Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March is for Making #14 - Problem Finders and Problem Solvers

Here is Inspiration Number 14 from this month's daily March is for Making blog post series.

After visiting some amazing school makerspaces in Hawaii that happened to be private schools, Craig and I were eager to find a public school that would welcome us into their space.  We were so excited when Greg Kent from Kailua Elementary eagerly invited us to visit and left equally excited by the opportunities that public school students in Hawaii have to learn through creating and making!  

Walking through the front lobby of the school we were immediately reminded that we were in a public school when we noticed a display filled with pamphlets for every grade level that explained how the school was meeting the Common Core standards.  

Entering Greg Kent’s classroom/makerspace we spotted lots of  posters that captured the spirit of learning in this amazing student centered space, or as Greg likes to call it the KES  ELEMAKERY.

Both the door in and out of his classroom reminded us that “making stuff”  is NOT what a maker space is about.

The posters not only remind students of what being a maker means, they also include notes that remind them how to approach making.

It was obvious from these student ideas for making their maker space that student voice was important in this learning space.

After just a short time with Greg, we knew that these posters were carefully selected to remind students of the opportunities they would have learning with Mr. Kent - because Greg was walking testimony of each of these!  Here is what we found inside the  ELEMAKERY.

Tables for set up for exploring circuits lined with Snap Circuit kits, Makey Makey’s and Paper Circuit supplies.

As Greg contrasted the different approaches to learning about circuits, we heard compassion for his students.  He describes that for some students having something to “hold on to and take home that they create with Paper Circuits” is  an important element of creating their identity as a maker.

We saw tables set up for students to work on their robotics projects; we learned that robotics competitions were an important part of the culture of every school we visited in Hawaii

Collaboration spaces were set up where students can work together or present their projects

Students had access to a variety of resources ranging from computers to engineering kits to healthy snacks!

Two Ultimaker 3D printers and a very visible XCarve CNC mill modified for increased safety and dust control were buzzing away.   You can learn more about how Greg integrates the CNC mill and design thinking from this teacher spotlight on Inventables   and from the videos he shares on his website,

This video from Greg's website  showcases a few of the artifacts that student created  using design thinking and the XCarve in a recent Garden Project under Greg's leadership. 

It didn’t take long before the tour took us right out the door and we got to see some of the student created artifacts from the video above. We learn that Greg found opportunity for his kids to learn through making EVERYWHERE around the school !

Our biggest takeaway from our visit was that Greg and his students were PROBLEM FINDERS and that Greg was determined to create a MAKER MINDSET in his students that saw opportunity to solve problems in their environment.    

We saw students measuring food waste as they composted it.  We saw students solve problems like the fact that the buckets were too heavy to lift and measure.  We saw students collecting and analyzing data and reporting back to the cafeteria staff the correlations between the lunch menu and the amount of food waste collected.  

We saw students of various grade levels solving problems in their school garden using tools in their maker space to make making tomato cage, a faux trellis, bee houses, and signage.

Watch the video below to listen to Greg describe to us the opportunities his students have to be problem finders,  problem solvers, makers, scientist, engineers, mathematicians, story tellers  and learners.

As we walked back into his classroom on this drizzly day,  water dripped down on us from  the flashing along the roof;  Greg looked up and smiled proclaiming that he had just discovered  another problem for he and his students to solve!

If maker spaces can give our students the tools they need to become problem finders and problem solvers;   
if makerspaces can help our students develop  a maker mindset and the feeling of empowerment that they can shape their world;   
if makerspaces can provide students the opportunity to practice being scientist and mathematicians and engineers and storytellers;   
if makerspaces can attract maker educators like Greg Kent and leverage the talent they have found to impact the lives of our students --  
then the investment is a worthy one indeed.

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