Sunday, October 11, 2015

Now Making...

This year I've implemented a very exciting addition to our learning studio. I've been following the "Maker Movement" for some time. Like many people, it seemed like a great way to implement a more dedicated approach to creativity in a learning environment. But what would that look like in a 3rd grade classroom? How would I use this to enhance the learning of our students? Like most things I try, I jumped in feet first and figured I could answer all those questions later. Lucky for me, I'm co-teaching in an open classroom so I had a great partner, Tara Frederick, to try adding this concept to our learning studio.

Our "Maker Space" at the start of school!
We built a "Maker Space" (thanks to Pinterest) with two pieces of pegboard and many hooks and baskets. We filled this with all kinds of prototyping materials (paper, tape, pipe cleaners, beads, cardboard, index cards, straws, toothpicks, etc.). We were set! For the first two weeks of school, every day our students asked us when we were going to use this unique space. They had so many great questions about what is was, how we would use it and what they could and could not do with the materials in this spot. We had no answers...remember, I said I jumped in with no idea how I was going to use it. So, for two weeks, it sat there while Tara and I struggled to come up with how to use this space.
Now Making...the tallest tower!

That's when Tara and I decided to devote our Wednesdays to bringing the 4C's to life in our learning studios. I reflected back to a conversation I had had a few months prior in my Foundations of Innovation course. The teachers in that course and myself had this vibrant discussion about how we need to explicit teach and provide opportunities for students to practice creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. That's when the light bulb went off, we needed to explicitly offer these opportunities to our students and our Maker Space was one way we could do this. 

Now Making...a Musical Instrument
That's one reason we've switched up our schedule this year. Every Wednesday, Tara and I start our day with Genius Hour (I'll do a future post about what that looks like). In the afternoon we are doing something we've been calling "Code Academy" (I'll do a future post about this as well). During Code Academy, the students rotate through 6 stations. One of the stations is at our Maker Space. We give them a challenge and they have to use the materials in this space to create a solution. We started with, "Now Making...the tallest tower". We always use the phrase "Now Making" to help them focus their thoughts and actions on the idea that they have to make something during their time at that station. Below are some videos of "Now Making...a musical instrument". 

Our Vine Rock Videos

Our Vine Rock Videos

We've also introduced the concept of refining and improving prototypes. For example, the musical instruments was a three week build. We asked them to create, then reflect and improve their designs. We take photographs of each student with their prototype and then send their work home. We plan to designated a wall in the room to hanging their photos so that by the end of the year the students will have made several prototypes and we hope to compare and contrast their early designs to the work done at the end of the year. 

Since we have a better idea of how this is going, we will also be opening our Maker Space during our daily brain break time, allowing students to have more free choice in what they are making. For now, we'll keep the weekly challenge because there is beauty is seeing how students create the same
concept but in such unique ways. We are loving the addition of a Maker Space and are very proud of ourselves for taking this risk. Feel free to contact either of us to share ideas or ask questions. Until then..."Now Making...Creative Geniuses"!


Classroom Twitter: @NAlightbulbs

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