Monday, March 13, 2017

March is for Making #13 - Leadership, Vision, Accessibility

Whether starting a new makerspace or looking to take your makerspace to a new level,  one of the best things you can do is visit other makerspaces.  A recent visit to Iolani's K-6 Makerspace has shot this makerspace/fablab to one of my top recommendations.
It has some of the most important ingredients you need for a successful school makerspace:

Leadership!   Vision!  Accessibility!

The friendly smiles of Michael Fricanni (EdTech Specialist)  and Matt Dillon  (STEM/FabLab teacher) were the first clue that visitors, teachers, and students would quickly feel welcomed here.

With these two maker educators at the helm leading the way, it was no wonder that  the Iolani's K-6 Makerspaceturned out to be such  an exemplar learning space that serves the vision of Iolana Schools.

When we arrived Matt was getting ready for one of his students to stop by after school and use the CNC mill to finish up her maker project. Matt stopped everything to give us a quick tour.   By the end of the tour,  I so wished that everyone could get a chance to visit this makerspace.  Since flying to Hawaii is probably not an option for most, I hope this virtual tour might be helpful to those of you visiting makerspaces to forward your practice.
One of the things that really stood out to me during our visit was  how ACCESSIBLE the space was! I could see EVERYONE feeling welcomed here and EVERYONE being able to find their identity as a creator and maker in this space.
When a makerspace INVITES you to CREATE the way the Iolani K-6 Stem/FabLab it takes few words to describe.  You just  want to start making!

As we opened the door to the makerspace, inspirational  quotes cut from vinyl set the tone to the space.  CREATE  SOMETHING! It didn’t take me long to notice the Slihouette vinyl cutter on the shelf – an affordable easy to use vinyl cutter that gives students a chance to personalize their space and their projects.

The open uncluttered look of the makerspace revealed tools, materials, and inspiring student projects at a glance..  The setup invited us to approach one of many stations that were set up on a counter along the perimeter of the large double classroom size space.

High whiteboard  walls invited all types of  ideas to be expressed and also contained some important and helpful message!  -- Probably the most important of which was

Be Kind!
Be Safe!

Materials were accessible and arranged in a way that encouraged  safety,  stewardship, imagination, and ideation.

A student could approach a station and look at both  materials available and inspiring student  project at once glance.  There was also a place for scrap materials.

Reminders of safety were right where you needed them right when you needed them.

Student Projects laying around the room  revealed several curriculum connections being made.

I was especially impressed that students used  the Open Source software INKSCAPE to create these Medieval Times artifacts, providing yet another sign that accessibility was important in the design of this makerspace.

Upon my request, Matt showed us how accessible the OTHERMILL was as a CNC mill. It is one of the ones that I had been researching and I was pleased to see how easy the software interface was to use.

Matt and his students use it mostly to design circuit boards.

He shared with us a project where the students designed their own circuit board to communicate using Morse Code. 

We loved the idea of student designed circuit boards and this prototype where he ask students to guess the design of the circuit board inside.

Since Matt and I were both using  Makey Makey’s in our upcoming presentations at the IGNITE IOLANI conference, we shared ideas for using the Makey Makey and he offered to let me borrow two prototypes he had designed to make using the  Makey Makey more accessible to teachers and students.

Adding water  to this creatively designed container  was the perfect way to make the power of water as a conductor more accessible to students using a Makey Makey board! Loved this idea!

Using brass paper fasteners to create a  talking model of Hawaii was a brilliant way for teachers to start to imagine curricular connections that could be made through coding and the Makey Makey. Although I've used this idea before, his model made it even more accessible than mine. He let me borrow it for my presentation!

It was obvious that  Matt uses design thinking when thinking of ways the makerspace can serve students and teachers.  

He sees his students and fellow teachers  as users with a need to be met, and he designs opportunities for the makerspace to meet those needs.  Matt’s K-4 STEM/FabLab website is filled with ideas for connecting making at every grade level from K - 6 including

Kindergarten: Garden stakes
First Grade: Habitat creatures
Second Grade: Content area games using Scratch Jr
Third Grade: Desk caddies and Space Exploration Vehicles
Fourth Grade: Volcano poems on Scratch
Fifth Grade: Novel Boardgames
Sixth Grade: Ancient Egyptian Artifacts and Catapults

Thank you Matt  and Michael for your hospitality and willingness to share. I hope that this blog post inspires others who are also on an inquiry of how to best use maker centered learning in our schools.

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