Tag Archives: makered

The Extraordinaires

At the end of last year, right before Christmas, I saw a tweet about The Extraordinaires.  After visiting the site, I was intrigued by the product and ended up buying one of the smaller sets to try out with my students.  Since my 2nd grade gifted students are studying structures, I chose the “Buildings” set.

All of the products in The Extraordinaires line revolve around Design Thinking.  Each set includes Character cards, Design projects, and Think cards.  The sets also include a drawing pad, and at least one pen.  The Buildings Set includes 6 each of the Character and Design cards and 10 Think cards.  Larger, more expensive sets, contain more cards.

Each of The Extraordinaires Studio projects allows you to choose a character and a design project.  For example, one of my students got the “giant” character and “sports venue,” so his assignment was to dream up a place for his character to play a sport.  You can, of course, mix and match the cards, which makes for interesting combinations.  The think cards can be used to help refine the project and add details.

Fortunately, I only have 5 students in this particular class, so the set I bought is the perfect size.  (Some of the larger sets have higher age recommendations.  The company assured me in a tweet that the 16+ noted on the box “only refers to the guidebook and the depth of content,” so this leads me to believe that the cards would still be fine to use with lower ages.)

Photo Jan 23, 10 04 34 AM.jpg

My students were extremely motivated by the Character and Project cards.  The graphics on these definitely generated enthusiasm.  Before passing out the cards, we had talked about empathy.  I emphasized the importance of designing for their “clients” instead of themselves.  For about 20 minutes, there was complete silence in the room as the students got to work.

I had already told the students that this was just the beginning, that they would go through many drafts before settling on final designs.  It’s good I prepared them, because I realized that I hadn’t done a very good job of teaching them about empathy.  As they shared their first drafts, it became clear that they drew buildings that were familiar and just added a few details (like kelp, for the mermaid’s house) to align the structures with the characters.

Fortunately, the website for The Extraordinaires includes some resources for teachers.  We will be using the “Graphic Organizer for Getting to Know an Extraordinaire.”  After all, it’s difficult to have empathy for someone you don’t know.  This is actually all practice for our final semester project, for which they actually will be designing something for someone at our school. (More about that in a future post.)

If you like the idea of teaching Design Thinking to your students, and would like some other resources, Jackie Gerstein has a wonderful collection of design challenges here. For a great free Design Thinking curriculum, City X is another alternative.  To see why you should even consider incorporating Design Thinking into your curriculum, this video from The Extraordinaires allows students to explain. (Be sure to watch all the way to the end if you really want your heartstrings tugged 😉

Play with Design
from “Play with Design”

Play With Design from The Creativity Hub on Vimeo.

Common Ground

According to its website, ” ‘Common Ground‘ is a collaborative kinetic art installation about connecting America through creativity and problem solving.”

The result is a video that shows 5 Rube Goldberg reactions created in 5 different locations across the country.  Each one “triggers” the one that follows.  (I particularly liked the “Women in Stem” portion from  New Hampshire.) The projects reflect major issues representative of the artists’ regions, so the video is probably best for older students who can discuss the message delivered by each one.  The final segment of the video returns to its starting place, Oakland, and addresses the issue of excessive force used by police officers.

image from Common Ground
image from Common Ground

If you find the idea of doing a collaborative Rube Goldberg video intriguing, you may want to sign up your class to participate in this global one that is being produced by Brad Gustafson.  As Brad says, “This will require higher-level thinking, teamwork, and a bunch of other stuff that might not immediately lead to perfect ACT scores.  However, it will model risk-taking, digital-age collaboration, transformative technology use…and maybe even some asynchronous communication.”

Iterationists

I would like to give Krissy Venosdale (@krissyvenosdale) credit for the awesome image below, and possibly for coining a new term: “iterationist.”  When I saw the image tweeted by her the other day, I knew right away it would be a new mantra for me.  Considering the experience I described from our robot camp on Monday, Krissy’s quote perfectly states what I need to encourage more from my students (and myself).

“Iteration”  is a word that is used quite a bit when people discuss Design Thinking.  Anyone who has created something of substance will agree that a new work goes through many drafts before the maker feels satisfied.  Those iterations are important to the process; in fact some even argue that they are more important than the final product.

What I learned from my robot camp experience is that I not only need to make students more aware of the importance of iterations, but also how to learn from them.  As I mentioned, some of the teams had no problem trying again when their designs didn’t work. However, they didn’t spend enough time on trying to figure out why they weren’t working, and subsequent iterations tended to be just as inefficient.

In school, we usually don’t give students time for multiple iterations, unless we are preparing them for a standardized writing test or telling them to correct failed assignments. If we could make “iterationism” a habit, rather than a consequence or forced strategy, students would be more comfortable about taking risks and we would see a lot more “bravery.”

by Krissy Venosdale
by Krissy Venosdale

 

Undercover Robots Camp – Pageant Edition

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had our second session of Undercover Robots Camp last week.  The theme was, “Pageant Edition,” with the scenario being that the Dash robots had been sent on their first undercover assignments to the Annual Robot Pageant, where they were to investigate a potential saboteur.

Only a few of the students had attended our first session, Spy School, the week before, meaning that there were various levels of skill.  This is what I love about programming with open-ended challenges, especially with the Dash robots.  The activities allow for the contributions of all abilities.

The week was interspersed with design and logic activities.  Of course, costumes needed to be created since it was a pageant. Puzzles needed to be solved to find the identity of the saboteur.  I even borrowed some ideas from Breakout EDU.

One of the favorite activities was the pageant interview.  The students had to program their robots to respond to my questions – but they didn’t know what the questions would be!  I told them to come up with three responses: a plural noun, a verb ending in -ing, and a name of a place.  I had a set of questions for each robot, who also had to be programmed to come out on stage and then leave the stage.  I embedded an example below (make sure your volume is high so you can hear the robot responses).

The students also had challenges to program their students to do an art project, launch ping-pong balls into cups to gather evidence, and to save the other contestants from the saboteur. The latter is when the students learned that less can be more, as the least elaborate contraption attached the robot actually “saved” the most plastic figures (see the pic with the colored pencils attached to the robot below)!

During the week, we also worked on choreographing a final dance number for the pageant.  It’s good we started early because there were many, many, many flub-ups!  The video embedded below is what we showed the parents.  Unfortunately, it still didn’t go quite as planned; we learned that “tired” robots get a bit rebellious about their programs as their batteries wear down!

I absolutely adored seeing everything the students accomplished last week, and I can’t wait to do Undercover Robots Camp again next summer!

The L.E.A.D. DoSeum

Mrs. Lasher’s incredible 5th grade GT students are currently hosting a “pop-up” museum at their school.  Inspired by San Antonio’s new hands-on children’s museum, the DoSeum, the students designed their very own interactive exhibits, and invited select guests to visit.  Here is the invitation they designed.

The L.E.A.D. (Learn, Explore, And Discover) DoSeum consists of three rooms: The Seeker Space, Puzzle Parlor, and Tech Town.  You can see descriptions of the rooms in the invitation linked above.

LEAD DoSeum

Mrs. Lasher chronicled the process of creating the L.E.A.D. DoSeum from its inception.  You can read her blog posts and see pictures of the DoSeum here.

I think that this is such a wonderful idea, giving students the opportunity to take charge and plan with an authentic audience in mind.  It’s also nice to do near the end of the school year, as other teachers on the campus will probably be more than happy to take their students on a tour!  Even if you don’t have 3 rooms to spare, you could consider working with other teachers for the last couple of weeks of school to split your students into teams to each design an interactive museum room in their classroom.

Thanks for sharing this, Mrs. Lasher and 5th grade GT students!

 

Everyone is a Maker

Mark Barnett is one of San Antonio’s true treasures.  Known as @Maker_Mark on Twitter, Barnett’s passion for education and the Maker Movement has ignited our community. He is the genius behind “The Geek Bus,” a mobile maker space that visits schools and events throughout the San Antonio area, and has devoted his time and resources toward giving students access to STEM with cutting edge technology and project-based learning.

In Mark Barnett’s recent presentation at TEDx San Antonio, he notes the huge divide between the schools that have and those that do not.  His goal is to “democratize” making, and his Geek Bus is only one of the many ways Barnett has contributed to this cause. Watch this video, and learn more about Barnett’s dedication to giving everyone access to STEM and Maker Education.

For more resources about Maker Education, check out my page of essentials and my “Make” Pinterest board.  You should also definitely follow @Maker_Mark on Twitter!

makermark

The Making of the Maker

The Making of the Maker” is an article in Parentage magazine by Sarah Virginia White.  White interviewed 10 young people about the things they make, what inspires them, and how their parents help them.  My favorite quote is from 8-year-old Annabelle Armstrong-Temple,  “The secret sauce is time and space to let kids get creative: a lot of boredism.”

“Boredism” is officially my new favorite word.

My 3rd grade GT students and I were discussing why it gets harder and harder to think creatively as we get older, and how school tends to exercise the part of the brain that looks for one right answer.  One of the students suggested that, to balance out the different types of thinking, “we should go home from school and brainstorm the rest of the day!

I think my student and Annabelle Armstrong-Temple should lead the world.

Starting today.

But that probably wouldn’t work because they would be too over-scheduled to ever have the chance to think creatively again.

The moral of this story is to let kids make.

And to stop letting grownups ruin everything.

Read White’s article and you will find more advice on how to make your very own Annabelle Armstrong-Temple.

If you would like more Maker resources, here is my page of Makerspace Essentials.  I also have a “Make” Pinterest board here.

from The Making of a Maker
from The Making of a Maker by Sarah Virginia White for Parentage magazine