Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-12, Problem Solving, Science, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Makerspace Essentials – littleBits

UPDATE (10-7-15): littleBits now offers Educator Resources!

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials

littleBits are modules that snap together magnetically to make circuits.  The colors help to distinguish between output and input modules, and there are endless combinations to be made with over 60 modules in their library.  You can see an introduction to the product here.

image from:
image from:

littleBits offers a variety of kits, and gives discounts to educators.  If you are unable to purchase directly through littleBits due to vendor approval complications, you can also often find their kits on

If you browse through the lessons page on the site, you will get an idea of the unlimited creativity and learning that these pieces potentially provide. Math, science, and storytelling are all included in this curriculum gallery.

When we first got our littleBits set, I found these Task Cards that help to introduce some of the basic pieces.  They were great for me to learn how the modules worked.  However, most of my students preferred to figure it out on their own.  You might want to try these Challenge Cards instead.  If you like those, here are some more.  Of course, you need to make sure the challenges match the supplies you are providing as different kits offer different modules.

Organizing your littleBits can be a challenge.  I’ve seen some librarians mention that they have a “littleBits Bar” with plastic drawer organizers that sit on the table.  I was thrilled when littleBits offered this Tackle Box on their site – perfect for separating hundreds of tiny pieces.  One maker space presenter at TCEA advised us not to get “hung up” on labeling all of the littleBits containers.  As long as the students organize them by type so the next users can easily find them, that should suffice.

Ayah Bdeir, an engineer and founder of littleBits, gave a TED Talk about her product in 2012.  She speaks about how her product helps students to make sense of the world.  “The nicest thing is how they start to understand the electronics around them from every day that they don’t learn at schools. For example, how a nightlight works, or why an elevator door stays open,or how an iPod responds to touch.”

If you are given the opportunity to purchase littleBits for your classroom, library, and/or maker space, I definitely recommend them!

For more maker space resources, check out my Pinterest Board, “Make.”

Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Klever Tools for Kreating – and a Kontest!

We are finally in full swing with gifted classes and the after-school Maker Club.  As I’ve mentioned, we are participating in the Global Cardboard Challenge.  I thought I would share with you some great supplies that you may want to purchase if you have money to invest (particularly grant money).

With a grant we received this year, I bought a huge supply of Classroom Kits from Makedo.  These pieces are great for inspiring imaginative cardboard projects.  My favorite pieces in our sets are the hinges, but the hole puncher tools are invaluable, too.  I do not currently see the Classroom Kit available (it appears to be sold out), but I do see a “Make Anything Kit” that has new, interesting tools like “scrus” and a “scrudriver.”  One caveat if you are planning to buy from this company is to check with your school about rules for purchasing.  The company is in Australia, and does not accept purchase orders (but they do accept checks and credit cards.) There are some products from them on Amazon, but the Classroom Kits are not yet available through that route.

Makedo Classroom Kit
Makedo Classroom Kit

Speaking of Amazon, get thee to their site to get this great deal on a 5-pack of Klever Kutters (you can purchase these other places, but this is the best deal I’ve found).  Last year, my students really enjoyed using the safety saws that came with the Makedo kit.  Even when I offered to use my box cutters to help them, many students turned me away because they loved the independence the saws gave them.  However, they can take an awfully long time to cut a flap off of a box.  So, this year I ordered a bunch of Klever Kutters (thanks to several of my GT co-workers who saw them mentioned at a conference).  I LOVE these tools.  They are super safe (even safer than scissors in my opinion), and give the students a lot more autonomy while creating.  I still use the box cutters for cutting shapes that need to be more exact out of the boxes, but I have to do a lot less running around with the kids supplied with Klever Kutters.

Klever Kutter
Klever Kutter

With our grant money, we are also receiving some Classroom Kits from Little Bits, and I’m hoping some of my students who already have Little Bits experience from last year will find ways to incorporate them into their Cardboard Creations (make things buzz or light up or something even more fantastic!).  By the way, if you buy anything from Little Bits, be sure to sign up for the Educator Discount (and they do take Purchase Orders, so call their Customer Service number for information on how to go about doing that).  Little Bits has added all kinds of new things since the end of last school year, so be sure to check out their site if you haven’t visited for awhile.

Little Bits Premium Kit
Little Bits Premium Kit

Don’t have any money to buy these awesome supplies?  Check out the Global Cardboard Challenge Make-a-Movie-Trailer Contest; the winners will receive either a Makedo Set or a Little Bits set!

Art, Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-12, Problem Solving, Student Products, Teaching Tools

It’s What You Make of It

Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one.  Monday’s post was on the surprise “You Matter” videos that I asked parents to make for their children last year. On Tuesday, I wrote about the Global Cardboard Challenge.

Almost exactly a year ago, I predicted the trends in education for the 2013-2014 school year.  I was re-reading that post today, and laughed at my addition of maker studios almost as an afterthought at the end of my post.  Anyone who has been reading education blogs and magazines will know that maker studios are becoming a huge trend, and that they are not limited to schools.


The truth is that many people are recognizing that there is a hunger in our youth to create and that the process of making is a deeper learning experience than regurgitating facts from a lecture.

There is not one right way to bring a maker studio into your school. Many schools are integrating them into their libraries or obsolete computer labs.  Some are incorporating the design process into their entire curriculum.  But, just like the Global Cardboard Challenge, you can still make a huge difference by starting small.

Last year, I realized that an empty classroom next door could be transformed into a maker studio.  I applied for a grant from our school’s PTA.  My GT classes named the room B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) and it basically became a testing ground for all of the new materials we purchased.  You may not have the luxury of an empty room, but a station in your classroom would work just as well.

Some of the items we purchased for our space were:

We also had a green screen that had been given to the school.

I didn’t know how to use any of the above until my students helped me figure them out.  Last year was really just time for us all to explore.

This year, I am starting an after-school Maker Club to involve more students than the ones in GT.  One thing I learned from last year is that I need to narrow my focus.  So, the Maker Club will have 4 main themes this year: Cardboard Challenge, Video Creation, Programming, and Electric Circuits.

In addition, the GT students who were exposed to materials last year will be challenged to find ways to incorporate them in our Cardboard Challenge and other projects throughout this year.

Eventually, I want B.O.S.S. HQ to be accessed by all students in the school, but I’m still working out the kinks on that.

My advice to a teacher just beginning would be the following:

  • Read Invent to Learn by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez
  • Try the Global Cardboard Challenge
  • Add a station to your classroom that involves creating.  Little Bits are great, and the company offers educator discounts. Chibitronics and MaKey MaKey are also relatively inexpensive ways to start.
  • Make the mantra, “Think, Make, Improve” (from Invent to Learn) part of your classroom theme.
  • Celebrate the “growth mindset” so that students understand they will learn even when things don’t go as planned.  Rosie Revere, Engineer is a great book to reinforce this.
  • When you are ready to “go bigger”, enlist the help of the community.  You can find experts who can teach your students different skills, people who are willing to donate supplies (Donors Choose is great for this), and you might want to visit maker spaces and maker faires in your area for ideas on the type of inventory and organization you need.

If you search for “maker” on my blog, you will find many other posts I’ve done regarding this topic.  You can also visit my Pinterest board of Maker Resources here.  Two of my favorite online resources are Make magazine and Design Squad.  The online Maker Camp from Google and Make also has lots of ideas.

Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-12, Parenting, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Videos


image from: JackANDJude
image from: JackANDJude

One of my favorite things about blogging is the connections that I make with others.  Yesterday was a perfect example.  I posted about National Day of Making (which is today, June 18th, 2014, everyone!), and a reader commented on the post with a link to her blog, “JackANDJude.”  Jude is the blogger.  Along with her young son, Jack, she “makes” – primarily using Little Bits.  She has great projects showing how to hack existing products to make something new on her blog, and includes videos with most of them. Since we have Little Bits in our Maker Studio, but I have absolutely no imagination, I find her blog very inspirational, and think it will be a great resource for my students.

Here are just a few of the cool ideas Jack and Jude have on their blog:

I will definitely be adding this blog to my “Make” Pinterest Board.  Check out my board, and remember to Make Something Great Today!

Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools

B.O.S.S. HQ is Now Open for Business

Working on our sign
Working on our sign



At the beginning of this school year, I found myself working next to an empty classroom.  I thought, “Hey, now we can spread out a bit more during Robotics Club meetings.”

In the meantime, I had been reading about the surge of Maker Spaces in libraries and schools.

I decided to move the gigantic executive desk I had inherited into the empty room to make more space in my classroom.  I thought, “Now that the top of that desk is cleared off, it looks like a great space to spread out a fun art project.”

I kept reading about Maker Spaces.

I’m not exactly sure when the idea hit me – probably in the middle of a Tae Bo workout, the usual time I get inspired.  Finally, I thought, “What if I make that empty room into a Maker Space?”

There’s not really a rule or blueprint for Maker Spaces.  Some are heavy on technology, with 3-D printers and such.  While others seem to lean more toward craft-type making, such as sewing.  The common thread, so to speak, seems to be that they are all designed with the idea that people need an inspirational place to create.  And, now, with so many requirements for what students must know, many feel we should offer them some outlets for their imagination.

When my students participated in the Global Cardboard Challenge near the beginning of the school year, I saw how completely engaged they were in “making.”  I knew I needed to reproduce that experience as often as possible.

Our PTA offers a grant to teachers.  I applied for some money for some materials for our Maker Space: Little Bits, Cubelets, Roominate, Goldiblox, Squishy Circuits, and Play-i.  We have a Green Screen and iPads (hoping to add a tripod and green screen software or app at some point). In addition, I had already bought a 3Doodler with my own money, and we have a proposal for a 3D printer on Donors Choose (not going well, so any donations greatly appreciated!).

My goal is to make this a place for the students – and not just my GT students.  So, in my proposal I suggested that my students would pilot the space this semester.  Next Fall, I will start a “Maker Club.”  And, hopefully, we will open the room for teachers to sign up their classes to visit.

The students voted on the name for the space.  They eventually settled on B.O.S.S. HQ.  That stands for “Building of Super Stuff HeadQuarters”, for those of you who have a hard time translating Elementary GT-speak 😉

This week was our “soft” opening.  We started with the Little Bits center.  I explained to the students that we are piloting this idea, and I’m not sure how it’s going to go.  One of the 3rd graders said, “So, we’re beta testing it?”  We’ve been doing that with some apps lately, and I guess the idea fits!

In my room, students “Level Up” for privileges.  Maker Studio is Level 3.  And not everyone has made it there, yet.  But you can bet there are going to be some fast risers in the next couple of weeks now that they’ve seen what’s in store for them!

By the time I left school today, 2 of my 4th graders had already shared their blog post with me on Google Docs about class today.

It concluded with, “Today in G.T was a good day to show the creative side of yourself.”

That pretty much said it all.

Here are a couple of resources about Maker Spaces if you are interested:  Invent to Learn, Making a MakerspaceMaking a Makerspace (Almost Finished), Maker Education: A Good Trend.  I also have a very new Pinterest Board on the topic.

A student works with the Little Bits kit
A student works with the Little Bits kit
Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Science, Student Products

Little Bits Holiday Kit

Little Bits Holiday Kit

For those of you new to this blog, I am devoting Fridays during the holiday season to recommending “Gifts for the Gifted”.  You can see the three posts that I have done so far herehere and here.  You can also visit my Pinterest board on Games for Gifted Students.  A lot of these are not just for gifted students, but would be appreciated by many children – and adults.

Today’s recommendation happens to be one that I have not tried, yet.  But, I am ordering this kit for my 10-year-old daughter because it looks like the perfect combination of imagination and engineering.  The Little Bits Holiday Kit retails for $49, and includes the following items:

  • A double sided instruction sheet with quick start guide and project suggestions
  • A custom-made 9V battery + cable
  • A 9V battery connector.
  • Custom plastic screwdriver

7 littleBits:

  • • power
  • • pulse
  • • light wire
  • • dc motor
  • • bright led
  • • wire x2

The list above does not really do the kit justice, however.  There is so much potential in the various combinations of these parts, some of which is shown in the video below.  And, if you have a child or group of students that might be interested, Little Bits is also offering a “What are You Making for the Holidays?” challenge with a deadline of December 11th.  Inventors of any age are invited to submit sketches of a possible Little Bits design, and the winners will receive all of the parts to build their inventions.

If your child is interested in building, inventing, and designing, this could be a great gift to put under the tree!