My MakerSpace Shift

Contributed by Dawn Vieira, elementary librarian

Makerspaces… it’s all the buzz in the library world right now. All around school and public librarians are finding ways to reinvent their space to give their patrons the opportunity to create. Sometimes it can be via technology such as Makey Makey or a 3-D printer, but it can also be just the chance to tinker with Legos or recycled “trash” like toilet paper rolls, cardboard and toothpicks.

I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to develop a wonderful MakerSpace/Tech Corner in my LMC at White Eagle Elementary through a very generous donation from my school’s PTA. With the funds I was able to purchase Dash robots, Spheros, OSMOs and LittleBits. The students absolutely love interacting with these devices and learning more about coding, circuits and more. The Tech Corner was always full of students laughing, sharing and learning. I soon found, however, that although it was a “Makerspace,” my students weren’t always making something. Yes, they were “making” programs via blocks of code for Dash and Sphero to follow. Yes, they were “making” tangrams and words with OSMO, but there was something missing. That’s when I realized my Makerspace was missing another component, what I call the Creation Station.

At the Creation Station side of my makerspace there is absolutely no technology. It is an area where students have the chance to explore various STEM and STEAM provided monthly activities and to just create. Legos, Squigz, Zoinks and blocks call out, “Let’s be an architect! Build something with me.” Rainbow Looms, weaving looms, and bins of yarn shout, “Interested in fashion or design? Make something with me!” Straws, scissors, paper, tape, crayons, cardboard and more call out, “Be creative! Think outside the box and explore with me.”

I first opened the Creation Station side of my MakerSpace in the fall. At this point, my Tech Corner had been up and running since January of last year. I was completely blown away by the shift in my makerspace. It was inspiring. The makerspace had a new purpose for many students, the chance to create in a different way. I overhead statements like, “Look what I made.” “How should we do this?” “What do you think about this?” and “I can’t wait to try another way tomorrow.” I couldn’t believe the engagement and incredible amount of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication (4Cs of Education) that I was witnessing as students challenged themselves to just create. Don’t get me wrong, the Tech Corner was still a very popular, buzzing corner of my LMC, but a whole new set of students, along with my Tech Corner regulars, stormed to the Creation Station. It was a makerspace shift.

So, as you begin or continue your journey of creating a MakerSpace in your library, remember this: A MakerSpace is simply a place for students to explore and learn through creation, be it through technology or recycled cardboard. Embrace it! Encourage it! Make it!

embrace-it-encourage-it-make-it

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Creating a Sustainable MakerSpace with Rasperry Pi Club

Contributed by Lynn Domek, NBCT and elementary librarian

This year I wanted to create a sustainable MakerSpace in the library to be used at any time of the day for drop in students and whole classes.  I took into account the President’s new initiative, “Computer Science for All,” to empower all American students from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science and to be active citizens in our technology-driven world. From “order makes sense” to inquiry-based thought processes in the existing curriculum, collaboration and creativity could be extended to the 750 students in our K-5 building.

Our students at Welch Elementary had been exposed to LittleBits circuits and Dash and Dot robots via participation in the Illinois State Library MakeIt@YourLibrary program.  This exposure brought much excitement and collaboration to the Welch community.  With the addition of Makey-Makey and Osmo, we were on our way to having a sustainable MakerSpace.  But I was looking for something more.

So, I took the plunge and wrote a grant that was funded by IPEF that introduced SnapCircuits and Raspberry Pi into our MakerSpace.  I first learned about Raspberry Pi from following a former colleague on Twitter.  He had mentioned in a tweet that students in a Syrian refugee camp were programming with Raspberry Pi. What was this credit-card sized computer?  I looked into it over the summer and discovered MIT’s Scratch programming language and many resources for educators on the Raspberry Pi website.
I created an after-school Raspberry Pi club that lasted for six weeks.  I then added the Raspberry Pis into the MakerSpace.  I was amazed at how much 5th grade students could do regarding programming by utilizing Scratch and Python after a brief introduction.  I am looking forward to finding future computer science opportunities for Welch students and am currently considering purchasing a Kano computer and coding kit.

The Genius of Genius Hour

Contributed by Donna Kouri, elementary librarian

This year our elementary school implemented Genius Hour for students in grades 1-5. We hold it three times a week for 40 minutes each day. All students have it at the same time which has been a wonderful, although unexpected, gift.

During Genius Hour, students work on a project that is of interest to them. It is their chance to explore something they are passionate about but that may not be covered in class. The only requirements are that the project must have a research component and there must be some type of presentation where students share their project with others. 

Failure is fine during genius hour, a philosophy that aligns perfectly with the new Creation Station that our LMC put in place this year. Failure is a point to start, not to end, and even projects that do not work out the first time can be tweaked and altered and lessons can be learned.

The LMC bustles during Genius Hour in the best possible way. Students drop in to use all sorts of items from the Creation Station. They may come to use technology, to hook into the collaboration table to project their computer onto a larger screen where all members of the group can view it, to film in front of the green screen, or to work on building a project that supports their research.

Every day there is something different happening. The only constant is that the library is full of students thinking, problem solving, creating and learning.

One benefit of having genius hour at the same time is the cross grade teaching that occurs. Fourth grade students came in to work on stop motion animation. I had not done this before and offered to help them research and learn how to do it. I also told them that students in fifth grade were already creating stop motion animation projects and might be able to teach them. That is exactly what happened. Students are learning from each other. My role as the LMC director is clearly not to teach them how to do their projects. Often what they come up with is something of which I have limited knowledge. My role is to facilitate their learning and experimentation and to help them answer their own questions. I may help them refine a search, but they are the ones that are doing the searching.

Genius hour has been, quite frankly, genius. We remodeled our LMC to make it Future Ready but, as we all know, that does not make a difference if students are not using it for the intended purpose. Genius Hour has helped bring us closer to our goal of being a Future Ready Library and empowering our students to be Future Ready as well.

 

bloxels

Students use the Bloxels app to create a video game. They quickly became experts at this app, and willingly taught others how to use it.

 

 

girls

These girls love gymnastics. They used the green screen to film themselves talking about gymnastics and added clips of themselves executing the various tricks. This was their first experience using the green screen, and they worked in WeVideo to create their final presentation. 

spark

These students loved using the Sphero Sprk, so they researched and learned more about the device. They wanted to know how far away from the Sphero they could stand and still control it. 

 

Providing Opportunities for Students in a Creator Space

Contributed by Blaire Ranucci, elementary librarian

We have been very fortunate in my K-5 building to have received funding to launch a Creator Space. What began as a set of maker resources from our district (robots, osmos, makey makeys, etc) has expanded into a place of exploration in my building.

To fully get the idea of our Creator Space, you have to picture a building with an atrium style library. We have one designated wall and hallways with classroom off of them on three sides. In one of those hallway areas, we have created our Space. When our Creator Space was in the idea phase, the Principal, LMC Director and Technology Liaison worked together to determine how to spend district and grant funds to best meet our needs. We repurposed tables and storage to provide the most ease of access and space for the students. A committee of interested teachers have worked extensively from the idea phase until now to sort through manipulatives from previous math curricula, unpack new kits and supplies, organize storage space and create new challenges across all STEAM areas.

But all the ideas, money and searching through blogs, Pinterest, professional journals, etc does not make for a successful space.

What makes the space successful is the commitment of the Principal, teachers and parents to changing the mindset in a school.

In our building, interested 3rd-5th graders could sign up for Recess Creator Club, which allows them to explore, create and keep projects from week to week. There were no restrictions on which interested students could participate, only that they regularly attend to keep their spot. We have had students across all academic and accommodation levels chose to participate and find success. Not all students thrive during recess, but this has provided another outlet for them. In addition, each grade level has designated time each week to come down. Teachers send students on a rotation, so all students have exposure to the rotating activities and materials that are in the space. Students who are normally pulled out of the classroom many times a day will still have the opportunity to participate with their peers..

It is a work in progress, but this year has been so exciting, and has sparked something in many students who do not always shine. Creator Space has been such an opportunity to add to the definition of lifelong learning and has enhanced what the library can offer a school.

Ethan’s Efforts Making a Difference in our MakerSpace

Contributed by Natalie Hoyle Ross, NBCT and elementary librarian

It is not unusual to see a librarian advocating for the LMC’s MakerSpace; however, it is quite another to have a student take on that role.

Our biggest advocate of our Spring Brook MakerSpace is Ethan. When Ethan realized we were featuring one of his favorite pieces of technology, Osmos, he was thrilled!

However, his idea of a MakerSpace was that the area would be in use the entire school day.  He was disappointed to see that some days the MakerSpace was not being used at all.   It was at this time that Ethan set a personal goal to make our MakerSpace more popular!

His first step was creating an enticing public announcement to lure students to use the MakerSpace.  By making the announcement from the perspective of the Osmo, he explained to the entire school that the Osmos were lonely and wanted to have someone play with them.  Almost in a commercial like manner, he explained how much fun Osmos were and how all Spring Brook students should try them out today! 

Another tactic Ethan used was to excite teachers.  He approached teachers and asked them when they planned to sign up for a time to use our MakerSpaceIn a further effort to spread the word about the MakerSpaces, Ethan designed and hung posters outside the teachers lounge and in the main office, encouraging teachers to become interested in Osmos which is leading to more interest in all the devices.

Since then, Ethan himself has taken on a teaching role.  Ethan used his valuable reward time to help other students become mathematicians through using Osmo Numbers and tangram apps.  

With Ethan‘s help, our MakerSpace has become a hub in our school with frequent visitors and a lot of buzz.