Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Diving into Maker Spaces with Both Feet

    With the opening of the new school year, I took the plunge into the world of maker spaces.  My school has a tradition of making our first back to school meeting a fun one.  Last year, we held a zombie scavenger hunt around the building with GPSs.  This past June when I met with the administration for my yearly evaluation, I proposed opening a maker space in my library workroom.  During that meeting, they encouraged me to pursue the maker space and also to consider how maker concepts could be incorporated into the curriculum and within our academic teams.

     With this challenge as a backdrop, I worked with a colleague to set up a two hour professional development session for my teachers where they would learn what the maker movement is and understand the possibilities it holds.   My assistant principal and I then surveyed our options and made plans for how we could empower teachers to create their first maker projects.

     Although my interior decorating skills are negligible, I had the idea the night before to layout maker "center pieces" on all of the tables where staff were seated.  This proved to be an effective way to show my colleagues the broad range of materials and possibilities that fit under the maker umbrella.
     One of the session goals was to have our academic teams create a project that was related to a goal their team had, their team name (which they were selecting at the first part of the session), or a part of the vision for their team.  Since some of the teams had not met together before, we had to plan in some extra time in the session so that they could get to know one another and collaborate towards this goal.  This ended up being one of the best part of the session and helped to set our teams up to succeed in creating some pretty impressive maker projects in a short period of time.

    After a short review of several of the sessions' maker project options which included duct tape projects, Legos, action figures, crafts, green screen and stop action video productions, our teachers got to work.  As in most maker projects, time was the enemy.  Nonetheless, the projects developed by the staff were impressive!  There were several videos including a stop action, and  a green screen production, as well as a presentation where an Ironman doll was repurposed as an poster advertisement for the goals of one academic team.  Our session concluded with a chance for each team to present their projects and tie in the goals and vision of their teams.

    There were several takeaways from this two hour session.  First,  as one teacher new to our staff comment that this was " the most fun" he had ever had at an opening staff meeting.  Having fun was also a catalyst for doing the work of teaming and clarified each team's vision and goals for the year.   My teachers also saw the "can do" spirit of the maker movement first hand and now see its possibilities for their students. As one teacher put it, maker projects are "so practical, (we) can do them in my classroom." (with the supplies on hand) In terms of what I would do different, I would seek to make more direct connections with teachers' content.  I had a few maker projects on hand to show teachers and briefly referred to how they might fit in with different content disciplines, but I wish there had been more time in the session to flesh this out.
    The challenges from here are to build on the momentum of this session as the school year begins.   Several teachers have already donated materials and connected me with community resources to obtain supplies for our maker space.  I hope to be able to blog more in the future about how I have worked with teachers and students this year to incorporate maker projects directly into their curriculum and their lives.