Families Scribble, Tape, and Electrify

Making9-30 246Families engaged in creative play together – an outcome we want to build as we integrate making into our school’s practices.  Recently our fourth grade teachers invited their students and families to engage in creating scribbling machines, circuit boards, and a little bit of tapigami.

Making9-30 259Making9-30 271Scribbling machines are fun – they instantly engage people to want to design and re-design, to tinker, to play.  Families were  invited to take a few materials (a container, a battery, a motor, a piece of hot glue, some tape, and a few markers) and try to make the machine work.  Within minutes of starting there were a few scribbling machines drawing on tables.

While the kids jumped right in, there were some parents who had to be encouraged.  They were more comfortable watching their children, and helping when necessary, but after some encouragement started to try their own ideas.  Soon everyone had a machine working and was watching the varied designs they made.

But getting them working was only the beginning.  As students and parents started to watch them draw, questions popped into their heads — “How can I get it to…?”  “What would happen if I …?” They were off to do more tinkering.  Before long we had run out of drawing space on the tables and threw together a larger drawing space on the floor.

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There was one family in particular that intrigued me.  I have observed this activity in multiple settings, but the five people at this table were consistently coming up with different ways to use the materials and different designs then I had ever seen before.  It was fun to watch they way they played with the machines to develop something new; if there’s an engineering gene, it’s definitely found in this family!Making9-30 235

After lunch we opened up the circuit blocks exploration table and broke out even more tape for tapigami.  The 4th graders had studied circuits the year before and were excited to get to play with the open ended circuit boards.  These materials have been used in our curriculum in many different grades, from 3rd-12th.  What makes them so versatile is the open ended nature of the activity.  Using the circuit boards, the 4th graders were able to apply what they had learned the previous year and take it to a whole new level of complexity.  In addition, the students are working with tapigami in their class and some were eager to show their parents this new form of expression.

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The response was overwhelmingly positive.  In particular, comments indicated that they enjoyed experimenting together, and that they had fun.  Mission accomplished.

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About Aaron Vanderwerff

Aaron Vanderwerff is passionate about engaging students in making and independent inquiry in the classroom, particularly students underrepresented in STEM fields. Vanderwerff currently oversees design and making programs at Lighthouse, which includes coaching teachers and facilitating professional development. This effort came out of his making class, which culminates in students exhibiting their independent projects at the Maker Faire. Vanderwerff has taught high school science in the Bay Area for the past ten years. Before joining Lighthouse, he taught ninth-grade physics and was science department chair at San Lorenzo High School, and taught math in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso.