Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Maker Spaces

I posted about my thrilling success of one makerspace activity in a prior post (see here), but now that I have had more classes go through them, I am ready to reflect a little on the experience.  Our middle schools and high schools are offering makerspace opportunities and for a while I have been struggling with the idea at the elementary level.  I totally understand how it could be done at the secondary schools because they have study halls, open lunch areas and before and after school opportunities to offer, but I couldn't figure out how to work it in at the elementary level as the teacher's day as so jammed packed. I knew I was somehow going to have to work it in with curriculum somehow.

I decided to create some "Energy Makerspaces" for my 5th graders to explore after their study of energy in science.  I started by using Pinterest to gather a bunch of different ideas of experiments and activities that I could use.  And it was actually this "Mystery Bag" blog post that gave me the idea for how I wanted to structure the space.  I loved the idea of giving kids items and then a challenge.  I was talking with one of my colleagues at a meeting one day and she was interested in collaborating on the idea so I made a Google doc and we shared links and made lists of items that we would need for each activity.  Once we felt pretty confident about the activities we had gathered, I let my teachers know about it so they could sign up for times to come visit.

Then I had to start gathering the items.  I sent home a flyer with my students asking for items that I knew I needed:  boxes, toilet paper rolls, string, yarn, cans, dental floss, buttons, wax paper, tape - anything I could think of that might be useful.  And boy did they deliver...
Kids brought in bags and bags of things that I stored in a closet.  Once I was ready to put the activities together, I put the small items into a plastic box and created a challenge sign for each activity.  
I decided to make community boxes of the cans, boxes and TP rolls that any one could could at any activity. 
Then it was time to let the kids come and make.  

The first time they came to work, I showed them this sign 
I loved this because I think it fits perfectly with the maker movement.  I told the kids that we were going to do all of these things.  I explained that each station had a challenge and that there were 5 different energies addressed:  mechanical, electrical, sound, light and elastic.  as they completed each challenge or decided to move to a different one, they had to get an ipad and using the ShowMe app, take a picture and record their product and reflect.  What was the challenge? What worked? What didn't?  How they changed the design?  And why it finally worked?  Then we set them loose...


I put books at each station and some had a QR code that linked them to a Discovery Streaming video about the topic they could watch to get ideas.  As I said in my previous post, the hardest part was to keep my mouth shut and not lead them to the product.  The whole idea was that they come up with something that worked and boy was I impressed.

One of the things that I loved about using the Show Me app rather than just shooting a straight video with the camera was that they students could draw or write on the screen.  They figured this out on their own and some became mini scientists diagramming and making notes about what they did.
Here are some examples of their videos.

All in all I was really pleased with how this turned out.  Yes, it was loud.  Yes, it was messy. But there was so much learning, collaboration, struggling, revising and reflecting go on also.

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