November Makerspace with Doll-E 1.0

Our makerspace is taking a break for the next 2 months while we work on our student book budget project. We wrapped up November with a makerspace inspired by the book Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda Mcloskey. This book is about a girl who receives a doll that only says “mama”. She tries lots of ways to play with the doll but just can’t get past the fact that it only says one thing. Then, she figures out that she can hack the toy using her computer programming skills and a Makey Makey.  As soon as I read this book last year, I wanted to do a makerspace with it. Then, the amazing Colleen Graves put together an instructables with step-by-step instructions on how to create a toy programmed with Scratch and controlled by Makey Makey.  While we didn’t really follow all of Colleen’s instructions, we did have fun creating our own variations.  Here’s a look at what we did.

For context, this took place during our open makerspace time on Tuesdays/Thursdays. Students sign up through their teacher via a Google Doc. We have four 30-minute segments which allows students from grades 1-5 to try out our month-long theme. Students from Gretchen Thomas’s maker class at UGA help facilitate each of the segments alongside me.

Session 1: Tinkering

Since students have a variety of experiences with Scratch and Makey Makey, we wanted all students to have some time to tinker with both tools. Our UGA students made some example toys out of toilet paper rolls, aluminum foil, copper tape, and a variety of other objects. We stationed these at tables with Makey Makey piano and Makey Makey kits. Students had an opportunity to tinker with how to hook up the Makey Makey as well as how to use the toy to play the piano on the computer. In another area, students practiced creating blocks of code in Scratch with events and sounds.

Session 2 & 3: Coding

In these sessions, students considered the sounds they would like their toy to make. They could record their own sounds or use the gallery of sounds located in Scratch. Each student made an account in Scratch and worked to code all four arrow keys and the space bar to correspond with the front of the Makey Makey.  More advanced students could try out some of the extra pieces of code from Colleen’s instructions, but most students simply used an event block “when key is pressed” and a sound block “play sound until done”.

This was one of the most frustrating pieces of our project because with such as short time segment and students who couldn’t remember their email addresses and passwords, it took a long time to get accounts setup. Once we got through the initial setup, the coding wasn’t too bad, especially if students took the simple route.

Session 4: Toy Creation

In this session, students used toilet paper and paper towel tubes to create toys. We asked them to think about making up to 5 points of contact to connect their Makey Makey to. This was their first focus before adding details to give their toy character. Students used clothes pins, copper tape, brads, paper clips, aluminum foil, and other miscellaneous conductors.

We had a hot glue gun station with 5 glue guns to attach pieces. A UGA student stayed with the glue guns to facilitate safety.

Then, students used a variety of craft supplies to give their toy character: sequins, googly eyes, pom poms, feathers, etc.

I won’t lie. This was extremely messy and no matter how many hands I had helping or how many ways I tried to keep us organized, we ended up with supplies all over the tables, chairs, and floor.

As students finished their segment, we stored the toys in cardboard boxes by grade level.

Session 5:

This was the session to bring it all together. If students needed to finish coding or their toy, this was the session to do it. Then, their final goal was to hook up their toy to Makey Makey and see if their code worked. Many students realized that they had not created 5 separate contact points but had instead created contact points that touched one another. This resulted in 2-3 different sounds going off at one time. This was a good learning experience because they had to figure out a way to revise their design.  If we had additional sessions this could have been expanded on but most just got to the beginnings of revision.

Our youngest makers in 1st grade didn’t quite make it through all of the steps since they had so much to explore and learn. In this final session, we hooked up the UGA student toys to the 1st graders’ code and also had a computer with pre-made code where they could try out the toys they had made.  This was also true for students who had missed one or more sessions.  We just couldn’t get through all the steps.

There were a lot of moments during this month where I wanted to pull my hair out and moments where I had to stop and take deep breaths. I had to remind students that I didn’t hold all the answers and I couldn’t show them every step to do. I find that this is a constant struggle. Students can figure things out if they just have the space and encouragement. Many of them stepped up, persevered through frustration, and helped their peers when they figured things out.

In the end, I learned a lot about what this might look like as a class or grade level curriculum based project. We could do so much with storytelling and writing with this project in addition to the science standards involved. The purpose of our makerspace wasn’t to have a polished product at the end. We wanted to have fun, problem solve, and invent while learning a lot about coding and circuits. I think we accomplished that, even if there were moments that felt messy and chaotic. I would do it again and try to do a bit more to keep us organized and moving forward. More days would definitely have been beneficial.

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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Ghost rockets #makerspace #Halloween #steam

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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.

Catapults

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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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.

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.

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.

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!