Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Makerspace 2016-17

2016-17 Makerspace is Off and Running!


Our Makerspace is off to a strong start for the 2016-17 school year. It took us over a month to get rolling because of the basic craziness of the start of the school year. Throughout the month of September, last year's Makers would come in and ask me if we could get started. Because we meet during lunch break, I encouraged them to go outside and enjoy the warm weather while they could, but by the beginning of October we were ready to start our Makerspace lunch breaks again.

Because of staffing changes in our building, we are only able to be open three days a week this year. This actually has some benefits to the students: They have to find other things to do twice a week (like socialize or play outside!), and they have to remember and stick to the schedule. Both are good for them. So, we are open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday during lunch break.

We started out with "Free Choice." The kids could come in and use the supplies available to build whatever they wanted. We had so much creativity happening in our Makerspace area! And our momentum from last year picked up. We were averaging at least a dozen kids in here at a time.

Our Makers from last year started asking for a challenge, so I posted the "Popsicle Architecture Challenge." They had the first two weeks of November to build the tallest tower using only popsicle sticks and hot glue. (Stay tuned to see how that turns out - there is some really interesting learning going on!)

What I've learned:

Different kinds of Makers are drawn to different things: kids who did not come in for "Free Choice" were dedicated Makers during the time of a challenge. Kids who loved "Free Choice" didn't love the competition aspect of the challenges. It's good to have both available.

Makerspace Challenges 2015-16

2015-16 Challenges

After we completed our Cardboard Arcade, we moved on to hosting bi-weekly challenges for our Makers. I posted a challenge on the bulletin board in the hallway and the kids had two weeks to complete the challenge. The winner(s) were recognized with a full-size picture of their project (and selves) added to our "Makerspace Wall of Fame" in the hallway.

Here is a list of the challenges we completed during the 2015-16 school year.

The 100-card Challenge

Build the tallest tower using only 100 index cards and up to 12 inches of tape.

These were not submissions
 to the challenge, but they were beautiful!
The winning tower measured 52 inches.

**What I learned: The tape wasn't necessary. The towers in the above photos were created with no tape and lasted for weeks!

The Cargo Plane Challenge

Using construction paper and tape, design an airplane that can carry the most value of coins at least 10 feet.
These boys try to design their planes.

The winning plane carried $11.26! (No photo because this Maker is on our "no published photos" list.)

How we did it:
A flight attempt.
We measured out and marked a line 10 feet from the doorway of our Makerspace room. The plane had to fly in a controlled manner (no hurling or spinning) through the doorway. It also had to land at least mostly in tact. We likened this to if there was a real pilot and real cargo in the plane - would it be considered a successful landing?

**What I learned: This became quite a mess with coins flying everywhere on doomed flights. Be prepared.

The Pipe Cleaner/Tennis Ball Challenge

Using only pipe cleaners, design a structure that can hold the weight of a tennis ball. The ball the farthest off the ground wins the challenge.

One of the completed tennis ball holders.
**What I learned: This challenge came near the end of the year and did not gain as many interest as others since the weather was getting nice outside!

Makerspace Supply List

Makerspace Supplies

We started our Makerspace with very little investment. We purchased 3 glue guns, some thick sharpie markers, packing tape guns and several pairs of scissors. Most of the other supplies are general school supply items that were available in our building, or found items like old cardboard boxes and tubes.

In the Fall of 2016 we were awarded a $100 grant from a local insurance company (Thank you, Meemic Insurance!) and we purchased non-stick scissors, duct tape and origami paper for use in some planned projects.

We store our supplies in and on a 2-drawer lateral file in our computer lab. The glue guns are kept on a rolling cart and I have another rolling cart of supplies stored in an office where we can grab items that we don't want to leave out, like hot glue guns.

These are the items we always have on hand in our Makerspace:

Popsicle Sticks
Cordless Hot Glue Guns and extra glue sticks (only put out during scheduled Makerspace times)
Sharpie markers, thick and thin
Index Cards
Scissors (lots)
Non-stick scissors for cutting tape
Paper clips, big and small
Rubber bands of various size
Glue Sticks
Paper of varying weights
Origami Paper
Duct Tape, various
Perler Beads and an iron
Aluminum Foil
Packing Tape
Masking Tape
Felt/Fabric Scraps
Googly Eyes
Wrapping Paper Scraps
Cardboard tubes
Paperboard boxes
Cardboard Boxes
Utility Knife (only available for use by adult)
Found objects like container lids, buttons, yogurt cups, etc.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Starting Our Makerspace

Starting our Makerspace             

Once we decided that we wanted to join the Maker Movement, we had to answer a few key questions:
1.     Where would we host our Makerspace? We decided to host the Makerspace in our computer lab. Because our school has moved to a one-to-one laptop and iPad program for many of the grades, our computer lab was often empty. Also, we had counter space and floor space where we could store materials and projects.

Our Hub, located in the Computer Lab.
2.     When would the kids get to come?
We had a meeting with our Middle School teachers to share our vision for the Makerspace and to ask about student availability. The teachers were on board and excited about the opportunity to give kids more hands-on learning experiences, but our class schedule did not lend itself to a lot of time for Makerspace. We settled on having the Makerspace open twice a week during lunch break. (This soon changed to every day.)

3.     What would we do there?
We chose to have both open-ended supplies and “challenges” in our Makerspace. We felt like our first challenge should be a big one so we could gain some momentum and excitement for our Maker Movement. We started with a Cardboard Arcade: creating games that our elementary students could play during our special Theme Week before Spring Break. 

During a Middle School assembly, we pitched our idea to the students. We explained the concept of Makerspace and pointed out that anyone who likes to craft, create, bake, draw, sew, problem-solve, build, etc. is already a Maker. We showed them part of the YouTube video of Caine’s Arcade to give them ideas and we invited them to our Grand Opening on January 29.

We purchased a few supplies (tape guns, hot glue
Beware crowd-sourced cardboard. It may take over.
guns, Sharpies) and crowd-sourced cardboard boxes from our school families. We learned the classic lesson: be careful what you wish for! Our technology specialist graciously offered her office to store the boxes and she was quickly swallowed whole by cardboard. If we run this challenge again in the future, we would just ask for unique (in size, shape or color) boxes and not accept every Amazon box that came our way.

We had boxes full of miscellaneous supplies.
Once we had our supplies, teacher support and informed kids, it was time to launch. We weren’t sure how many students would show up and considered that maybe no one would show up. We bought bags of popcorn to lure students into the lab just in case.

 When the lunch break bell rang at 12:20 on January 29, we held our breaths.  Suddenly kids started streaming in. We had over 30 kids in our computer lab, already breaking down cardboard and negotiating use of glue guns. It was a Makerspace Miracle!

Over the course of the next several weeks, attendance to our Makerspace whittled itself down to a core group of dedicated students. Some students finished their games early and did not come back. Others came nearly every day to continue working on a complex project or to start new projects. At the end of our challenge we had about a dozen games for our elementary students to play and a core group of Makers who were ready for the next challenge.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Cardboard Arcade

RCS Makerspace is a place for Middle School students to create and imagine while they complete challenges. Our first challenge was a Cardboard Arcade. The elementary school students played the games created by Middle School students during Theme Week.

This blog will include photos and videos of the students' process as they complete various Makerspace challenges.