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.

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