Punkin’ Chunkin’: A Halloween Makerspace Event

Our makerspace sessions this year have been following a month-long theme, but for Halloween, we decided to have a one-time special makerspace.  In the past, we’ve done a “design something spooky” challenge where kids designed haunted houses, ghosts, etc and used littlebits to give them lights, sound, and movement.

This year, Gretchen Thomas from UGA suggested pumpkin catapults, and it was the perfect suggestion. Ahead of the session, students signed up on a Google doc with their teacher for a 30-minute slot.  As students arrived, they checked in with a UGA student and sat on the carpet in front of the projector.  While we waited on arrivals, they watched a video of the Punkin Chunkin event in Delaware.

We chatted about observations. Many students noticed the different styles of catapults that were made and we wondered about how many times they had to work on their inventions before they worked the way they wanted them to.

Next, I muted a video showing students working on a smaller scale pumpkin catapult.

While the video played, we talked about the day’s challenge. Students were challenged to design a catapult that could launch a candy pumpkin across the library. They used the video to name some of the materials they would need: plastic spoon, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, tape, and a pumpkin. Students also saw in the video that there were many designs of catapults and that adjustments were constantly being made to improve the catapults.

When they were ready to take on the challenge, students gathered their initial materials from a supply table and made their first attempt at a pumpkin catapult. Some jumped right in while others went back to watch the video again. Some chose to work together, while others chose to work alone.

As first attempts were finished, students picked up a candy pumpkin and moved to our launch zone. This was a crucial piece of the experience. I wanted a designated area for launching in order to contain the mess but also to keep students safe from flying projectiles. We launched pumpkins in the back of the library toward our green screen wall.

Most students had mediocre first launches, so we chatted with them about what they thought might improve their design.  Students went back and forth from the launch zone to the building areas.  UGA students spent most of their time at tables assisting students who were stuck or needed an extra hand. Some of them also helped with keeping students safe from flying pumpkins in the launch zone.

Even with pumpkins flying in the back of the library, this was a surprisingly peaceful makerspace. Students were very focused on their designs, especially as we moved higher in grades. Pairs of students worked well together and students were for the most part safe when launching pumpkins. I loved seeing the many different designs. Some were very simple and some attempted to make very elaborate catapults.

This experience could have many extensions if we had more time. I would love to add a measurement component to see which catapult threw pumpkins the farthest. We kept things very open-ended, but you could also establish some boundaries as to what elements of the catapult were required, how many materials could be used, etc.

With the time we had, this was the perfect setup. Students had plenty of time to make a catapult that had some type of success and they were able to take what they made with them to continue working on or exploring.

Making with a Cause: Cardboard Awards

One thing I’ve been very interested in with our makerspace is “making with a cause”. I see so many posts on social media where someone has done something amazing for someone else by using skills and materials often found in makerspaces. From 3D-printed shells for turtles to scarves for the homeless shelter, there are so many ways we can give back to our community through making.

I love that my friend, Gina Seymour, has created a whole book on “making with a cause” and I look forward to my copy arriving in the mail.  Her book, Makers with a Cause: Creative Service Projects For Library Youth, has a whole section on getting started and another section with examples of projects from animal welfare to health/wellness to community service.

For this month’s theme of cardboard, we asked students to think about someone who deserved an award. What would the award be? What would it look like? Why would the person receive the award?  Students designed their awards out of cardboard.  Some made medals to hang around necks.  Others made trophies or even booklets. The only requirement was to use cardboard.

We asked students to start by brainstorming ideas on paper, and then they transferred those ideas onto cardboard. Using Makedo saws, scissors, and canary cardboard cutters, students worked with UGA mentors to cut out their award designs.  They embellished these with duct tape, string, washi tape, and other supplies from our makerspace supply cart.

As students completed their cardboard awards, they came to me at the computer to print a certificate to accompany the award. I found an easy certificate generator called Certificate Magic.

It allows you to choose the type of award you want to print and then fill in the details in a very simple form.  Then, you can download your award as a PDF and print. Students named their award, identified who they were giving it to, and chose a reason for the award. I loved hearing who they were giving the awards to and why.

A few examples included:

  • A T-rex award given to someone’s sister for acting like a dinosaur
  • A Golden Bracelet award given to someone’s sister for being a good sister
  • A Golden Butterfly award given to someone’s whole family for supporting her
  • A Football Trophy given to a dad for being a supporter of the Georgia Bulldogs
  • A Butterfly Necklace award given to a friend for being a good friend

There was even a special surprise award for me.  Somehow this student kept his award details a secret until he gave me the award.  He even asked if he could have privacy while he filled in the Certificate Magic form.  My award was called “Read More Books” for being a great librarian.  He even made the cardboard award look like a book with the award details inside.

I’m loving this component of our makerspace so far this year and I look forward to seeing what people end up creating for others in the coming months.

 

Makerspace Begins: Themes and Options

Our makerspace has once again cranked up for the 2018-19 school year. Once again, I’m collaborating with Gretchen Thomas and her class of over 30 undergraduates from the University of Georgia. Every year, Gretchen and I meet to think about what our open makerspace time might look like, ,and every time we make some changes and try something new.

Our idea for this year is offer specific themes around materials or tools rather than try to squeeze in so many different things in a short amount of time.

For September, we’ve chosen cardboard as our material.  Across 3 weeks, we hope to offer 3 short-term challenges using cardboard.  One of those challenges will be a “making with a cause” challenge.

  • Week 1: Design a hat. This can be interpreted however students want.
  • Week 2: Making with a Cause. Make an award. Students will choose someone who deserves an award. Make the award. Give the award to that person with an explanation of why they deserve the award.
  • Week 3: Make a puppet. Use cardboard tubes to create unique puppets and hopefully begin storytelling with them.

For the second open makerspace, we know that there will be students who aren’t interested in the short-term options and want to branch out to their own projects that take longer than 1 or 2 sessions. For these students, we will offer them a space to plan, design, and create their own inventions that have a purpose.  We wanted to keep this option open ended, but encourage students to develop something using cardboard that actually has some sort of function/purpose.

In each Tuesday/Thursday session, groups of UGA students come to work alongside students. They come in 30-minutes waves so that each round of students has me and UGA students to support them. I’ve put a bit more structure on the front end of makerspace this year. Students check-in with a UGA student and then sit on the carpet. I offer a quick intro to what we are making and connect it to a book. For cardboard, we used Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. Then, students move to tables to do some planning before they start grabbing cardboard and cutting.

This week, we launched into the first challenge of making a hat. Students had access to cardboard, Makedo safe saws, scissors, duct tape, and coloring supplies. Students sketched hats onto cardboard and started sawing.  There was a learning curve on the best strategies for sawing. Some students were more patient than others with the cutting process. Be warned! It was very loud and very messy. All adults circulated around to support as many students as possible.

At the end of session 1, students labeled all of their pieces of cardboard and we stored them in the makerspace.

For session 2, we spread all of the pieces out so that students could locate their cardboard to start again.

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Our hats continue. #makerspace #barrowbuddies

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I loved seeing the hats that students came up with in such a short amount of time. At dismissal, I could see the cardboard hats parading down the halls and lots of students were curious about where they came from. Many students needed more than 2 sessions to finish. Some chose to take the materials with them to finish at home. Others left their hats behind to continue working on next week.

I have a lot of questions about how this is all going to work. It’s fast-paced and a challenge to get one group finished and cleaned up before the next group comes in. It’s also a mess of cardboard dust and bits, and I hate leaving that for our custodians. However, we’re pressing forward, expecting the miraculous, and making changes as needed along the way.

2018 Barrow Maker Fest

In addition to having regular makerspace sessions every Tuesday and Thursday in the spring, students also have the opportunity to work on an individual project to showcase at our annual maker fest.  To participate, students fill out a Google form sharing their possible project topics and whether they will complete the project at home or in our makerspace during school hours.  They also have the option of working alone or having a UGA mentor to help them.

I collaborate with Gretchen Thomas at UGA College of Education. I love seeing the relationships that my students develop with the UGA students, and they thrive knowing that they have a mentor to visit with and work with while they make their creations.  In the spring, she divides part of her UGA students to support our Tuesday/Thursday makerspace sessions while the other part supports students working on individual projects. My maker students don’t always meet with the same UGA student, but they have someone every Tuesday/Thursday who can support their work.

When students begin preparing for Maker Fest, we meet with them individually to see what type of project they are thinking about.

This year, I offered several categories for them to think about:

  • robots
  • cardboard
  • makey makey
  • littlebits invention
  • duct tape creation
  • 3d design
  • Scratch program
  • finger knitting
  • origami
  • strawbees structure
  • stop motion video
  • magic tricks
  • puppet/puppet show
  • magic tricks
  • something else! (This category meant students might explore our many craft books for ideas on projects to create)

Once students decided, we gathered the materials they needed and stored each project on the shelves in our makerspace storage room. This part is hard to manage and it feels a bit chaotic until we have the materials that each student needs.  Each Tuesday/Thursday they come for a 30-minute work session, gather their materials from the shelves, and work with me or a UGA student.  Some students complete their projects at home.

During the actual Barrow Maker Fest, we created a schedule so that every student who made something had two 30-minute windows to showcase their work.  There was also a schedule for classes to sign up and come to view the projects.  The entire UGA class came as well so that they could view the final projects as well as help students at tables.

In the end, 26 students showcased creations on a variety of topics which included:

  • a cardboard Earth robot
  • mason jar lights
  • a robotic arm
  • a cardboard pirate game with secret codes and a spyglass
  • a Python computer program similar to Google Translate which translated English to Pig Latin
  • a shadow puppet theater
  • a Littlebits throwing arm and car
  • Lego scenes and building station
  • 3D slinkies, Rubik’s cube, and Minecraft swords made with 3D pens
  • 3D action figure designed in Tinkercad
  • a cardboard robot suit
  • a cardboard tower
  • a car made from a mail tube
  • a stackable jewelry holder
  • magic tricks
  • Merge cubes
  • Osmo

They were so excited to share their work, have an authentic audience to entertain and ask questions, and see that their work inspired other makers.  Several students who came said they wanted to make something next year.

You can see many of these projects along with projects from other K-12 schools in the Clarke County School District at our CCSD Maker Fest.  It will be Saturday April 14 2-4PM at Clarke Central High School.  It is free and open to the public.  We hope to see you there.

 

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.

Celebrating Seuss & Read Across America

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Every year, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with guest readers reading his words in every classroom in our school.  This year, we had enough readers to send 2 guests to every class.  Many brought their own books, but we also had a big collection to choose from in the library.

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We thank so many members of our Barrow and local community for coming into our school to share stories with kids.  It’s important to see people sharing the power of words at every grade level.  Days like these remind us that you are never too old to enjoy a great picture book, have fun with words, and laugh out loud with friends when you get all tongue-tied.

Some of our readers this year came from UGA’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.  This was the fraternity that Dr. Seuss was a member of at Dartmouth.

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In addition to being readers, the fraternity brothers brought us some Elephant and Piggie books to add to our collection.  Each copy they donated was a Geisel Honor Book.  What a great way to honor Seuss and support literacy.  Thank you!

In addition to readers and having lots of Seuss books available to kids, I unboxed our latest book order from Bound to Stay Bound.  It was packed with graphic novels and many other fantastic books.  It didn’t take long for our ravenous readers to check out pretty much every graphic novel I ordered.  Some kids even returned a 2nd time to check out more.  Happy Read Across America!

Design Challenge Makerspace

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I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. We are so fortunate to have the University of Georgia right next to our school and even more fortunate to have instructors like Gretchen Thomas who collaborate with local schools.  Gretchen and I have been collaborating for about 3 years now, and each year we try some new things.  We’re always looking for ways to improve the makerspace time at our school as well as the opportunities available to students.

Gretchen teaches an undergraduate course at UGA all related to maker education, design thinking, STEAM, and more. Every Tuesday and Thursday, at least 4 of her students come to our library to work with students who sign up for our open makerspace time.

This semester we are once again trying something new. Rather than try to do something new on Tuesday and Thursday, students sign up for a 2-day makerspace that gives them time to work toward finishing a project rather than feeling rushed. In addition, we are thinking about design challenges as well as seeking solutions to authentic problems.

This week, we had our first UGA group of the semester and they offered a chariot building design challenge.  Students had access to Strawbees, popsicle sticks, cups, straws, tape, paper, scissors, and anything else in our maker supply cart.  Students from 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade came to the sessions.

The UGA group started out my explaining what a chariot is.  Then, they gave students the task.  Design a chariot that can be pulled by a Sphero robot.  Students grouped themselves in groups of 2-4 and brainstormed designs on paper.

Next, students started construction of their chariots.  There was a lot of trial and error during this process.  Designs on paper didn’t always translate to physical designs so adjustments were made.  The UGA students also got out some Spheros so students could check their design to make sure the Sphero fit in the right places.  No driving was done on day 1.

Students left their designs on the table in the makerspace so they were ready for day 2.  On day 2, students finished designs and began testing their work with a Sphero.  Most designs did not work out on the first try, so students brainstormed modifications and got to work. I loved listening to their thought process in deciding what was problematic and how they could fix that aspect of the design.

I also saw students considering the settings of the Sphero to change the driving speed in order to navigate an obstacle course of coffee cans and ramps with their Sphero.

I really loved this two-day model because I saw students able to finish a project and actually take time to redesign.  Students loved coming to makerspace 2 days during the week rather than just one.  We’ll keep considering how this supports students creation and how it might get in the way of opportunities.

I also have a group of students who are wanting to work on individual projects and Gretchen is going to help me pair UGA mentors with these students as a 2nd piece of makerspace.

We’ll see where this goes, but the potential is looking pretty miraculous!