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.

Kazoo parade #librariesofinstagram #steam #makerspace #ccsdmaker

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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.

Preparing for more kindergarten stop motion. #librariesofinstagram #lego #stopmotion #ccsdmaker

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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.

Seeing what kindergarteners put together out of a big box of random Legos was awesome. #librariesofinstagram #lego #kindergarten

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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.

This is what 12 kindergarten students doing stop motion looks like. So peaceful. #librariesofinstagram #lego #stopmotion #ccsdmaker

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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.

Kindergarten stop motion in progress. #librariesofinstagram #lego #stopmotion

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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.

Hour of Code in the Library

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For the past 3 years, our library has participated in Hour of Code during Computer Science in Education Week.  This movement of setting aside an hour to tinker with coding was started by Hadi Partovi.  When we started back in 2014, there was only a handful of options of coding resources for students to try on code.org and many of them crashed due to the number of students using the site around the world. Fast forward to 2016 and students now have 172 reliable options in the Hour of Code portion of code.org and numerous other lessons that take them beyond the hour of code.

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When we first started participating, classes came to the library to try out an hour of code. This year, many classes still came, but some classrooms also tried out the hour in their own rooms.  It was fun to see something that started in the library spread into general classrooms.

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This year we had classes from every grade participate in Hour of Code in the library (including PreK next week).  We started each session by exploring the word “code” and connecting it to our own experiences. Many students talked about passcodes on phones or tablets.    We then related this to the language that a computer speaks.

Lots of choice, perseverance, and collaboration during hour of code. #kidscancode #hourofcode #librariesofinstagram

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I had students think about their favorite video game or app and explained that every tap or press of a button was coded with instructions for the computer to know what to do. I also had students imagine if their favorite game or app never existed.  What if the coders gave up while developing the game?  This question brought the most gasps.  We talked about the importance of mindset and not giving up. I loved that code.org had this great video that setup the idea of a growth mindset.

This year, I let students have a lot of choice in grades 3-5 because many of them had experienced hour of code or a coding project before.  Some needed to try something more advanced while others needed to start with the basics.  My big rule was that once they chose a coding activity, they were supposed to stick with it.  With 172 options, it would be really easy to jump from one thing to another without really pushing yourself through the hard parts. I loved that code.org had a filter to filter by grade level or coding experience.

For grades K-2, we used an app on the iPad called Box Island, but we also had the flexibility to move to code.org if students were ready to move on to something else.  I thought it was easier to stick with one tool for these grade levels since coding was so new to most of the students.

2nd grade coders using Box Island #kidscancode #hourofcode

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Students worked on coding all over the library. Some grouped themselves on cushions or tables. Others worked alone.  Collaboration between students started to happen whether they were using the same app or something different.  It’s something I see in makerspace as well.  There’s something about this kind of experience that facilitates natural collaboration. Students want to help one another. It isn’t forced or required. It just happens.

1st grade coders loved using Box Island. #hourofcode #kidscancode #librariesofinstagram

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Students persevere. They celebrate their success enthusiastically, and sometimes yell when something doesn’t work right.

Team coding with Osmo #hourofcode #kidscancode

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It isn’t always perfect, though. Sometimes students give up.  They say it’s too hard.  Those moments are frustrating for me, but I like to talk with students about why they gave up.  I can’t pretend that I don’t ever give up either…because I do.  However, I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the importance of persevering even when things are hard because it’s a goal we should strive for.

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At the end of each session, I brought students back together to talk about the experience. They started to crowdsource a list of tips to pass on to the class that came after them. Looking at their list you will see so many tips that could be applied to multiple situations, not just coding.

We also looked at subject areas like reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.  I asked students to consider whether or not they used any of these subjects or skills while coding. They of course gave brilliant responses.

  • Reading code is like reading another language
  • We read instructions to know what to do
  • I revised my code just like I revise my writing
  • I had to use strategy just like solving a math problem

I invited them to think about how we might continue to explore coding as we create projects in class.  Many of the students went home excited about coding and shared with families. I got messages from family members about their child’s eagerness to code.  I even got a few pictures of coders in action while at home.

I love doing hour of code in the library because it’s a source of professional learning for teachers and a chance for students to try something they enjoy.  We can take a risk together trying something new and then explore how to connect this with what we are already doing. Teachers see how engaged the students are and ponder how to continue that engagement.  It’s also a very public space, so anyone who walks into our library during hour of code also starts to consider the power of coding in school. I’m still figuring out how we can weave this into more of our year. The students love it. They are engaged. How can we use this excitement to connect to what we are learning together each day?

 

Closing Out Fall with a Makerspace Recess

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The fall semester is coming to a close at UGA, which means our open makerspace times on Tuesdays and Thursdays is about to take a small break until January.  To close out the semester, the entire Maker Dawgs class returned to Barrow to host a makerspace recess.

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Setting this time up take a little more work than having makerspace in the library, but each time we take our makerspace beyond the library, I’m reminded about how it makes the opportunity visible to students.

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Gretchen Thomas arrived early and started setting up tables under our pavilion on the playground. Each table featured something we’ve done in makerspace across the semester.

  1.  Duct tape bows and bow ties
  2. Kindness pins and necklaces
  3. Buttons
  4. Popsicle kazoos
  5. Strawbee architecture
  6. Cubelets

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Since we were outside, we could also have stations that are more difficult to do inside like sidewalk chalk art.  As UGA students arrived, they each took a station to facilitate any students who wanted to try that activity.  When students arrived at recess, they immediately gravitated toward the makerspace to see what was going on. One of the most common things I heard was: “I didn’t sign up”.  It was so fun to say that the makerspace was open to all.  Since we had numerous helpers and could spread out, it didn’t matter how many students wanted to participate or how loud they were.  Because of this, we saw students who had never been to makerspace suddenly get to experience what we do.

I know that I can’t do the scale of makerspace that we did today by myself, but I do want to think about how I can offer small opportunities to tinker with our makerspace tools in spaces where students are already gathered.  The tricky piece comes with managing the library while I’m in another space. Without a helper, I have to think about the best times I can do this while I have a volunteer or our computer technician in the library.

A great day for making at recess. #worldkindnessday #choosekind #makerspace

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As typically happens in makerspace, we saw big groups of students who might not play together on the playground suddenly crowded around the same table sharing materials, collaborating, chatting, and sharing their creations. There’s something magical about the atmosphere of a makerspace and the community it builds among makers.

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I need to keep this thought at the front of my mind as I move into the 2nd half of the year. How can I maintain the makerspace opportunities we have as well as expand the opportunities to students who haven’t had a chance to participate?

As always, thank you to Gretchen Thomas, her Maker Dawgs students, and UGA for exploring this complex topic with me each semester. We’re doing great work together.

The Makerspace Is Open with a New Badging System

img_8887UGA is back in session which means our makerspace is cranking up again.  We already have some curriculum connections planned for special projects, but our students look forward to the weekly open makerspace times on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-12:30.

1st and 3rd grade are building towers with strawbees in makerspace. #tlchat #makered #projectsparkuga @andreabeatyauthor

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Gretchen Thomas and her UGA class collaborate with us to provide a weekly time where students can signup to explore various tools and projects in our makerspace.  Four UGA students come each time and lead up to 15 students every 30 minutes in the makerspace so that I can also teach classes at the same time.

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Gretchen and I are have learned a lot during our collaboration together, and I love that she’s always pushing her class to try something new.  For our first few sessions this year, the UGA students are presenting a maker-related book to the students and an activity to accompany that book.  There’s not really enough time to read the entire book and still make something, but they at least are able to show the book, talk a bit about it, and then make something with the students.

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For our first session, the UGA students read or showed Iggy Peck Architect.  At the end of the book, they invited our students in 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades to become an architect and use Strawbees to build the tallest free standing tower.

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I loved watching the UGA students decide how much information to give the students versus when to let them discover things on their own.  In one group, they just gave them the Strawbees and straws and said “build”.

Then, in another group they gave some examples of how the straws and Strawbees could connect to one another.  The amount of guidance definitely impacted the type of structures made.

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I don’t know that we have a firm answer on how much structure to offer to the students, but I’m glad that we are always thinking about how much is too much.  I think we certainly stayed conservative on how much we told the students.  Every structure was different and students found things that worked really well and things that failed miserably.  In the end, the important thing is that we really didn’t have students who gave up or who even got extremely upset because they didn’t “win”.  That’s the true spirit of making.

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One new addition this year is something we’ve talked about for a long time.  So many students come to the makerspace, that it’s hard to track who has learned what tool or skill.  I really wanted a badging system but didn’t think I had time to make it.  Gretchen and I have talked through this many times and discussed the idea of badges for specific tools like Sphero, Duct Tape, LittleBits, etc and badges for skills such as problem-solver, thinking outside the box, teamwork, etc.

Gretchen took it upon herself to make this happen for us.  She started making badges that students would attach to chain necklaces.  Students would earn a badge for the tool they explored and the group they worked with as well as have an opportunity to earn rare badges for skills or qualities.  Gretchen and her students will continue to design badges and add them to the collection.  They will be stored in plastic drawers in the makerspace.  Students will hang their necklaces on a hook in the space and grab them when they come to makerspace.

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We’ll easily be able to look at badges and see which students have learned which tools and which students have demonstrated the skills of a maker.

Thanks to @gretchen_thomas and her #projectsparkuga students, we have a makerspace badging system. #makered #tlchat

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I can’t wait to see where this goes, and I’m so thankful for Gretchen and her class making this happen!

How about a Popup Makerspace at Recess?

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The University of Georgia is winding down its spring semester, so that means our support for weekly makerspace is also winding down.  We only have 3 more weeks of school ourselves. Last year, Gretchen Thomas and I took our makerspace on the road to UGA to introduce random UGA students and visitors to the fun of making and tinkering. We really want to try that idea again, but this year we wondered, “How about a popup makerspace at recess?”.

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Many of our students come to makerspace during recess anyway, but some struggle with leaving their friends on the playground. We wondered if having the makerspace on the playground would bring in more students since they could easily run back and play if they wanted to. We also wonder if some students don’t come to makerspace because they are unsure of what happens at it. We thought putting it on the playground would make it much more visible and inviting.

Gretchen and her students planned several stations for students to explore. I also had some students prepare stations. Ahead of the recess makerspace, I advertised to teachers that we would be having the makerspace on the playground from 11AM-12PM. We also mentioned it on our morning broadcast on the day of the event.

Before 11:00 rolled around, we setup tables under the awning and sunshade on the playground and got the stations ready. My students and Gretchen’s students helped make this happen. Before we could even get setup, we already had students coming up from the playground asking if they could try something.

It was wildly popular! There were moments when 2-3 entire classes were descending on the makerspace, but being outside allowed us to spread out and really not worry about the noise. It also helped that Gretchen’s entire UGA class was here o

Here’s a look at what we offered:

Station 1:

Students constructed their own bubble wands and then tested them out. Some students chose to make a basic wand with a circle and stem, but as the station went on, we saw students really get creative in trying out different designs from very large shapes to tiny circles. This was also a great station to have outside because we didn’t have to worry about bubble spills. Next time, we will add beading to this center to allow students to personalize their wands. However, I loved that the focus this time was on trying different shapes to see what made the best bubbles.

Station 2:

We marked off an area and put a bucket of sidewalk chalk for students to create their own chalk art on the sidewalk.

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Station 3:

Students used marbles, orange cones, duct tape, and pipe insulation to create a marble roller coaster. This station really evolved as time moved on. Students began working in teams to try to make small changes to the pipe insulation to make the marble travel a longer distance. They even started gathering materials from other stations to add to their design, which is just what we want to see makers doing. I was amazed by the teamwork from students in different classes and grades. There’s something about the maker environment that cultivates teamwork.

Station 4:

Students used aluminum foil to build boats and test their floating capability in pans of water. Some students chose very simple designs just because they knew they would float, but other students really pushed their designs to the limit to see how much detail they could add to their boat or how big they could make it before it would sink.

Station 5:

Outside was the perfect place to test paper airplanes. This station allowed students to share their paper airplane building skills and test out to see who could make a plane that could really travel in the wind. We didn’t have any specific instructions or books at this center, so it really did take tinkering or sharing expertise to build the planes.

 

Station 6:

A group of 5th grade girls setup an art station filled with coloring sheets with dogs and cats. They are leading a changemaker project to encourage people to donate food to a local shelter, and the coloring sheets will eventually be used to help bring awareness to their campaign. Along with this center, students could learn how to draw a dog or cat using a series of circles or go on an observation walk with a 5th grade girl to sketch objects in nature. I think we forget the importance of coloring. Many of us know that adult coloring books are all the rage right now, so it only makes sense that kids are still into coloring too! there’s something soothing about sitting around with friends, pulling out the crayons and color pencils, and focusing on filling in the lines. This proved to be one of the most popular stations at makerspace, so it really made me curious about where we could go with this. My mind was racing about student-designed coloring pages, coloring tablecloths, and more.

Station 7:

A 4th grader and a 2nd grader assisted students in exploring Finch robots. They setup 5 computers, connected the Finch, and introduced students to the Snap program to code the robots. Then, they let students explore coding on their own. The 2 students only jumped in if someone was stuck or had a question about how to start. I loved seeing how 2 students who had spent 10 weeks learning about the Finch could allow people to start from the very beginning without telling them every step to make. They really understood the importance of tinkering and figuring things out for yourself.

 

 

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As the hour came to a close, we still had a circle of students coloring, and we sadly had to dismantle the roller coaster. The UGA students didn’t want to leave and students were asking if they could miss lunch. Moments like those make it a great day. Now, Gretchen and I have some thinking to do about next year. We have lots of ideas in the works, but I think one of the big things we will think about is how we can take the makerspace on the road around our school. I love having the space and opportunities in the library, but changes in venue bring in new voices. Changes in location also allow us to try things that maybe we wouldn’t try if we were inside. I think we will see a few more popup makerspaces next year. Who knows where we will popup next!

 

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.

 

 

Celebrating International Dot Day with Google Drawing and Cells

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We love Dot Day at our school.  We connect with classrooms around the country across the whole week.  Our students love reading stories and creating dots in creative ways.

This year, our 5th graders are studying cells in science at about the same time as Dot Day, so we decided to connect the two.  Each class came to the library and we spent some time talking about “making our mark” and what that really means.  We gave examples of students who are already making their mark this school year.  I tried to emphasize that a big part of this is trying new things and just seeing where it goes.  We never know when we try something new if it is going to lead us to something awesome.

After this quick mini-lesson, students had a chance to tinker with Google Drawing.  I showed them where it was within Google Drive, but really gave no instruction on how to use it.  They had about 15-20 minutes just to click on everything they could find and see what it did.  Some students found a groove and actually created something they were excited about while others gave themselves permission not to worry about what the page looked like and just get messy clicking buttons.

During the tinkering time, there was a group of students who suddenly started using Google Drawing to make their own emoji.  When I started asking them about their work, they were a bit shy at first because they thought they were in trouble.  However, I told them that new emoji are being created all the time, and they never know when their ideas and creations might lead to the next emoji on our phones.  They were eager to carry on with their work.  I saw other students designing their own jewelry and another creating a building design.

Mrs. Freeman, the reading teacher, and I transitioned students from tinkering into using Google Drawing to make a cell for Dot Day.  We pulled up some examples of animal and plant cells and then students referenced those as they drew and labeled their cells.

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One of the things I loved was walking around and seeing how unique each student made his/her cell.  One student talked about how the organelles looked like bacon so he actually imported a picture of bacon into his cell drawing.  Awesome!

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As we neared the end of our time, we took a moment to highlight various student work.  It was selected for many reasons, not just because it had all of the parts of a cell labeled.

We closed by once again revisiting the idea that by trying a new tool, we are opening up possibilities for future projects and creations that might lead us to making our mark on the world in some fantastic way.

Happy Dot Week!