Keep Your “Maker” Dream Alive…

Four years ago, I started an afterschool maker club. The concept of a “Maker Space” was fairly new and only 3 students signed up. The minimum was 6, but since the director believed that this was a valuable program, she approved of my very small club. We always started with a design challenge of some kind and the rest of the time was spent on the students “making” their individual projects. Ever since then, every club session has been filled to capacity. In fact, students were turned away once the 10 slots were filled and many disappointed parents told me how their child wanted to be in the club. We now have enrolled up to 20 students from grades 2-4 and another teacher is helping me run the club. There have been groups of students who voted not to have a design challenge so they can spend the entire hour of the club “making”. It is just a fascinating experiece to supervise so many creative minds and watching them making, inventing, and creating. There have been “moans and growns” when their parents come to pick them up because they are so involoved in the making process. I can honestly say there are no discipline problems during this time, since each child is excited about what they are doing and are self directed and vested in their activities.

Recently, one of my students said he wanted to make a boat. For three club periods (3 hours) he designe a cardboard boat made with foam, duct tape and other materials he found in the makerspace. His mother told me how excited he was after the first club meeting. He took the boat home and the next day was running to the library to tell me his boat floated. He put it in his pool that night and he sat in it while his sister videotaped him. He was glowing with pride and excitement. I told him I definitely wanted to see that video. That was also the highlight of my day. Who would have thought a box, 2 rolls of duct tape, and some left over foam could be so important in the learning process of a third grader? I have shared some photos and hope you can find this one.       

I was reflecting on my past teaching experience when I used to have a “hobby day” every Friday afternoon with my self-contained fifth grade class. They looked forward to bringing their hobbies to school to share or work on them. It seems that those students were in fact, early “makers” too! Giving students time to be creative, and have hands on experiences supports innovation and entrepreneurship as well as design thinking. When something does not turn out the way they wanted it to, they learn to redesign it using their past knowledge. These are valuable lessons that will help them be life long learners. Isn’t this one of the reasons we are in this profession? And remember, “What Happens in the Makerspace…..Stays in the Makerspace”. 🙂

 

Florida Maps-Cartographers & Makerspaces

What a great idea one of my third grade teachers had this year. Since her class was doing a research project about Florida she divided them into groups and they each had a specific topic to learn about and then display that knowledge on a map they would design. This would enable them to research, learn, show, and represent.  They were to learn about Florida through different aspects. The teacher divided her class in teams of two students that had complimentary skills and work ethics. The areas for exploration included Florida landmarks, populations, topography, waterways, highways, regions, ecosystems, indigenous tribes and the economies of Florida. Each group drew the outline of Florida and came to the makerspace to explore the materials they would use to portray their findings. Students were first able to research their topic, allowing them to see ways in which their topic was already represented. Then it was their turn to brainstorm ways that they could show their research to the class. The teacher and the students thought the makerspace would be a great asset to expanding the student’s idea of how they could show off their learning. Here are the results:

It was amazing to see children turn pipe cleaners into trees and orange buttons into oranges to represent Florida’s orange groves. Tissue paper became waves moved with littlebit components and colorful duct tape was used to divide the regions of Florida. They were so excited to work on their projects and they were always on task. They did their project share with other classes as well as for their parents. It was another example of how creative students can be when we give them time and freedom to express what they learned in ways we could never have dreamed of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Worms” In Literature and Beyond…

Last year one of the books on the list for the Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award books was The Worm Whisperer by Betty Hicks. The story is about a boy who spends lots of time outdoors with animals and who thinks he can actually talk with them. He discovers a caterpillar that he thinks he can train to follow his directions. Since he is also trying to solve all his family’s problems, he decides to participate in the annual Woolly Worm Race, hoping to win the $1,000.00 prize money.

During one of the weekly grade level meetings, I suggested to the third grade teachers that I had a great follow up activity that involved science and worms. One of the teachers took the” hook” and decided to join me in the makerspace for a fun and educational activity using Worm Goo. I had purchased a kit from Steve Spangle  (www.SteveSpanglerScience.com) to make Insta-Worms. There are step by step instructions and lots of different ways to experiment with Worm Goo. Students each made their own worms and they actually took them home in a plastic bag!  Even the classroom teacher enjoyed this lesson and this year she told me she already put it in her lesson plan book for us to do it again. You can see how excited they were in the pictures above.

In fact, you can use this for any children’s book with a worm or worms in it. The sky is the limit!  I guarantee you will be the “media specialist ” of the year….the children will love it, and this really is a lesson about the science of polymers. Be sure to take lots of pictures and remember….linking books to science is a magical thing! Enjoy!

Need a Chair for Goldilocks?…Who Are You Going to Call???

We called on the Kindergarten students to help solve this problem. After reading the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears“, students were asked to design and build the perfect chair that Goldilocks would be able to sit on comfortably. Since there were three different size Goldilocks dolls of course, (small, medium, and large), the students had choices to what size chair they would design. The first step was the Design stage, where all the students came in small groups to the makerspace and created their chairs on the whiteboard table


In order to save their masterpieces, photos were taken of their creation and they were signed by the individual students. The next stage was the Making stage, where the children actually made their furniture using any materials they found in the makerspace. These included wood, cardboard, toilet and toweling paper rolls, duct tape, pom-poms, feathers, stones, ribbons, straws, brads, all size boxes, popcycle sticks, pipe cleaners, washi tape, tile pieces, jewels, jewelry, and different kinds of clay. As their works were created, the students continually tested their chairs to see if they passed the test of supporting the weight of their chosen Goldilocks doll. If their first model failed to pass this test, then the students would go back to the re-design stage of their prototype. This is a very important part of any design project. Asking questions like, “What works?” “What doesn’t work?” “What can be improved?”
It was just amazing what the results were and the proof is in these pictures. All of the final projects are now on display in the media center for everyone to admire. As of this writing, there are also three chairs still in the “production” stage.


In addition to this design project, extensions can be done to include designing a bed for the Princess and the Pea, a bed for Goldilocks, or a bridge for the Trolls in Three Billy Goat Gruff. Fairy tales are just one way you can take your students on a remarkable journey way beyond the storyline….into the world of creating and designing.

Kindergarten Students Enjoy Circuits !

It all started with a New Year’s Resolution…one of my K teachers asked her students to think of something they wanted to learn more about in 2017. When school started in January, she made a list of what they resolved to learn. One of her students wanted to learn more about circuits, so she approached me and asked if he could come to the maker space in the media center to learn more. I was so excited at this opportunity to explore this area with a K student. I scheduled him to come to the media center and he was there 1 hour and 30 minutes. He loved the experience and asked if he could come back. When he returned to class he told the other students what he had experienced and guess what?? They all told the teacher they wanted to learn about circuits. So I have been taking 4 students at a time from that K class, and we have been exploring the world of circuits.
One of the things I have used to start is the puppet of an LED light. This was purchased at ADAFRUIT.COM/MHO. http://www.adafruit.com

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I attached a real LED light to the puppet so the students understand what it is in the real world. We discuss the positive and negative side of the LED (the puppets legs). Next, they are given a coin battery and a real LED light. I asked them to make it “light up” without breaking the “legs” of the th LED light. It was unbelieveable how fast these K students figured it out! I turned off the lights and got all exicited about their success…they were excited, too! I then discussed how they can use this in upcoming projects, card making, etc. I showed them examples of projects that other students had done using these 2 items. They were then each given a set of snap circuits and they were told to follow the diagrams to make something. I told them they could work together or alone….and believeit or not, each time they chose to work by themselves…Once they have snapped together a project, they were so proud of themselves. I also had them rotate around each project, so they each got to test the different experiments designed by their classmates. They enjoyed trying each one out, too. I have invested in several kits from ELENCO ELECTRONICS, Inc. www.elenco.com and here are the titles of the kits:

SNAP CIRCUIT SOUND

SNAP CIRCUIT JR

SNAP CIRCUITS LIGHT

SNAP CIRCUIT MOTION

SNAP CIRCUITS 3D ILLUMINATION

DELUXE SNAP ROVER

SNAP CIRCUIT GREEN

SNAP CIRCUIT PRO

There are also many other things you can do with circuits…I have a Makey Make makeymakey.com/howto  that can be used to show a complete circuit or broken circuit. Students love playing with this tool.
Another idea is to use squishy ciruits. Using conductive dough and insulating dough students can learn how to get an LED light to glow, a motor to run, or a buzzard to sound. The source I used even sells the dough already made! They have updated their early kits and I highly recommend their products. Here is the information:

Squishy Circuits www.SquishyCircuits.com

The students learn lots of things including failure. When their project does not work, they need to figure out why and sometimes they need to ask another student to help them. Collaboration occurs naturally and it is amazing how the problem can be as simple as having the batteries in the pack backwards.
I must admit, that when I was purchasing my materials for the makerspace I was thinking of 3rd graders and circuits, but I learned that K are very excited about this topic and they all told me and their teachers they ” cannot wait to come back to the makerspace”. This all started with one student’s New Year’s Resolution….and it spread to the entire class. Never underestimate what your younger students can do or what they are interested in. The sky is the limit…and it this case…it was circuits.

Making a List … and Checking it Twice ????

You may want to add these two titles on yours:

Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects (Build, Invent, Create, Discover) foreward by Jack Andraka, published by DK Smithsonian, 2016.
Steam-makers: fostering creativity and innovation in the Elementary Classroom by Jacie Maslyk, published by Corwin, 2016.

Jack Andraka, the foreword writer of Maker Lab, was a 15 year old high school student when he invented an inexpensive early detection test for pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer. He has won numerous awards for his work, currently is a student at Stanford University and is the author of the young adult memoir Breakthrough: How One Teen Innovator is Changing the World.
Inside Maker Lab, you will find really great projects like making Baked Alaska, Balloon Rocket Cars, Sticky Slime, Invisible Ink, Lemon Batteries, Breathing Machines, Rubber Band Planets, Stunning Stalactites, Soap-powered boats, Jungles in a Bottle, Wind Catchers, Erupting Volcanoes, Fantastic Fossils, Density Towers, Waterwheels, Icy Orbs, Sensational Speakers, and many more. Each project has step by step directions, supply lists with photos, beautiful illustrations to follow, and Real World Science facts about the project you are working on. The projects are also divided into four sections: Food for Thought, Around the Home, Water World, and The Great Outdoors. You will surely find something to relate to the curriculum to help students better understand and get “their hands on” experience on at the same time.

There are over 90 QR Codes for Web Resources in Steam-makers, as well as, a plethora of information including the history of STEM, change makers, failing, connecting, building, networking,  and starting. It connects disciplines, bridging learning styles by naturally engaging young people as they apply learning in creative ways. There are examples on how to get resources and grants. The appendices are filled with information on the STEAM Studio Badge System, a Sample Professional Development Plan, an English Language Arts Extension Chart, a STEAM Making Permission Slip, a Makerspace Supply List, Websites for STEAM and Making, and a Student Reflection Sheet.

Chapter 4 is one of my very favorite resources for children’s literature that can be used to support STEAM makers. The chart is divided by Maker Books by topics, which include architecture, inventors and inventions, robots, electricity, coding and programming, and math. Besides the book titles and authors, there is a Make it! column, A Little Inspiration column (with appropriate websites), and a QR Code column, which takes you to fantastic resources. Having all this infomation in one location is so vital, with the busy lives we lead and is such a valuable resource, as we support our students on their STEAM Making journey.

Good luck with your adventures ahead and may the “Making Magic” continue in the new year ahead.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO…WHEN THEY WANT GOO??

img_4404It is all about timing..that is for sure..a few weeks ago I received 2 boxes of new books. I opened them up like a child on Christmas morning and flipped through the pages of some of them. I did not have them in the system yet and had not even paid the invoice. I actually was still taking inventory of the titles and checking them against the enclosed invoice, when one of my second grade classes arrived in the media center for their weekly check out time. I left the job I was doing in my office, and went into the main part of the media center to assist the studens. One of the cutest little girls asks me if I have a book about how to make goo? I was very surprised, since this question was never asked by any student and I also realized that Halloween was over a month away. I initially was at a lost for a book to suggest to her, …but then I suddenly remembered one of the pages I had flipped through a few minutes ago…It was called “Ooey Gooey Slime” and it was in the new selection entitled Mason jar crafts for Kids_ by Linda Braden.

 So the student followed me into my office, where I found the new book, showed her the picture and she immediately jumped up and down, and said ,”Yes, yes, yes…that is the book I want to check out…” I explained to her I needed to process it first, and it was ordered to remain in the makerspace, but told her I would copy the pages for this recipe for her. She also asked me to copy the title, so she could tell her mother. In addititon, I promised her she could check it out the following week.
I really thought that was the end of the story. However, when I saw her again on the playground during the week, she quickly informed me she was buying the materials to make the recipe and asked her mother to buy her the book. I also thought that was the end of the story. The next week she came back to check out books and sure enough she asked me if I had the book ready for her. Of course, I took it out of the makerspace and checked it out to her. She hugged that book like it was gold. So now I was sure it was the end of the story. On Thursday, just 2 days after her check out day, I got an e-mail from her teacher asking me if I had time to stop by her room, since this little girl had something to show me. I answered her that I would be there in the afternoon and when I arrived the little girl went to her schoolbag and pulled out her treasure in her glass mason jar. She took my hand and sat me down a table and let me have some of the “goo” she had made…She was so proud and I could not believe how it looked exactly like the picture from the book. She was glowing with excitement and I told her how proud I was of her and how surprised I was that she did this experiment so quickly after receiving the instructions. She said, “I didn’t think you were going to come to my room today” . I told her I would never not keep a promise I had made. She also informed me that she used her own money to purchase her own copy of the book and it was to arrive at her home the next day. I was speechless… Her teacher later told me she kept looking at the door all afternoon waiting for my visit.
This was one of those stories that I needed to share as well as the title of the book. When we change one student’s life in the simplest way it is just amazing…and it all started with a book. I hope all of  you will have stories to share….and make a difference in someone’s life. As Dr. Seuss once said: “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Reading Promotion Events

After reading several articles on one of our main goals as teacher librarians to teach our students a love of reading, I felt one, in particular (TL June 2016), had some food for thought. One of our goals is for our students to choose to read independently and acquire a love of reading for pleasure. One way to accomplish this goal is to have a calendar of yearly reading events.
Studies have been done that show extrinsic rewards can temporarily increase motivation but do not have a lasting impact on developing the reading habits we are seeking for them. (Pavonetti et al., 2002) Recently, research has found that by maximizing opportunities for student choice of reading materials students increased their involvement in reading and enabled them to engage in conversations about their book selections (Hall et al., 2014) Through these studies, it was evident that students need time, resources, and support from both teachers and other adults to allow them the opportunity to read for pleasure, stressing the importance of intrinsic motivation and student choice when selecting their books. We teacher librarians, can provide reading promotional events throughout the school library to create a culture of reading. The following list and sites are primary for students in K- grade 6, but older students can be involved as well since many of the events would be interesting to them. I hope you will find something you can share with your students and faculty in the coming year.

SEPTEMBER

International Dot Day
http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/

Talk Like a Pirate Day

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2014/09/celebrate-talk-pirate-day-your-classroom

Banned Book Week

Home

http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallenged-books/top100

Library Card Sign-Up Month

http://www.ala.org/conferencesevents/celebrationweeks/card

OCTOBER

Read for the Record

http://www.jstart.org/campaigns/read-for-the-record

National Hispanic Heritage Month

http://www.readingrockets.org/booklist/books-hispanic-heritage-month

NOVEMBER

Family Literacy Day

http://readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/calendar-activities/celebrate-national-family-literacy-20681.html

World Kindness Day

https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/for-educators/kindness_in_the _classroom

Picture Book Month

http://picturebookmonth.com/

International Games Day

http://igd.ala.org/

DECEMBER

Caldecott, Newbery, Geisel Book Awards

http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia

Letters About Literature

http://www.read.gov/letters/

JANUARY

Science Fiction Day

https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/science-fiction-day/

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/our-programs/mccbd-2016-classroom-reading-challenge/

FEBRUARY

Groundhog Job Shadow Day

http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curro50.shtml

Black History Month

http://www.readingrockets.org/calendar/blackhistory

Presidents’ Day

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/unit/presidents-day-everything-you-need

World Read Aloud Day

http://www.litworld.org/wrad/

MARCH

Read Across America

http://www.seussville.com/Educators/educator-ReadAcrossAmerica.php

Children’s Choice Awards

http://www.bookweekonline.com/

APRIL

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read)

http://www.dropeverythingandread.com/

School Library Month

http://www.ala.org/aasl/slm

National Poetry Month 

https://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/home

MAY

Star Wars Day

http://www.starwars.com/may-the-4th

Free Comic Book Day

http://www.freecomicbookday.com/Home/1/1/27/992

 

 

Lions, Tigers, and Cheetahs ? Oh, My…

IMG_4188 IMG_4189IMG_4007 (1) IMG_3972IMG_4239 (1)                                                   (a mosquito)

What happens when K students visit the makerspace to create a project about their favorite animal which they have researched? Their list consisted of lions, tigers, cheetahs, elephants, deer, sharks, wolves, lizards, giraffes, bats, monkeys, parrots, sloths, crocodiles, and mosquitoes. Some of the students worked in groups and some worked individually depending on their choice. Watching them turn clothespins into trees, plastic bags into animal bodies, straws into grasslands, pompoms into trees, clay into animals, tiles into water holes and mud areas, and gems into animal spots was absolutely fascinating. Using their imagination the students decided to make animal masks, actual models, and habitats for their animals.

 

IMG_3975IMG_4231IMG_4230IMG_4219
Each student had access to the same materials, but everyone took a different approach to solve their problem. They shared the information they learned about the animals’ predators, the food they eat, as well as how they hunt and live, in their displays. The results were absolutely amazing and they could explain every detail they created. Visitors to the media center were in awe as they admired the final displays. They attracted the attention of the JK students and teachers and they wanted to know who designed them. One of the wishes the JK students made in the beginning of the year was to learn about some of these animals. Arrangements were made between the JK teachers and the K teachers to have the K “experts” share their knowledge with the JK students. This made the project a full circle experience for everyone.

IMG_4227 IMG_4226 IMG_4225 IMG_4224 IMG_4223IMG_4222 IMG_4221 IMG_4228                                                                                                                     ( a parrot)

Felix Adler in 1892 was adamant about about kids becoming discoverers of knowledge by learning how to make things as opposed to being passive recipients of it. This lines up with the current thinking today in our 21st century schools. The self confidence that each K student displayed was apparent as they transferred their expertise to their younger audience. This culminating activity reenforces the power children have on their learning experiences when we just “Let Them Go and Let Them Make.”

 

Need an Extra Body? Create It At The Makerspace!

That’s exactly what the first graders students at my school did. Their PBL (project based learning) unit was on their bodies and “the big question was, ” What part of your body is the most important and why? ” Each student could decide how they wanted to do their final project share, after they did all their research. Several students wanted to design their project in the maker space and came to the area with their ideas and some materials.
After discussing what they wanted to display, one group used littlebits to depict how the brain sends messages to all parts of the body. They used colored tissue paper to make the brain, and traced an outline of their body out of out of butcher paper. By tinkering with the different components of the littlebits, they used the long led light wire to represent the messages sent by the brain through the nervous system.They taped all of these items to the paper model and here is their final design: IMG_3724
Another group was interested in the skeletal system and started collecting and cutting up different sizes, shapes, and textures of cardboard. They used the tool kits and bolts in the MakdoKits to give the cardboard skeleton movable joints ! A round piece of cardboard was selected for the head and of course they added the smiling face. IMG_3723IMG_3789
The group that picked the circulatory system brought plastic blue and red straws to use for their project. Using another paper outline cut out for their body, they decided to glue straws on it showing the veins (blue) and arteries (red) that had been oxygenized. They also had balloons to represent the lungs and borrowed the balloon inflator from the maker space to demonstrate how the lungs work in the circulatory system.IMG_3731IMG_3754
For the digestive system, students from another group made an esophogus using a cardboard toweling paper tube, a plastic zip lock bag for the stomach, clear egg cartons filled with food representations for the lower intestines, and yarn measured exactly the length of our upper intestines. IMG_3762
One group made a puppet show on the senses and the puppets included a nose on a stick, a tongue on a stick, an ear on a stick, an eye on a stick, and a hand on a stick. It was amazing how they came up with this idea by themselves and during the show it was evident they knew how the senses worked individually and collectively. IMG_3764           The parents were invited for the final project share and the students were dressed like museum guides. The classroom was transformed into a body museum and the students directed the tour. Each station was taught by the students, their projects were explained and the facts and information they researched was shared by the students. The teachers were on the side watching and listening to the comments of the visitors.IMG_3756
In a world where the 3D printer is being used to actually make body parts and prosthetics, these first graders were truly an inspiration for the future. Recently, I read that a student actually made his own 3D braces and saved over $7,000.00 by doing it. Once again the belief that if students are given the opportunity to take ownership of their projects and are given some direction they get excited about what they do and learning does take place in a more exciting manner. Let them go….watch them….and be amazed….I always am!