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.

 

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.

Makerspace Maniacs Enrichment Cluster

first robots (10)For about 4 weeks, a group of 2nd-5th graders have been meeting with me on Fridays from 8:15-9:15AM.  This time is called enrichment clusters at our school which basically means that kids select a group based on their interest and spend a period of time learning and creating around that topic.  Our cluster is called Makerspace Maniacs.  Our first sessions have been about exploring the world of making.

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So far we have:

  • Watched Caine’s Arcade and explored the idea of making interactive creations with cardboard.

  • Watched Sylvia Super Awesome Maker Show and explored how we can take our creations and create instructional videos about them.

  • Watched Landfill Harmonic and explored how makers take other people’s trash or unwanted items and turn them into functional creations.

  • Watched how a 3D printer works and imagined what we would create on it.

  • Tinkered with Lego robotics and programming.
  • Explored making things out of duct tape.

Now, students are beginning to think about what they are interested in spending more time with.  Right now, we have a lot of interest in robotics.  Today, one student spent time exploring the directions to build a mindstorm NXT robot and began the building process.  Another group of students looked at the Lego WeDo kit and followed instructions to build an alligator.  Other students spent time, exploring how the various lego pieces fit together.  Since their interests are so drawn to robotics, Christa Deissler from UGA will be helping me coordinate a guest speaker to talk to students and demonstrate programming of robots.

first robots (9)Seeing something tangible really inspires the students.  Today a student figured out how to use the WeDo software to make the alligator open and close its mouth.  When students saw this happen, they immediately wanted their creations to do something too.  Once we get past the exploration stage, I think students are going to want to get into the workings of the programming software and figure things out.

In other news, our Donors Choose project to get a 3D printer is fully funded!  This will give these students access to even more tools for making.  Two other classes already have ideas for how the printer might be used in their own projects.  Once it’s here, I’m sure that there will be lots of exploring, learning, and sharing between classes to figure out how this tool can support the learning in classrooms.

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