Make, Break, Create

Here at Lodestar, our structure is continually evolving – there are always areas we can improve upon to better serve our students. The Lab makerspace is one of them. Initially, we planned to keep the makerspace inside of the K-3 Learning Lab, with one area devoted to free making, and another to independent kits. However, the organization and roll out of these kits proved to be difficult – we want to balance giving students a strong foundation for the activities with enough room for independent learning. At this point, we hit a roadblock with our initial layout  – there were not enough space or people available to accomplish our goals. Additional problems followed: Ms. Ortiz, a Making, Art, & Design teacher, did not have enough time to run the space; transporting materials up and down stairs from classrooms to the Lab was not sustainable; and the activities created more noise than we wanted.

While determining solutions to the above concerns, I continued to create and organize our lab kits, growing them from a basic selection of circuit blocks to include ProBots, scribble machines, paper circuits, sewn circuits, and eventually a marble run. We also identified a Lab teacher, Ms. Do, who would lead and maintain the makerspace, thus freeing up time for Ms. Ortiz. Next, Ms. Do and I met to discuss goals, expectations, and learning targets of the improved makerspace. I also introduced the different kits, both completed and in progress. Our resulting structure is outlined below:

  • Two separate areas: Maker’s Space (MS) and Tinkering Station (TS) in the MPR
    • MS: free making with consumables
    • TS: kit activity (e.g. circuit blocks)
  • MS and TS are run every morning, beginning after crew and ending before lunch
  • 3 groups of ~20 students between both MS and TS can work for 20 min each

We rolled out the new Maker’s Space and Tinkering Station on October 30th, after organizing all the materials the week before. Setting up the space was fairly quick – the only furniture to relocate were two tables, a storage cart, and a handful of boxes. Ms. Do also created beautiful visual expectations for students to follow while in each space.

 

New Maker’s Space setup in the MPR

Maker’s Space and Tinkering Station expectations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On that first day, the Maker’s Space was animated yet productive; students were focused on their creations, using familiar tools and materials. At the Tinkering Station, we decided to start with circuit blocks, since most students have already been introduced to them. I prompted them first with simple tasks, such as “make a motor run”, or “make a light bulb light up” (this also limited the blocks initially available). Then, I asked if they could add a switch to their circuit, or make a more complicated one, following a similar to the inquiry cycle to the one described in our light play project guide.

As this first week of our new Maker’s Space and Tinkering Station continues, we have already identified areas of revision, namely in transition time and set up. The current method of pulling students from Lab is Ms. Do asking students who are free if they would like to come into the Maker’s Space. In the future, we are considering a signup sheet, or pre-made lists of free students that we could pull from. The latter concern of setup time / process will most likely be remedied as time goes on and we develop better systems and tools.

Students exploring circuit blocks in the Tinkering Station

Some thoughts on the future of this space include: incorporation of a drawing station where students learn different drawing techniques (e.g. shading, pointillism, hatching, cubism), the amount of kit activities we introduce in a week (right now we are planning on one per week, but that might grow to two or three), and how to maintain the space with just one adult present. As with anything at Lodestar, we know that we can always improve, so there will no doubt be multiple iterations of our Maker’s Space, but at this point, our current set up seems to be working.

 

 

 

About Claire Tiffany-Appleton

Claire Tiffany-Appleton is currently an Americorps VISTA member serving through MakerEd at Lodestar Charter School. She assists in the Making, Art, Design and Lighthouse Creativity Lab Programs. She recently graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics from UC Berkeley, and is excited to start her journey with making!

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