Routines, Responsibility and Relevance: MakerStudio 2016

Routines, Responsibilities and Relevance

Off to a great start with the 3Rs: Routines, Responsibilities and Relevance

Routines: Students were so excited to have their first day back in the Maker Studio. As we found ourselves ready to enter, I was so excited to see the number of students that remembered the routines that were established last year. Routines, that students can follow from year to year, impact instruction time by affording efficiency in getting on task. All grades, second through fourth, demonstrated and shared the importance of having routines in place. Not only did they follow routines for entering and exiting the space, they also worked on the visible thinking routine to share their background knowledge. Students responded to, “What is a Tool?” by expressing their thinking on the thinking wall.


Responsibilities: As students began discussing the responsibilities that they would demonstrate in the Maker Studio, they were very quick to share the “why” behind the responsibility. It was not a set of rules but a personal expectation of responsibility for being safe and mindful. Student developed responsibilities provide ownership for both positive and negative experiences.

Relevance: Behind every engaging lesson there is relevance. Teaching and learning that “looks” like play supports learning for all students. When the learning is relevant and purposeful, useful and applied students bring everything they have to the experience. “What is a tool?” was the launch of our 2016-2017 learning year. Students eagerly shared their thinking about tools and built their own excitement towards using the tools in the Studio. The literature link we used was, “Monkey with a Tool Belt” by Chris Monroe. This one book has set the stage for relevant activities for students in grades 2-4. Students have already made connections with the main character and are looking forward to the BreakOut session that stems from the story line.

Next Week: “CHICO is MISSING” breakout activity


edcamplogo5We are very excited to host the second annual EdcampSTEAM in Alabama.  Come share, discuss, and learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.  Join us in Respecting the A, the ARTs in the STEM model by sharing ways to build curriculum with technology, makerspaces, mixed media and crosscutting science concepts.

When:  August 6, 2016  8am – 3pm  

Register: Eventbrite


Plastic 6: 3D Holograms

The Atlanta Science Festival was a comprehensive arrangement of Science workshops, family activities as well as educator learning opportunities. Seeking professional development and living with a growth mindset sends us all over the country. Sometimes the opportunities are in your back door or neighboring state. Sometimes those opportunities are in the classroom next to you.  With a variety of sessions and events, we had to map out what would be best for STEAM learning and collaboration. After driving for half an hour and ending up in a warehouse district, I must say we were a little hesitant but then remembered some of our best learning has been when it was least expected. With only 5 cars in the parking lot and two hours ahead of us, we entered. At first glance it looked like we would know about most of the materials being shared but that is noreason no to seek intently. To listen. To Reflect.

A conversation about plastic #6 and how use plastic and heat to create art reminded us of a project our art teacher just completed as a part of her curriculum andSTEAM participation. Several times this week the term “oldie but goodie” has been used in a variety of conversations. In a session on PBL, oldie but goodie technology resources were revisited. We don’t always have to replace something that is working or that serves a purpose.

During this session on Makerspaces, The oldie but goodie motto was brought to life with the remembrance of “Shrinky Dinks”. Jewelry making, badges and ornaments were all innovative ways to use Plastic #6 using the same heating concept with plastic as used with “Shrinky Dinks”. Fabrication of jewelry provides making opportunities that are completely student driven by individual artistic imagination.


plastic 6 jewelry

A final use of plastic in making was the 3D hologram. The 3D hologram uses an iPhone or iPad to project the image onto a folded piece of plastic that simulates a hologram. This is not a “Shrinky Dink” activity but uses recycled plastic to (CD cases , old transparencies, and I am sure your imagination can think of others) create a hologram effect. In addition, we learned how to make the videos for use with the plastic hologram attachment. This is another opportunity for students to use individual creativity to publish a final piece and communicate understanding.


A great weekend of learning and bringing back. Thanks to all those that shared and learned with us.

MinecraftEDU in the Elementary School Environment

Minecraft logo for blog

MinecraftEdu is a school-ready remix of the original block-building game, Minecraft.  MinecraftEdu provides products and services that make it easy for educators to use Minecraft in the classroom. MinecraftEdu contains many additions to the original game that make it more useful and appropriate in a school setting. A cloud-based solution for hosting Minecraft classroom servers is also an option.  This allows students and teachers access to connect and play together.  MinecraftEdu hosts a library of worlds, lessons, and activities that are available for free.

MinecraftEdu is a great tool that supports STEAM.  There are ready made maps that support Science, Technology (ComputcraftEdu), Enginnering (students build and create), Art, and Math.  Students can:

  1.  Explore Real Lift Buildings (Roman Coliseum, Globe Theatre, Schools, Football Stadiums, and many other structures/bridges)
  2.  Creation and Engineering (Building with an Engineer Mindset)
  3.  Practice Ratio, Proportion, Arrays, Fractions (The building of scale models allows students to practice measurement/proportion standards)
  4.  Visualization and Reading Comprehension (Reconstruct various setting from texts)
  5.  Reconstruct Books in a magical world (Seusscraft)
  6.  Coding (ComputerEdu) IF/THEN books (If You Give and Turtle a Remote in Minecraft)
  7.  Art (MC Edits)
  8.  Geometry Challenges
  9.  Minecraft Beginner Resources
  10.  Problem-Solving
  11.  Writing (Create your own stories)
  12.  Pixelation with math and gaming
  13.  Fairy Tales (Building The Three Little Pigs houses in Minecraft and retelling the story through Custom NPCs mod)

Other Articles For Reading:

Edutopia: Edutopia gives some great ideas for using Minecraft in the classroom.Gamespot: Gamespot has a great article explaining why Minecraft could be a valuable tool in the classroom.

How to Use Minecraft in Education: This site has an interview and podcast discussing the use of Minecraft in the classroom.

Learn, Teach, Repeat: This teacher wrote a blog after I asked for feedback from teachers to help submit questions about Minecraft in the classroom. Thanks Joe!

Minecraft at NCS: This teacher provides troubleshooting for users and gives ideas on how to run Minecraft more smoothly in the classroom.

Minecraft Across the Curriculum: This site will give ideas language arts, drama, music, visual arts, science, geography and history.

Minecraft Possibilities: This teacher provides some depth about plugins necessary to run Minecraft. Thanks John!

MindShift: This is another great article emphasizing how teachers use Minecraft for educational purposes.

Minecraft Wiki: This is a helpful guide for using Minecraft in the classroom for educational purposes.

Mojang and UN: This site discusses how Minecraft is used to plan communities.

Mr. Miller’s Classroom: Minecrafting a Medieval Village

Primary Minecraft: This site was set up by an elementary teacher and a Minecraft fan to provide ideas for primary grades.

Swedish School: A Swedish school has made a class in Minecraft mandatory. They mention the following lessons learned: City planning; environmental issues; planning for the future; interactivity; safe online habits; computer skills.

Curriculum  Worlds – This site has great curriculum lessons for students at home or school.

Wes Fryer Resources

Are You A Maker? MAKERology

MAKER– a person that makes, hacks, produces, wood/metal work, creates something new.  Many times a maker includes a creator of new technologies: new devices, video games, electronics, robotics, and/or apps.  Makers are DIY people/persons.  They have a unique culture of thinking and mindset.  A Maker also includes a creative mind, innovated ideas, and the ability to make things come to life (Kickstarter).  Makers support open source hardware, they tinker, and see cardboard/recyclables as tools (Junk ReThunk).  The Maker Movement is fast moving and supports Constructivism/Social Constructivism learning.  What a great movement for purposeful play, discovery, and developmentally appropriate activities for our students.

OLOGY – a subject to study  or branch of knowledge

MAKEROLOGY (EDU Version) – The study of MAKING  (What is best for students?  Best Practices with Making, STEAM, and looking at your learning space with 21st – century eyes:  Does it work for what we know about learning today, or just for what we knew about learning in the past?  Do you have a space for making?  Making is not about the tools.  It is about creativity, opportunities, design, the environment, and time).

Maker Movement – If you create a system where initiative and creativity is valued and rewarded, then you’ll get change for the bottom up.

~Paul Pastorek


Maker Week 2016

MakerprojectsMaker Week was a huge success. Students across all grades, K-4, were engaged in student centered making. As a part of the week, teachers and students worked to build a Boat Launch with an emphasis on using recycled materials. Samford University, pre-service teachers worked along side the STEAM facilitator and other faculty to gather materials for over 350 students to make boats to launch. Milk containers along with many donated recyclables made the experience creative and innovative for students.  Thank you @Scrapkins for the idea! Students rotated during PE to build and make with the new Imagination Playground and launch their boats. Data collection was part of the experience along with many discussions on boat redesign.  Second through fourth grade students recorded data on how fast their boat traveled down the launcher and kindergarten recorded data on a Venn diagram (did your boat float, did your boat make it the other side of the pool and both).

Dr. Seuss was also a theme within the week that allowed students to make related to literature.

Classroom teachers were active in the MakerStudio facilitating student making. Grades K-4 used the space to facilitate learning in the classroom as well as free design. Free design included student made mazes for robots to be coded through, canoodles, pixelation with pinblocks, drone challenges,a crane with rigamajigs and 3d printing with tynkercad designs and structures with sticklets.

Makerfest rounded out the week with over 65 students attending a Friday night event with making for all ages. Younger students built and made with various materials. The new IO blocks were a hit with K-1 students while drone challenges and rigamajig contraptions were leaders with the older students.

Successful Implementation of Makerspaces – Part I

Success with integration and implementation of Makerspaces is quite simple.  Simple with respect to pedagogy, vision, tools and buy-in. Not so simple if these aspects are not in place. Technology (laptops, robots, ipads etc.) and various materials without pedagogy will impact the success of the space.  For some reason, the onset of a makerspace for many focuses on money, what others have, and the things/devices rather than on the process.  The heart of success with any new initiative/movement can be found in leadership and passionate teachers with good sound pedagogy and practices.   Sustained implementation requires teaching (knowing the curriculum) first followed by the tools.  A passionate, self-seeking teacher(s)/leader(s) who studies the curriculum, seeks professional development, shares and collaborates with others via their PLN and conferences is the ONLY true key to a successful initiative.

Second is the VISION and the expectation. The culture of a school is very instrumental in success. Leadership that supports “making” as a culture drives the expectations of the faculty.  What is the vision and the branding of the school and how will it impact the culture of the school.

Third, what tools (not tech toys) will have the most success in the implementation phase.  You want everyone to participate, use, and be willing to learn whatever the new tool might be.  Success for the teacher needs to come early.  Many times, we have to buy products ahead of time and test them before it is rolled out.  When you decide on the tools, giving good sound examples with the curriculum standards will always attract teachers.  If it is seen as a toy, teachers will see it as one more thing and not part of the curriculum.  Technology is there to help teachers and enhance the curriculum.

Lastly, leaders must know how to generate buy-in from teachers.  It is important to implement in a way that fits your school’s beliefs and educational culture (not someone else’s vision or design).  All schools are different.  You’ll get nowhere with a one-size fits all approach.

Success Steps:

1.  Pedagogy

2.  Vision and expectation

3.  Technology

4.  Buy – In

*This is part 1 of a series of blog post on Makerspaces.  More to come on Learning Environments and their purpose.


The gamification of learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning.

~ Wikipedia

How to gamify your classroom:

1.  Create a mission

2.  Use Badges

3.  Create a place to create

4.  Use video games

5.  Create video games


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