Kindergarten Makerspace Exploration

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Every Tuesday and Thursday from 11-12:30, we have an open makerspace time for students to sign up to explore the world of making.  This time supports students from many of our grades, but it doesn’t support all students.  In addition to weaving makerspace into projects, I’ve been trying to host times for grades who can’t come at our normal makerspace hours to come and explore

Kindergarten is one of these grades. The Kindergarten teachers came to a maker professional learning session I did in the new year, and they really wanted to work out times for small groups of students to come to makerspace. We made a plan to have a couple of days each week where 3 students from each class came for a 30-minute maker time.  That equals 12 students.  For now, the students are different each time until we see the students who really get hooked into some of the maker tools. That means I have to offer the same experience multiple times so that all students get to try it.

The first day, we made kazoos out of rubber bands, popsicle sticks, and straws. This is an activity straight from Aaron & Colleen Graves’s Big Book of Makerspace Projects.  It honestly wasn’t the best experience for this age or maybe just this group.  The fine motor skills in the group had a hard time putting the pieces of the kazoo together, and tears flowed if the kazoos didn’t make a sound. Even with some growth mindset reminders and walking through how to back up and try again, there were still students who just gave up.  The students also needed a lot more assistance with this project than what I wanted for makerspace.  We still had fun and hosted a mini-parade around the library with kazoo.  We also had a great conversation about what we might try if we made our own adjustments to the kazoos.

I decided to abandon that project with the next group and try something new.

Next, we tried stop motion videos and Lego construction.  Magic started to happen with this experience.  We started by looking at a 4th grade stop motion project from last year and seeing what we noticed.

I have a box of Lego mini-figure pieces, so I pulled that out and asked students to construct one mini-figure and put it on a base plate.

In a matter of moments, they not only created the mini-figures, but they also started adding accessories that really started to create a story right before our eyes.

Next, I asked students to take their mini-figure and place it at an iPad I had setup at tables around the library.  Then they came back to me at the building table.  I demonstrated the Stop Motion Studio app on the iPad and used a mini-figure to show how to keep the iPad and base plate still while making small movements with the mini-figure.

Finally, students went to their tables and gave it a try.  It was magical to look around and see such engagement. Every student was focused. Every student was creating a story.  Every student was eager to keep going even when I said time was up.

Now I’ll be  honest that the quality of the stop motion created has a lot of room for improvement.  The fine motor skills still got in our way, but I’m really thinking about how I can help students keep their plates and iPads still while only moving their figures.  They really tried hard not to move things around, but they just couldn’t help it sometimes.

At the end, I asked them if they would continue working on this type of project and all students in 2 separate groups of 12 said yes.  We talked about how you would need more time and how you would create more elements of a narrative story.  The engagement was high, and it has my wheels turning about how this can be done with more students and how I can support the students in creating higher quality projects in the end.  There is great potential for storytelling projects in the future.  For a 30-minute session, it was a great start.

If you have stop motion tips for our earliest learners, please leave a comment.

Stop Motion Colonial Perspectives

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I just love it when a teacher steps out and tries something totally new just to see where it goes.  Some of the most exciting projects happen when a teacher gives himself or herself permission to say, “Hey, I have this crazy idea”.  Mr. Coleman, 4th grade teacher, does this often.  He isn’t afraid to step out and try something that no one else has done and look for the miraculous things happening all along the way.

Fourth grade is currently studying colonial life in social studies.  He wanted to weave in something from our makerspace or some new type of technology that would allow students to engage with the content in different ways.  During a quick brainstorm, we tossed around several ideas and he reflected on them overnight.  The next day, he came back with the idea to create stop motion videos that showed the perspectives of various roles in colonial America.

To start, students watched many stop motion videos in class just to see what they looked like. In the library, they came for a tinkering session using Stop Motion Studio.  As we usually do during tinkering, I encouraged them to press every button to see what it did.  I also told them to not focus on creating a polished product but to try out many different strategies to see what worked best for stop motion.  Most of these students had never made a stop motion video before. They grabbed Legos, stuffed animals, and pipe cleaners to use in their videos and got to work.

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Mr. Coleman and I walked around and tried to give students tips that we were observing from other groups.  The main thing we noticed is that students were constantly moving the iPads which ruined the effect of stop motion.  They also weren’t taking enough pictures to show movement.  A few students started getting the hang of both of these, so we relied on them some to help other groups.  We also found it helpful to regroup and have kids share tips to the whole group as well as share out own tips.

Back in class, students selected a perspective to showcase in a stop motion video.  Many students were drawn to either slaves or women.  They formed groups and started developing a plan.  Across 3 one-hour work sessions they came back to the library to create their videos.  They pulled things from makerspace, used objects around the library, brought things from home, and made things to use in their videos.  Some groups jumped right into their projects with a lot of success while others had to learn to work together or how to back up and try again.  Mr. Coleman also gave them some time to work in class.

I loved how different strategies developed during the work time.  Students began using their computers as a setting and stage or used library bookends to help characters stand up.

Mr. Coleman and I constantly walked around to conference with groups.  We had them back up and look at their work to see where they might need to add pictures.  We also had them talk through their story to see if they had enough to tell a perspective.

As students finished up in their final work session in the library, we exported the videos onto the iPad camera roll and uploaded them to a shared folder in Google Drive.

Mr. Coleman plans to take these videos and continue using them in class.  Students might write out scripts and do voice over or maybe they will add music and simply attach an accompanying script.  However this goes from here, it was a big leap in using technology and tools we have tinkered with in our makerspace.  Many pieces wove together to support a social studies curriclum standard in a creative way.  Student interests, creativity, and expertise came into play in many groups.  I invite you to take a look at their work in progress.  This Youtube playlist is the raw footage that still needs to be finalized, but I always like to show that our work is never really finished.  There’s always something more we can do.

 

Tinkering in Our Open Makerspace

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It’s been awhile since I’ve shared what has been going on in our open makerspace time, but there has definitely been a lot.  Through our collaboration with Gretchen Thomas at UGA, we have been able to offer an open time on Tuesdays and Thursdays for students to come and explore various parts of our makerspace.  Students sign up for a 30-minute segment to come and explore a pre-chosen topic.  Last year, we tried just letting students decide what they wanted to do, but we found that most of them were either unsure of what to try or all wanted to try something different and didn’t know how to start.  It was hard to manage and it was hard to accomplish anything in 30 minutes.  This year, we decided that for the first half of the year we would offer 2-3 opportunities at each makerspace session.  One of the experiences is technology-focused and the other is more craft-focused.  Sometimes these experiences compliment one another. For example, students might get to make a figure out of pipe cleaners, clay, or Playdoh as the craft and then use that figure to create a stop motion video with the iPad.

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At each session, 3-4 UGA students come to support students.  They often lead the work while I assist other students in the library or teach classes. However, I also participate in the makerspace and learn alongside the students.  This is a great time for me to see how students are using the tools in a smaller setting.  I can think about management pieces to make the process more accessible to students. I can also reflect on how various tools or activities fit into grade level curriculum.

In today’s makerspace, students created stop motion animation using clay figures. For some of them, it was the second time using stop motion animation, so they had a better understanding of how it worked. They were able to get to a point that they could actually upload a short video that they created in a 30-minute window.  Some of them even worked together to use pieces that they had each created in order to make a collaborative video.

It was a busy time and the UGA students worked so hard to get students creating figures and encouraging them to give the video a try.  I love hearing how the elementary students and college students talk to one another.  They both amaze one another with some of the things they come up with and share.

As usual, voices emerged with artistic talents or technology expertise. One of our students, Anarian, who we learned is an expert at making figures with pipe cleaners is also very talented at making figures out of clay.  There’s so much potential for his work to develop into a stop motion video for any of his content areas.

While the UGA students supported the stop motion, I pulled out our Finch robots, which are on loan to us this year from Birdbrain Technologies.  We opened the basic version of Snap, and student tinkered with programming these robots with simple block coding.  We are going to do a lot with these robots this year and open makerspace is a great time for me and the students to learn a few of the basics so that our content work can be more productive.

By the end of the first semester, we hope that many students have gotten a small taste of all of the tools in our makerspace, so that the second half of the year can be spent focusing on how these tools can work together to create something great.  We have no idea where the makerspace will take us, but we know that miraculous things will happen along the way.