our Open Makerspace Featuring UGA Students

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Students have been eager to use our makerspace this year.  I’ve been incorporating making into collaborative projects with grade levels, small groups, and even individual students, but there is still a strong pull to come to the makerspace to dream, tinker, and create without the constraints of a grade level curriculum.

My struggle is finding the time to balance giving students open time to explore along with the classes that I teach each day and collaborative projects that I support.  I’ve been having a conversation about this with Gretchen Thomas, instructional technology instructor at UGA.  Here and there we have found times for some of her students to come and work with my students.  Gretchen has even come in herself to work with students in the makerspace.  However, I wanted something more consistent and dependable for students and teachers instead of random emails inviting them to use the space.

This semester, we are experimenting with something new called open makerspace.  Gretchen has several independent study students as well as a Maker Dawgs course.  The independent study students have each selected a day of the week to be here from 11-12:15.  Gretchen’s Maker Dawg class will take turns coming on Thursday from 11-12:15.  This means that every day is covered.  This time of day overlaps into 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade recess.  Students have the option of coming to the makerspace instead of going to recess, but one of the big requirements is that they can’t come every day.  We still want them to get outside and enjoy the sunshine with their friends, too.

The UGA students and I are trying to work out a routine.  During this first week of our experiment, it looks something like this:

  • I send periodic reminders to teachers that the makerspace is available every day from 11-12:15.
  • Students come at any time during that time frame.
  • They sign in with the UGA student and say what they hope to explore or work on.
  • Together with the UGA students, they setup areas around the library to work on things like littleBits, Sphero, etc.
  • The UGA student tinkers right alongside the students as well as moves between groups to make sure they are keeping materials safe and being productive.
  • Every so often, the UGA students do a time check since the students get lost in the making and forget the time.
  • Before students leave, the UGA student prompts them to clean up as much as they can, and then the UGA student straightens and organizes in between groups.
  • When there’s not a high traffic time, it’s a great time for the UGA student to organize the maker supply cart, the littleBits, or the robotics kits.

I won’t lie that this week has been chaotic and exhausting.  I think that the process is going to work, but each day this week I had a new UGA student, so that meant teaching this routine to someone new each day.  Gretchen came to help on 2 of the days.  Most days this week, I didn’t have a moment to stop and fully eat my own lunch since it falls within this 11-12:15 block.  This will change, though.  It takes some time to get a new routine up and running.

What did this week look like?  So many exciting things happened.  The biggest is that 54 students have used the space this week during that one-hour time block, and that’s not including Friday!

We also got to try out Google Cardboard, which was just a little bit exciting for some of our students!

And just for fun, here’s one of our UGA makerspace helpers!

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.


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.


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.

Mini Maker Faire with UGA EDIT 2000


Today Gretchen Thomas from the University of Georgia brought one of her EDIT 2000 classes to the library for a mini maker faire.  She and I have been brainstorming about how to give students more opportunities to come and use the makerspace in the library for tinkering and exposing students to various types of making.  These conversations have come from my constant requests from students to come and use the makerspace.  I struggle with finding a balance between the standards-based lessons and projects that I offer in the library, weaving in the makerspace into curriculum, and the students’ desire to just mess around with the tools in the space.  Gretchen has been coming to lead maker recess times with me.

Today, her EDIT 2000 students brought multiple maker centers for students to explore.  These UGA students are mostly undergraduate students from a variety of backgrounds.  Some of them plan to be education majors while others have a range of other majors.  I love the range of expertise and interests that live within these classes.  Gretchen’s students designed a center that would explore some aspect of making.



One center explored optical illusions.  These students displayed a book of optical illusions and helped students create a drawing of their hand that looked like it was lifting off the page.



Another center was a cup stacking challenge.  These students had multiple clear plastic cups and students spent time stacking the cups into different formations to see how tall they could stack as well as which shapes seemed to hold up better.  I loved seeing all the strategies that students tried in order to stack and unstack the cups.  They were fearless and really demonstrated what it means to tinker, fail, and try again.



Students loved the paper airplane center.  These UGA students had books about paper airplanes and materials for making planes.  Students spent time making their planes and then testing them out in the library.  I loved watching planes flying around the library and hearing teachers ask “are students supposed to be flying airplanes around?”.


I saw several students refold their airplane to try something new in their design, so once again there was a strong demonstration of tinkering, failure, and perseverance.



Some of our stations involved technology or could be incorporated into technology.  One station was space for students to explore how to create speakers for iPods or iPhones using cups and paper towel rolls.  Students were eager to take their creations home and try them with their own devices.



One of the most lively centers was the marshmallow launcher.  Students used rubber bands and Popsicle sticks to create a tool to launch marshmallows.  They tested their creations and made adjustments to see how they could make their marshmallows launch higher and farther.  Again, it was fun to see marshmallows flying through the air along with the planes.



Another lively center was Video Star where students got to create their own costumes and form a mini flash mob dance to be recorded in the Video Star app.  These videos will be coming soon, so I hope to add a few to this blog post when they are ready.  It was interesting to see some students show their personality, come out of their shell, and be totally engaged when given an opportunity to make a music video.


A different take on making was the center that explored spices.  These students had a variety of spices that you might put in fall pies and students spent time examining the spices and creating their own mix.


I loved hearing what they planned to do with the spices when they get home.  One boy wanted to make a cake for his teacher and even talked about making a new fried chicken recipe.

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Three of our centers were facilitated by kids.  Two kids were Gretchen’s own kids and one was a neighbor.  They had centers on Minecraft, Goldieblox, and badge making.  They ran their centers like pros and I was reminded of how powerful it is when we give kids a voice to share their expertise with others.

Our entire 5th grade rotated through this experience across the course of an hour.  Students were able to visit about 3 centers.  After the centers are assessed and used at another school, they will be making their way back to our school for students to use in our makerspace.  I am so thankful to have Gretchen and her students so close to us.  She is willing to give any crazy idea a try and see what happens.  In this case, I think there were many miraculous moments.

As students left, they had smiles on their faces, energy in their bodies, and ideas flowing in their minds.  I invited them to think about how what they discovered fit into what they are doing in their classrooms.  I wish that I had been able to have them express some of these ideas before they left, but perhaps I can capture some of these reflections in another way such as a Flipgrid or Google form.