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January 4, 2017 Classroom Maker Spaces: STEAM Re-Imagined By Nancy Jang
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    In my last post, I touched on the Maker Space in my classroom. Some of you are probably wondering what a Maker Space is and what is it for. Well, let me give you the lowdown! I have been a huge fan of the Maker Movement for a long time. Makers are tinkerers, builders, problem solvers, craftsmen, and hobbyists. They are jacks-of-all-trades, using and applying knowledge and skills, acquiring new skills, and learning to MAKE THINGS! Sometimes makers create items like functional tools and sometimes it’s pure fun and silliness such as a cupcake go-cart. Anyone and everyone can be a maker, young or old, and it doesn’t require a degree or a lot of expensive materials. It just requires some creative problem-solving, collaboration, risk-taking, and a healthy dose of curiosity. In essence, it was STEM before STEM was a term, but with the idea of producing something. It’s free-thinking, inventing, designing, building, engineering, and self-expression.

    A Maker Space is simply a dedicated space that allows all of this to happen. Tools can be high-tech and include computers, 3-D printers, and Arduinos to low-tech or no-tech materials such as paper, glue, scissors, needle/thread, hammers, and saws. From knitting and sewing, to woodworking and metalworking, to wiring and writing software, all kinds of skills are valued and utilized. Makers share ideas, skills, and tools, and Maker Spaces allow for a central location where creating can happen in a collaborative, supportive environment. If that doesn’t sound like the best classroom in the world, then I don’t know what does!

     

    In my class, I have a table with materials and a few bins that hold larger materials. I also use shoe organizers on the wall to hold unfinished project pieces and parts. In another areas, I have basic supplies for borrowing. I am planning on adding fun scissors, a bucket of tape, and hole punches on the table in a little caddy for students to use. Kids can create standing at the table, on the floor, or at their desks. This creates a little bit of a mess, but I make sure that we spend five minutes cleaning up and putting everything away at the end of our Maker Time. So far, the kids have really tried to take care of the space and are sharing materials and ideas, collaborating, and even cleaning!

    I have modeled my Maker Space after another one of my colleagues. Susan Shaw is a first-grade teacher in my school and has had a Maker Space in her room for several years. Here are just a few of the creative projects from Mrs. Shaw's first graders. Many times there is not an end product because the kids are learning a skill such as tying knots or mastering cutting small items, other times, they are just exploring the material and how to cut or manipulate it.

    In second grade, kids have a better grasp of how to use tape, glue, and attach things using knots and notches, but they are still learning to manipulate materials such as cardboard and plastic water bottles. My kiddos are learning to cut various patterns and shapes in the materials such as cutting spirals in a plastic water bottle to make a windsock. Beyond exploring materials, they are also learning how materials interact and then coming up with their own projects.

    Raise your hand if the bottle flipping is driving you crazy! Who is with me here?! With the bottle-flipping craze in full effect, one of my students decided to create a simple machine to take bottle flipping to the next level. He created a platform to launch and catch the bottle! Needless to say that it was a big hit. He had to reengineer it a few times to get the platform to support the weight, but the process was a wonderful organic learning experience!

    Here are some of the other finished projects from my class: a set of cute binoculars to play explorer with, a lovely pop-up card for my principal who broke her foot, a cannon for pretend battles, and a play iPod with ear phones!

     

     

     

    At the upper grades, students can make projects that are more complex. Victoria Jasztal, a fifth-grade teacher in Florida and friend of mine, also has a Maker Space in her class. Upper grade projects include wiring LED lights, learning how to solder, and creating on the Arduino! Check out her gorgeous Maker Space and one of her projects!

    In her own words, Victoria explains why she is a Maker fan:

    "The most substantial takeaways I have had through the experience of starting a Maker Space and encouraging my fifth graders to pursue making are:

    • The ideas students generate have the potential to tremendously impact society.
    • Mistakes and failures are okay. Students should be encouraged to persist and learn from every experience. Students may “fail” numerous times, but in the midst of that “peril,” authentic learning takes place.
    • Always encourage your students to have passion for learning new things and teaching about their expertise. Each of your students possesses different background knowledge about technology, and fellow students should respect those strengths, understanding each of us is always capable of growing.
    • Teachers do not come in knowing about everything their students will achieve. When I started my Maker Space, I did not know about Arduino microcontrollers, littleBits, MaKey MaKey, video game design, 3-D printing, or honestly much else besides coding, so these past few years have been an invigorating ride!

     

    But Maker Spaces aren't just for kids. There are Community Maker Spaces available in many areas for adults to collaborate and create! In fact, there are Maker Faires with tons of fabulous make and take projects, huge robots, and loads of innovation. I attended my local Maker Faire at Balboa Park in San Diego this past October and met Makers from all walks of life that have made amazing projects from flame-throwing robots to wooden articulated prosthetic hands, pushpin murals and cupcake go-carts, the Maker Faire was a veritable wonderland of science, technology, art, and engineering.

     

    How do you get started with creating a Maker Space (STEAM station) in your room without spending a lot of money? Here are five helpful tips to get you started!

    1. Send out this handy-dandy letter to your parents to ask for donations of materials/ share a skill. (Click here to download your editable copy.)
    2. Create an efficient storage space for the materials and unfinished projects.
    3.  Stock the area with scissors, glue, tape (LOTS OF TAPE), crayons, markers.
    4.  Teach and post expectations for the area. (Click on the photo to download this Maker Space Rules poster.)
    5. Give them time to work! (For me, it’s during Reading Groups!)

    I hope that you try and create a Maker Space in your classroom for STEM, STEAM, and loads of fun and creativity in your classroom!

     

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

     

    In my last post, I touched on the Maker Space in my classroom. Some of you are probably wondering what a Maker Space is and what is it for. Well, let me give you the lowdown! I have been a huge fan of the Maker Movement for a long time. Makers are tinkerers, builders, problem solvers, craftsmen, and hobbyists. They are jacks-of-all-trades, using and applying knowledge and skills, acquiring new skills, and learning to MAKE THINGS! Sometimes makers create items like functional tools and sometimes it’s pure fun and silliness such as a cupcake go-cart. Anyone and everyone can be a maker, young or old, and it doesn’t require a degree or a lot of expensive materials. It just requires some creative problem-solving, collaboration, risk-taking, and a healthy dose of curiosity. In essence, it was STEM before STEM was a term, but with the idea of producing something. It’s free-thinking, inventing, designing, building, engineering, and self-expression.

    A Maker Space is simply a dedicated space that allows all of this to happen. Tools can be high-tech and include computers, 3-D printers, and Arduinos to low-tech or no-tech materials such as paper, glue, scissors, needle/thread, hammers, and saws. From knitting and sewing, to woodworking and metalworking, to wiring and writing software, all kinds of skills are valued and utilized. Makers share ideas, skills, and tools, and Maker Spaces allow for a central location where creating can happen in a collaborative, supportive environment. If that doesn’t sound like the best classroom in the world, then I don’t know what does!

     

    In my class, I have a table with materials and a few bins that hold larger materials. I also use shoe organizers on the wall to hold unfinished project pieces and parts. In another areas, I have basic supplies for borrowing. I am planning on adding fun scissors, a bucket of tape, and hole punches on the table in a little caddy for students to use. Kids can create standing at the table, on the floor, or at their desks. This creates a little bit of a mess, but I make sure that we spend five minutes cleaning up and putting everything away at the end of our Maker Time. So far, the kids have really tried to take care of the space and are sharing materials and ideas, collaborating, and even cleaning!

    I have modeled my Maker Space after another one of my colleagues. Susan Shaw is a first-grade teacher in my school and has had a Maker Space in her room for several years. Here are just a few of the creative projects from Mrs. Shaw's first graders. Many times there is not an end product because the kids are learning a skill such as tying knots or mastering cutting small items, other times, they are just exploring the material and how to cut or manipulate it.

    In second grade, kids have a better grasp of how to use tape, glue, and attach things using knots and notches, but they are still learning to manipulate materials such as cardboard and plastic water bottles. My kiddos are learning to cut various patterns and shapes in the materials such as cutting spirals in a plastic water bottle to make a windsock. Beyond exploring materials, they are also learning how materials interact and then coming up with their own projects.

    Raise your hand if the bottle flipping is driving you crazy! Who is with me here?! With the bottle-flipping craze in full effect, one of my students decided to create a simple machine to take bottle flipping to the next level. He created a platform to launch and catch the bottle! Needless to say that it was a big hit. He had to reengineer it a few times to get the platform to support the weight, but the process was a wonderful organic learning experience!

    Here are some of the other finished projects from my class: a set of cute binoculars to play explorer with, a lovely pop-up card for my principal who broke her foot, a cannon for pretend battles, and a play iPod with ear phones!

     

     

     

    At the upper grades, students can make projects that are more complex. Victoria Jasztal, a fifth-grade teacher in Florida and friend of mine, also has a Maker Space in her class. Upper grade projects include wiring LED lights, learning how to solder, and creating on the Arduino! Check out her gorgeous Maker Space and one of her projects!

    In her own words, Victoria explains why she is a Maker fan:

    "The most substantial takeaways I have had through the experience of starting a Maker Space and encouraging my fifth graders to pursue making are:

    • The ideas students generate have the potential to tremendously impact society.
    • Mistakes and failures are okay. Students should be encouraged to persist and learn from every experience. Students may “fail” numerous times, but in the midst of that “peril,” authentic learning takes place.
    • Always encourage your students to have passion for learning new things and teaching about their expertise. Each of your students possesses different background knowledge about technology, and fellow students should respect those strengths, understanding each of us is always capable of growing.
    • Teachers do not come in knowing about everything their students will achieve. When I started my Maker Space, I did not know about Arduino microcontrollers, littleBits, MaKey MaKey, video game design, 3-D printing, or honestly much else besides coding, so these past few years have been an invigorating ride!

     

    But Maker Spaces aren't just for kids. There are Community Maker Spaces available in many areas for adults to collaborate and create! In fact, there are Maker Faires with tons of fabulous make and take projects, huge robots, and loads of innovation. I attended my local Maker Faire at Balboa Park in San Diego this past October and met Makers from all walks of life that have made amazing projects from flame-throwing robots to wooden articulated prosthetic hands, pushpin murals and cupcake go-carts, the Maker Faire was a veritable wonderland of science, technology, art, and engineering.

     

    How do you get started with creating a Maker Space (STEAM station) in your room without spending a lot of money? Here are five helpful tips to get you started!

    1. Send out this handy-dandy letter to your parents to ask for donations of materials/ share a skill. (Click here to download your editable copy.)
    2. Create an efficient storage space for the materials and unfinished projects.
    3.  Stock the area with scissors, glue, tape (LOTS OF TAPE), crayons, markers.
    4.  Teach and post expectations for the area. (Click on the photo to download this Maker Space Rules poster.)
    5. Give them time to work! (For me, it’s during Reading Groups!)

    I hope that you try and create a Maker Space in your classroom for STEM, STEAM, and loads of fun and creativity in your classroom!

     

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

     

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