Friday, February 26, 2021

The Inquiry Process during a Makerspace Grant RFP process

As the  Vermont Agency of Education once again announced that it was partnering with the Vermont Lottery on an educational technology RFP process, I started to think about the opportunity I had to work with two schools who received this grant to launch  projects that focused on learning through creating and making.   Being a thought partner with both Brownington School and Montgomery School  during their planning stages of  their grant project and also helping with the professional development related to the project was a pre-pandemic highlight for me. I miss the opportunities to work directly with students and teachers in their schools.  I miss the joy on the faces of learners (young and old) as they move through the stages of inquiry that comes during the process of making.  

Brownington School unpacking new maker tools and supplies from Educate Innovate Grant

Montgomery School exploring new maker tools and supplies from Educate/Innovate Grant

I loved watching the process that these schools went through as they carefully considered WHY they wanted a makerspace in their school and WHAT tools and supplies would best help meet their WHY!

Both groups started by helping their school community EXPLORE the ideas and concepts related to makerspaces.   What is a makerspace?  Where does  CREATING and MAKING fit into the LEARNING process?  What does MAKING look like in a classroom?   It was a pleasure to be part of that process.   Both schools invited EMMA (my mobile maker studio) and I to visit their school and help their school community during what I call the EXPLORE stage in conversations around makerspaces.

I still remember the white knuckled drive that winter, as I filled my mobile studio (EMMA) with maker supplies and drove EMMA through the snow covered back roads of Vermont.

EXPLORING MAKING as a vehicle for learning at Montgomery School. (January 2019)

The Explore Stage can provide educators with some of the vocabulary and concepts often found in conversations about makerspaces.  An Explore stage event introduces new tools and processes to teachers.  Seeing  THEIR own students interact with copper tape, circuit boards, and coding can help educators see what a maker mindset can look like in their school as well as introduce them to tools and supplies they might not be familiar with.  For example, even though most science teachers have lead experiments with batteries and light bulbs,  many of them have not used copper tape or conductive thread or codable LED lights like neo-pixels. The Explore Stage opens up conversations about new possibilities.

EXPLORING possibilities for Creating, Making, and Learning at Brownington School. (January 2019)

As educators see evidence of learning and engagement with different materials and processes during an Explore stage event, they are better positioned to ask deeper questions and imagine more possibilities for making in their learning environments. 

The Explore stage should get the attention of both your students and staff. It should start the wheels turning  and stimulate curiosity.  

Brownington educators explore possibilities with new maker tools
during a hands on Professional Development day.

As your staff starts thinking about making,  new questions should arise.  Following this stage,  your staff should  notice opportunities to learn about makerspaces or related tools, supplies,  and processes and how making might connect to content and pedagogy. After a maker exploration event, your staff may start to notice opportunities like local makerfaires,  workshops and conferences,  student competitions, or grant opportunities.  The one day EMMA Visit during the Explore stage positioned both Montgomery School and Brownington to notice and consider applying for the Educate/Innovate Grant.  

One of the functions of a good grant RFP process is to stimulate innovative ideas and scaffold the process for those ideas to become reality.  The Vermont Lottery Educate/Innovate grant provided two schools with the  funding to help their project ideas to become reality because of the resources that grants provide.  However,  the impact of a grant RFP process can and should expand beyond the stuff that those who are awarded the grant receive.  Every school who applied for this grant received a chance to go through an inquiry process that prepares their school or classroom to plan for increased opportunities for learning through creating and making.  This process is very similar to the stages of Guided Inquiry (Ann K. Caspari, Carol Kuhlthau, and Leslie K. Maniotes)

Schools like Montgomery and Brownington, whose staff and students have participated in some type of Explore stage event,  start the grant RFP process with ideas and questions that have surfaced during their Explore stage event.  The grant RFP process allows them to focus those ideas, IDENTIFY learning goals that could be well served by having a makerspace in their school, and streamline their search through the many maker education resources available.   The next step for each school that applies for a grant, is to IDENTIFY a question for deeper exploration.

For the Montgomery school, that focus was on engaging more student learning through the Nature Trails that are an integral part of their community.    For the Brownington school, the focus was on leveraging the engaging properties of music and sound to create  a year long, cross-grade level and cross curricular STEAM project promoting collaboration, creativity, and student choice.  Each school used the focused inquiry question that they IDENTIFIED to search for information and GATHER resources that might allow them to CREATE a prototype project.

The process to IDENTIFY a focused question, GATHER resources to CREATE a prototype design as part of the grant RFP process was also valuable to several other schools throughout the state.  I received calls and emails from several Vermont schools asking about tools and materials and professional development during this time.   An RFP process can scaffold schools through the learning that often happens within a guided inquiry.  Even if your school is not awarded the grant, the  positive outcomes  from going through this process makes it a worthwhile endeavor to take on. 

I can't help but think about ways that we can build on all that individual school-based learning that  happens through a grant RFP process to have even more collective impact in our broader community.

What if every school who goes through the RFP process used the focused questions, knowledge, skills, and resources they have worked through and shared it with each other as a way to spread ideas of what's possible. 

What if each school or  organizations energized by the process looked for several options to pursue their vision (this grant, other grants or local funding).  The value of a grant RFP process extends beyond the financial resources or "stuff'".  By sharing ideas and resources gathered during the RFP process, we can have a broader collective impact on statewide learning around the role of makerspaces in learning.

How might we use this opportunity to have greater collective impact on the shift in teaching towards greater hands on learning? A grant RFP process should not be considered a ZERO SUM game.  Imagine the collective learning if  each school that participates considers sharing their learning through the inquiry process of designing a project to submit via the RFP process.  What if each of  us committed to being a learning organization where our collective aspiration moved us all forward. 

According to Peter Senge,  learning organizations are

…organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.

That is one of the goals of this blog - so that we might  keep sharing and learning together.   

Let's continue to celebrate together and cheer each other on throughout the process of learning together.

Celebration and Kick Off

Creating Confidence and Empowering Educators

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Creating a Maker Mindset with Paper and Cardboard - A maker community exchange

Our February Monthly Maker Educator Exchange brought together educators, librarians, artists and makers who all agreed on the fact that paper, cardboard, tape and glue should be part of every student's learning and are fantastic medium for creating a maker mindset. 

Maker Exchange

Everyone nodded when they heard comments like .....

"It's a different type of learning ..."

"Kids need to touch stuff - they hold electronics but don’t hold paper, scissors, cardboard."

"Today’s students don’t know what to do with something that is not a KIT. 

Stop focusing on KITS.  Provide your students the opportunity to invent, imagine, discover.

Today’s kids needs this so much!"

"give me cardboard, duct tape, and a hard glue gun over a 3D printer and a laser cutter"

So much was shared as everyone offered tips, tricks, prompts, challenges, and projects that leveraged the paper and cardboard accessible to ANY student, teacher at home, in their classroom, or in a makerspace.

Museum educator, Peter Hoh's craftsmanship and ingenuity was on display when he showed us his recent cardboard solution to managing his glue gun. He then offered tips for creating a 'lumberyard filled with paper building materials" as well as tricks to help learners create with paper and cardboard. Abigail Adam's added a 'real life" tweak to this idea by creating challenges where students have to complete their paper and cardboard challenge with a budget for materials.

For more tips from Peter Hoh, check out his amazing Flickr albums or follow him on Instagram or Twitter

I can vouch for the fact that learning to create basic shapes with paper and cardboard are foundational skills to developing the creative and practical problem solving we hope our learners will gain during their time with us.

Recently inspired by one of Peter's session, along with the Paper Engineering session that Godwyn Morris offered at Playfest 2021, I have found myself obsessed with creating shapes with paper and cardboard. I added shapes from some of the free and for fee resources from Dazzling Discoveries to the ones I made from Peter's session until every surface area of my small studio was covered with paper projects.

Even the grandkids were inspired.

And after our monthly maker educator exchange this week, I have so many more new resources and ideas.

STEM Librarian, Christina Dorman,  shared her successful project launching paper rockets with students after she completed this Weekend Project: Compressed Air Rocket from Make magazine.
It didn't take long for the group to brainstorm other fun ways to launch paper rockets from straws and soda bottles to air dusters and baby nasal aspirators.   When Peter shared how his experience with paper airplanes inspired him as a child, it reminded me of Seymour Papert's renowned essay Gears of My Childhood  and affirmed that paper and cardboard truly can be the gears that drive a maker mindset in our youth. 

Meredith Wade shared how teaching students the skills to create newspaper dowels or fold paper into origami shapes can spark a maker mindset and have students imagining and inventing and even creating their own challenges.  I put that tip right to use this weekend during a playdate with my grand daughter. 

We are going to start saving newspapers as we aspire to some truly large structures like the ones Peter Hoh has created with his learners. 

Jessica Wisloski reminded us that making with cardboard and paper is one way to make hands on learning more equitable and "both physically and materially accessible to all kids during remote learning." She carefully curates materials to send home to accompany her design thinking lessons such as this one one where students create water slides and diving boards for a specific user.

Video Intro: Water Slides & Diving Board Lesson Intro Video

Lesson Plan: Wisloski - Design Process Project - Teacher Copy (2/2)

Student Page: Wisloski - Design Process Project - Student Worksheet (1/2)

We were also inspired by how resourceful educators can be when sourcing materials for their students to use.

Jessica's ideas to have students make using the materials from the lunchboxes delivered by the school on remote

learning days was a no-brainer. Christina has befriended local contractors who have to pay to get rid of materials

and has ended up with buckets filled with PVC pipe, extra plywood, and more. Darcie Rankin tipped us off that

in between the layers of stuff on the pallets at Costco there are large pieces of heavy brown poster board or thin cardboard  that can be cut with scissors making  it ideal for younger learners or for projects that require super large pieces. 

There was a consensus that paper and cardboard provide the mindset that perfect products are not the goal - but that instead  our focus should be on the mindset of prototyping and iterating by using an abundance of disposable materials that can be repurposed and recycled.

Another takeaway was that using woodworking tools and techniques with cardboard has proven very helpful to those who have access to them. Peter suggested using a table saw to cut up large pieces of cardboard to manageable pieces for your students to use. Lucie uses a drill press to add holes to thicker pieces in just the right places. You can even model making your own tools such as compasses or protractors using cardboard and paper.

Shannon Walters suggested that we study the science of cardboard (from fluting patterns to the grade and grain of cardboard).  She is always helping teachers and students create cardboard attachments displays as a way of  building skills and  providing visual inspiration for their classrooms or makerspaces.   Searching online for cardboard attachments can provide you with several examples.  The following video shows you how to make several different types.

Shannon  is also our resident expert at making literacy connections and offered us these two favorites . 

Boxitects: Smith, Kim: 9781328477200

Not a Box (9780061994425): Portis, Antoinette, Portis, Antoinette: Books

Caty Wolfe shared how she uses cardboard to have students prototyping phone stands.

Students mock up and iterate to produce different bends and sizes - first with paper and scissors,

then cardboard. Finally they use a laser cutter to create a cardboard prototype.

When they are happy with their design, the students can cut the design with acrylic and

shape it using their classroom acrylic bender.

Leah Joly is also a fan of iteration in the design process with her students. Her students use

cardboard and other materials to learn the basics of simple machines

She offers an open ended prompt like "incorporate 2-3 simple machines in a project of your choice" to engage kids in personally meaningful making. Leah also encourages students to integrate different mediums and offers Microbits and Makey-Makey boards to her students at home or in the classroom.

Darcie Rankin shared the joy she gets watching her students process and develop a maker mindset when she uses the following paper challenge prompts.


    Can you put your hand through a piece of paper?

    Can you put your Head through a piece of paper?

    Can you put your body through a piece of paper?

She also stressed the power in helping young learners become confident with skills like 'How to Tear Tape' --"Once they have this independence from me (the teacher) - They can do ANYTHING!"

She gives her littles a long piece of tape and ask them to tear it in half then to tear each  half  into 10 pieces as a way to build skill and confidence with tape. Darcie is also a big fan of having students make Automatas.

Abigail Adams inspired us by sharing her recent Black Knight project as an example of creating costumes with cardboard. 

Abigail also suggested looking a using old book folding projects as a fun way to repurpose discarded books and textbooks.  Who wouldn't love this hedgehodge in their maker space? 

Turning 2 dimensional objects into  3 dimensional sculpture can spark the imagination as to what's possible - a big part of a maker mindset.  Here's a simple project I tried with my grandkids,  and a stack of paper bags. 

As to be expected, we always learn something new when the talented Maker, Educator, Artist Jill Dawson is in the room.   Jill  shared her recent work using Orizomegami - a paper folding and dying technique using Procion Cold Reactive Dyes.

For those who have not yet met Jill Dawson, check out this instagram post of one of her interactive books to see how effectively Jill uses her many talents in her paper projects. We know you'll immediately become a fan. Jill also has several past projects featured at Bling the Book.

We ended our session with "oohs and ahs' as Annette Gonye shared one of her latest creations with Water Colors.

Annette introduces kids and adults to water colors by offering them a 5X7 or 4X6 rectangle of good 140 lb paper. Who knew that cheap paper is hard to work with and one of the major reasons why people give up on watercolor painting! She also finds that ' Adults tend to be really afraid of large sheets of paper,"

She then offers some simple techniques to help them turn their water color into cards. Annette suggest this site as an easy place to get started.

Thank you to everyone who showed up for this week's monthly maker educator exchange. We learned so much from each other. i hope I have captured most of what was shared and look forward to next months's maker educator exchange.

Our next monthly maker educator exchange will be March 17.
The topic will be Making Media in your maker space or learning space.

Sign up here.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Maker Educator Exchange - February 17

 At our successful meetup in January where we all dived into Gravit Designer to create an SVG file for our ONE WORD challenge,  we decided that connecting to create, make, and learn once a month would not only grow our skills, but it would also meet our social-emotional needs during this challenging year. 

Some of us described makerspaces put on hold; others shared how we are using hands on activities in remote learning.  The one thing we all felt was the joy of connecting together and the desire to do this again. 

You can register here for our next Monthly Maker Educator Exchange.

Please bring copy paper, cardstock, cardboard, scissors, tape, glue, stapler along with ideas to share  about how you have used paper and cardboard with students or for your own projects.   Let's learn together. 

We'll send all registered participants the Zoom link for our virtual event. 

You may also signup up through our MEETUP group here.

And if you missed our January event, you can find resources and highlights here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

ONE WORD Projects using Gravit Designer

What a fun maker educator get-together we had last month as we took on the ONE WORD CHALLENGE and learned to take our ONE WORD and use GRAVIT Designer to turn it into an SVG file that could be used to create an artifact that would helps us focus on our ONE WORD throughout the year.

Your list of words was perfect for kicking off the new year. 

You demonstrated a maker mindset as you learned or practiced the skills necessary to turn your word into an SVG file.  Thanks for those who shared their SVG design.  I love the way each one of these was designed, ungrouped, and edited, then regrouped and edited again to result make it the perfect SVG design for all sorts of maker tools from 3D printers to vinyl cutters, to laser cutters. 

And special thanks to Kari Ahem,  Brucie Donahue, Anne Pius for coming back to share what you CREATED from that SVG file using your laser cutter, 3D printer, and vinyl cutter.

Throughout the month I have  continued to work on my One Word Challenge Artifacts and even added one artifact to the mix that I created with my new embroidery machine. 

If you missed the workshop, here is a 20 minute tutorial that reviews what we learned along with the slide deck

1) From Google Drawing to Lasercut Designs for the Glowforge - Getting Started
2) From Google Drawing to Lasercut Design for the Glowforge - Next Steps

3) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Gravit for the Glow Forge -- a Cloud based Vector App -

Getting Started with Gravit using Primitive Shapes
Getting Started - Finding Joy Project
Getting Started with Gravit Importing SVG graphics

4) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Gravit Next Steps -- Working with Text

And for a wonderful set of short intro video tutorials to Gravit, check out John Umekubo's series here starting with his BASICS tutorial below

5) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Inkscape - Getting Started

6) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Inkscape - Next Steps

Inkscape Tutorial for Laser Cutter from Washco Utah Library Makerspace

And for a wonderful set of short intro video tutorials to Gravit, check out John Umekubo's series here starting with his BASICS tutorial below

Thanks to everyone who came to learn and play together. 

I left so inspired by you  and our desire to connect to create, make, and learn together more often.

It seemed like having two sessions (one during the day and one after school) worked well last time.
Let's do it again! 

Sign up to be a member of our monthly maker educator exchange

or SIGN UP below for Our Next 
Maker Exchange Day 

I've been thinking of what our next topic can be.
Inspired by some sessions I attended at Playfest 2021, I think it might be fun to all EXCHANGE ideas of how we can use PAPER and CARDBOARD to create a MAKER MINDSET. 
Bring paper, cardboard,  tape, glue, stapler, scissors and your playful spirit.
Also bring ideas to share of projects and challenges using paper and cardboard
 that you have worked for you and your students.

Wednesday February 17