Chico Is Missing! BreakoutEDU

Chico is Missing! Breakout developed from the book, Monkey with a Tool Belt, by Chris Monroe.  The story naturally lends itself to the educational problem solving activity.  Chico is the main character of the book and is trapped by an organ grinder.  He uses his tool-belt to breakout of the box and find his way back home. The breakout activity focuses on Chico getting trapped in a toolbox in the MakerStudio but without his tool-belt. He has made a mess with the tools and slipped causing him to fall into the tool box.  The intro sets the stage for the scenario. Granted, the music is a little much but we discussed how music creates different setting and elicits emotions. Mystery was the goal? (See the intro video)

Classes had approximately 25 minutes to break Chico out of the box. For our first time and being the beginning of the year, I would say we were successful. The students worked through several activities.

Step 1.

Students watched the intro video. The video ends with a QR code that is scanned and takes the students to the first problem to solve.

Step 2.

A jigsaw puzzle was created using an image from the book.  Students solved the puzzle to find the color code clue. This clue was then used in the breakout EDU “Locks App” and linked to the first clue to find in the room.

Step 3.

Students were to find (we need the clue picture) the room number (131) represented by dots. The first set of keys were place under the giant dice that represented 1: 3 :1.  Under the dice the students found the first set of keys and a clue to the key lock box.  Students had to remember what Chico slipped on (tools) and find the word in the MakerStudio.

Step 4. A book titled, TOOLS, was sitting next to the box with the key lock.  Inside the box students found their next clue.  Several cards were in the box along with flashlights. Students used the flashlight (tool) to scan the cards for an invisible word to be revealed. The word to breakout Chico was tools.

Step 5. Students went to the toolbox with the word lock on it and entered the word tools. Chico was OUT!






scanning VillaniKiddChico






Involving students in literature and engaged activities makes the learning purposeful and meaningful. The relevance of the tools as an intro to the MakerStudio will continue throughout the school year. We use tools for everything. The literature connection has been instrumental in problem solving, critical thinking, and mathematical reasoning as well as a new school-wide positive reinforcement discipline model (more in a future post).


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.

Starting a Maker Space

The Maker Movement

Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn.

Below are a few things to consider as you get started with your Makerspace:

1.  The most important thing about a makerspace is to provide a place for students and teachers to be creative, to explore questions and ideas they have (whiteboard wall is great for Visible Thinking), to build something, all in a safe environment. The space should be thought out ahead of time and not just thrown together with TECH TOYS.  Technology is not to be seen as a toy but rather a tool that enhances curriculum and learning.

2.  The makerspace CAN BE no-tech, low-tech, or high – tech.  In our case, we have developed a space for high-tech with a lot of engineering tools and literature.  See OUR MAKERSPACE TAB soon (It’s under construction currently).

3.  What will you use the space for?  You will need to set the expectation about what will be done in that space.  Will it be an open room, have a set schedule, or have a facilitator for the area.  Someone will also have to manage the materials and know have to keep the technology up and working if you have a high- tech area.

4.  Areas with expectations (signs/rules) in the makerspace let students know what that area/tool/materials are for.  Posting expectations/rules helps students stay on task.

5.  It is also important that you allow for students work to be posted/hanging in the area.  Students also need to the freedom to leave their works of art out only to return to add more to their creation.  Storage of their work is important.

6.  Make-It challenges are also a nice thing to have hanging in the area.  As students finish a project, that have other things they can create.

7.  Visible thinking is a MUST.  Students are able to re-visit their thinking and add to their thoughts as they work through their creations.  We have a whiteboard wall that students brainstorm and add to as their project/creation grows.

8.  Low-tech areas are a great starting point for any school.  Materials would consist of art supplies, cardboard, blocks, legos, duct tape, scissors, glue, pattern blocks, literature, yarn, towel tubes, marbles and other various materials that will allow them to create pieces of art, sculptures, and design Rube Goldbery Machines.

9.  START with what you have and what you know.  Only you know what can be created and be successful.  For us, we cleaned out closets, old science kits, and other various boxes only to find to big surprises!  Move things around.  You don’t need top of the line furniture etc.  Create your own works of art.  Remember…the space is for students.  What do you think they want to see, build, feel, hear, and smell?


A MAKERSPACE (hackerspace, fablab, DIY space, Maker Studio, MakerSquare) is a physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, create, invent, learn, network, and build. Makerspaces provide tools and space in a community environment.  A facilitator may be available some of the time, but often the time is used for tynkering and creating.   The Makerspace is often associated with fields (STEAM, STEM) such as engineering, computer science, and graphic design.

Makerspaces in an education setting also provide a place and materials for creativity to be expressed. Tools may consist of (but not limited to): 3D printers, computers, robots, building materials, art supplies, software for gaming, tools (hammer, screw-driver etc.), books, and other various tools depending on the space (library, studio, building, warehouse).  These spaces can easily be cross-disciplinary allowing students in many fields to use them.  Makerspaces, in schools, allow students to take control of their own learning as they take ownership of projects they have not just designed but defined. Makerspaces in education are a great spaces for inquiry-based learning, project/problem -based learning, challenge-based learning, make it challenges, and hands-on collaboration. Click on OUR MAKER STUDIO to learn more about our physical space in a K-4 setting.

Makerspace Playbook PDF – provided by MAKE.