How to Plan a Family Maker Day for your school

After just finishing our 2nd Maker Day held at our school, I thought it would be a good time to stop and reflect and possibly write a few things down that may help others who are interested in starting one. I am by no means an expert but have learned a couple of things so far. makersaturdaynov

What is a family Maker day? 

A Maker day is a family event that we decided to hold on a Saturday morning (9am-12pm) where students from all ages come in with their parents and engage in a variety of Maker activities. We wanted to keep the “family” aspect of it as we wanted kids to come in with their parents and make, design, innovate together. The activities range from just about anything including robotics, engineering, design challenges, e-textiles, circuit making and cardboard construction. We can’t claim that we created this idea. We got inspired to do this after learning about it from ASB. All stations are flexible so kids can spend as much or as little time on them as they like and there is no set “order” that they have to go through. All stations are fun by volunteer teachers, parents and HS students. We try and keep the atmosphere fun, relaxed but engaging.

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Why hold a Maker Day? 

It’s just another way to raise awareness of what making is all about and begin to build interest and excitement in maker activities and this spills into the curriculum. It’s great for teachers to be able to see what it is all about and work with other students. Students love it and come to the Makerspace excited to try out activities.

How do I go about organizing a Maker Day? 

First off, it’s a ton of work so you need someone (or a couple of people) who have the time and energy to initiate it. There’s no one way to do a Maker Day and lots of different formats. Here’s some of my advice in getting started:

  • Plan early. Get admin on board and book in the event months in advance if possible. Decide on the venue, format and identify people to coordinate it
  • Start small. Maybe plan for 50 students. Our first event had around 100 and our 2nd one this year had about 110 students. Any bigger and it gets hard to manage and you need more volunteers and resources
  • Recruit volunteers early. For each station (ideally), you’ll need one adult/HS student to facilitate it
  • Plan activities. Depending on the age-range, you’ll want a variety of activities that cater to different age groups.
  • Recruit some outside companies to come and do demos. We had several companies come and showcase their products. They can market their products but also adds to the day
  • Involve parents early. Talk to the PTA and try and get a few parents on board to market it to other parents
  • Involve operations in the process. You’ll need some tech support, maintenance workers, cleaners and other support staff to help you out.
  • Test out all activities and make checklists of materials for each station and double-check (triple-check) you have all materials well in advance
  • Make sure you thank and show your appreciate for all volunteers. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible.

 

 

Elementary Makerspace-A Tour

After over a year of planning, budgeting, and designing, the ES Makerspace is finally complete. Although, in reality, a true Makerspace is never complete and always going through an endless internal design process. I’m very proud of where we are at as a school and the kids here absolutely love it!

I’ll get into the how and why we made this in another post.

I thought I would share a few features of the space and rationale behind some of the decisions. I know when we were doing research, finding examples of Makerspaces around the world helped us envision what we wanted.

Some of the themes we wanted, were flexibility, accessibility, and personalization.  We wanted an innovative space that was flexible to the many kinds of projects that students would engage to. We wanted it to be bright and inviting and have a certain aesthetic quality to it. Well a picture is worth a thousand words!

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ES Makerspace-Update #2

Awhile back, I wrote a post here about our Makerspace program. Since we are nearing the end of the year, I thought I would write an update of where we are at and a little about what I’ve learned along the way.

First of all, our ES Makerspace has passed budget approval and we are doing some major renovation of the space which I am currently in (formally an ES Tech lab). During the summer months here, we will give the room a facelift. This took an enormous amount of research and work. Since I’m not an architect or a builder, I found it challenging to make decisions on so many little details about the room. I had lots of input and support from my admin and teachers who gave me feedback along the way. I also had meetings with our Operations Director, IT Manger and Builders. After thinking carefully about the functionality of the room, I think we have a near final plan. I used a 3D modelling program to create this and you can see it here (click the 3D tab on the right to move around the space).

 

The idea is that it will have different spaces set up (electrical, woodworking and crafting areas) that are flexible for both storage and workspaces. The side benches on the left are fixed to the wall as well as the shelving above. Along the wall will be peg board and linbin flexible shelving to store tools and materials for kids like below:


The benches and other side tables will be on wheels so they can be moved around when needed. The side storage room is a bigger storage room for all school science and engineering kits and materials.

Now that the space is done, we need to start finding effective ways to utilize it as a school. The idea is that it is a shared space where classes can come and go as they please but also open before school and during lunchtimes where kids can “drop in” to work on Maker projects. I certainly do NOT want it to become a newer age computer lab where formal classes are being held. In addition, we are thinking of ways to have mini mobile maker spaces (on trolleys) that can come into classes as needed. Sort of like this:

makerspace trolley

Other than that, lots of really cool projects have been happening in classrooms. We launched a new Energy maker project in Grade 4 where students used the design cycle to solve an energy problem. They held an Energy Expo for parents and teachers to showcase their work. I really loved how students referred to the design cycle and all the little problems they had to solve. Here’s a few photos of their projects:

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Other than that, we held our first Family Maker Day which was a big hit (but a ton of work!). We had 100 students come with their parents and had 14 different stations that they could freely engage in (I think I’ll do a separate post for this).

Here’s a few photos from the day as well:

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Developing a Maker Program in schools

 

After a bit of a hiatus from this blog, I’m back! I recently had a baby so she’s taken up the majority of the time these days…

Anyway, back to tech stuff. One exciting initiative I’ve started at our school is creating a Maker Program in ES. It’s been an incredible journey so far and by no means, do I feel like we are there but we are well on our way.

maker preconf_Page_05

I recently co-led a “Making” preconference in November as our school hosted the Learning2africa conference. This workshop took a ton of work but thought it went very well and we had almost 25 participants. For those of you interested, here’s a link to the powerpoint. After some theory, we had a group challenge where participants had to create a device that would hover in a homemade wind tunnel and used the Design Cycle to create their devices. IMG_9966 IMG_9973

We also provided a number of breakout sessions on 3D printing, robotics, programming and arduinos.

This workshop was a nice way to share where we were as a school in terms of our Maker program journey but also to network with other colleagues from around the world.

maker preconf_Page_13

Things have actually progressed quite a bit since this.

A couple of updates:

  • Now have integrated design thinking Maker projects into 3 grade level units (Sound and Light, Forces and a KG Toys unit) and plans for several more
  • Got budget approval to completely redesign new innovative Maker Space room (photos to come…)
  • Leading staff PD workshops on Design Thinking and Maker spaces
  • Created a Grade 5 Tech Crew group which have been teaching other grade levels: 3D printing, robotics, circuit creation
  • Planned a Maker Family Saturday for later this year
  • Ordered tons of new resources to expand the program!

So what does design thinking look like in ES? Here’s a video I made from last year:

 

Design Thinking in ES from AISJ on Vimeo.

Continue reading Developing a Maker Program in schools

How to 3D print designs from Minecraft

So our school is buying two 3D Makerbot printers next year and we, as Technology Integration Coaches, are now trying to figure out how best to use them. Right now, we have a demo version of the Makerbot Replicator (5th generation) and we’ve been madly scrambling to figure it all out. Exciting times!

As an ES Tech Coach, I’m trying to find ways to use it next year as part of our Maker Space. It didn’t take long before I stumbled upon Printcraft, an amazing way to take your 3D designs and print replicas of them. I’ve been playing around with some different tools and really impressed with both Tinkercad and Sketchpad as possibilities for ES students.

Anyway, I found Printcraft and completely blown away that this is even possible. I’m a huge Minecraft fan and have been using it with students for the last 4 years or so. This just takes it to another level. I know, I know…printing is nothing new but there was something about designing my first structure and printing a living breathing 3D object that is powerful.

So here’s how you do it.

Step 1. Buy Minecraft and install

Step 2: Go to Multiplayer mode and type in the Printcraft server (eu1.printcraft.org)

Step 3: Explore the world (very cool world btw) and find an empty plot of land. Build something interesting. A quick note that you need to use solid blocks and wasn’t able to print flowers, doors, etc.

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Step 4: Go to the little panel beside your plot and click print.

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Step 5: Click the link (note that you need to be in chat mode..type /?)

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Step 6: It will take you to a link within printcraft. From here you can share to Thingiverse or download (Click the .stl file for Makerbots). From here you simply print from your 3D printing software. I printed mine quite small but you can scale it up on the 3D Printer. Easy huh?

Screenshot (140)

From here, I can think of so many applications. You could then take the 3D model and talk about scaling, area, perimeter and a host of other mathematical concepts.

 

Minecraft house