Friday, January 22, 2016

Seeking Wonder Junkies: Year one of a makerspace

Since I first published this post, I've held two monthly maker parties, including a January party for creating your own light sabers. Click here to read about our Light Sabers journey. 

In February, we made paper circuit Valentines and, in March, we made cardboard obstacle courses for our Sphero. We also made a Virtual reality tour of it in the Google Cardboard Camera app. 








Next month, we have an Earth Day-themed Maker Party with upcycling coffee bags and turning soda bottles into solar panels. We'll finish the year by turning laundry detergent bottles into ukuleles and coding our own music with Arduinos. You can check out our full list of maker parties here

Though we had an initial goal of creating four mini makerspaces this year, we only have one going. That said, I've found that makerspaces grow up. As there becomes an interest and a need, they sprout. And though, I'd love a large innovation studio, the grassroots mini makerspaces fill a need. 

This week, our middle school Spanish classes are completing a variety of maker projects. Then, they are filming Spanish tutorials of how to create the maker projects. These will go up on their YouTube channel or a private Google Drive folder from now. 

Since the end goal is to bring maker into the classroom, I see this as an major step. Regardless of whether there is a designated spaces, there should be maker thought moving into the classroom.

In April, we are hosting a family coding night. And, in May, we are wrapping up the year of the maker with a Superhero maker night. Stay tuned for updates and details!

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I originally shared this post in my Chasing Lilies blog.

"Would like me to make you a birthday cake," my three year-old niece, Emma, screamed as she climbed onto the kitchen stool. 


"Of course! What will you make me?" I asked as she looked through the kitchen drawer for supplies.


"Ummmm...how about a dragon cake!" she squealed louder. "Dragons are soooo cute! The cake can roar and the dragon can jump out of it," she exclaimed, getting more animated as the ideas came. 


At three, Emma's a wonder junkie. 


Emma reached for every color of food coloring and dumped them in the icing. "No!" someone yelled from the corner. "You don't want all of those colors in there. Pick three."


At three, Emma's told how something is supposed to appear. 


Emma grabbed the plastic spatula of a thousand colors and dumped it on the cake, crumbling beneath her. What remained was a crater of color. 


She beamed. "Happy birthday, Christy! It's a dragon! Rawrrrrr! Do you like it?" 


What's not to like? 



(Dragons are fictional, right?)

We assign preconceived ideas of how something should be to tasks that are meant to be holistic. We assign random numbers to learning development. We say that a seven year-old must be doing a set of tasks and, if they are not, they are failing. We assign right and wrong values to art. We decide how a fictional character like a dragon should appear. 


In our efforts to standardize education, we've stopped behaving as wonder junkies. Somewhere along the journey, we have started behaving like correctional officers. Wonder does not need to be corrected. It needs to be cultivated and then, shared. 


I challenge you to bring back the wonder. Even in restrictive environments, there is room for wonder. There is room for making. We are all makers. But, only some of us recognize it. 


Recently, I took the wonder junkie challenge to my staff. Not only is it my first year at a private school, it's my first year at this private school, and it's the first year for my position at this school. It's a year of firsts. So, it seemed perfect to introduce the idea of the makerspace. 


To get the climate ready for the idea, though, involves patience and willingness to explore for a year. During that first year: 



  1. Organize a focus group of students and staff who are excited about the idea of making (start with the passionate folks in order to generate momentum).
  2. Meet monthly with the focus group to establish the direction of the makerspace. For instance, will you have a classroom-based makerspace, a library makerspace, an after school makerspace, or several makerspaces around the school. We opted for several smaller makerspaces that each focus on a topic of interest (coding, wearables, recycling, etc.)
  3. Host monthly maker parties. I made this list for our school year. These should be both high tech and low tech activities to bring in a diverse crowd. Keep each party limited to two activities for easy management. I kept the parties to 45 minutes. However, I found that students came throughout the next few days to the space to finish; thereby encouraging the use of a makerspace
  4. Hold a kickoff party. We did this in the form of a Maker Night or a Maker Faire. We staged nearly ten booths plus a photo booth and invited all staff, students, and families. 
Create a space for wonder. Once you create that space and cultivate the climate, allow for it to shape itself. 

The kickoff party started with 8 booths:
  • 3D Printing
  • Google Cardboard
  • Cardboard Arcade Challenge
  • Upcycling
  • Raspberry Pi Tinkering
  • Makey Makey Challenge
  • Short Circuit Robots
  • 6 Word Memoir Stop Motion Animation
However, it evolved into so much more


Students found duct tape, LEDs, cardboard, C-Cell batteries, and cell phones to make talking robots


Students wrote their life in 6 words, drew it, and then animated it with stop motion

Students disassembled old electronics and created new inventions


They turned computer parts into jewelry


They used SketchUp to construct their own structures and then, 3D printed them

They made their own virtual reality tours with Cardboard Camera


They turned cardboard into fortune telling machines


They made messes - lots of them. And, it was okay.

They created without instruction - only ideas


They explored


They turned bananas into music

They set up stands made from recycled materials


They turned books into art kits
They had snacks (for extra encouragement)

Most importantly, they had fun
 It evolved into engagement and excitement. There were no rules of what something was supposed to be or not be. It was holistic. 

We are born to be makers. We are born to tinker and explore. However, we have been trained to follow a formula.  

Break the formula and get started. We are 9 months into our maker journey. We do not know where it will go or how long it will take and we're okay with that. 






Check out the Spartan Maker page for a detailed account of our Maker Year. Need some more inspiration? Check out making over your library (presentation) and fennovation.org for all things maker. 




 

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