Saturday, December 24, 2016

Author Visit: Barbara O'Connor

Although it took many months to work out the logistics, Barbara O'Connor's visit was a big success! O'Connor's books have been nominated for awards in 38 states and she has traveled the country visiting schools and speaking at conferences. 

It was a pleasure to meet Mrs. O'Connor!

Read more about it in the Mount Airy News
Check out her website at

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Makerspaces 4 of 4: Get Started

What can I do RIGHT NOW?
  • Display books about creating
  • Highlight free digital tools students can use to create
  • Create a bulletin board of students and their creations
  • Start a Wonder Wall where students post their questions (and then help them answer the questions)
  • Do a Bag Challenge – What can you create with just this bag of these materials?
  • Cover tables with bulletin board paper and let the kids draw an imaginary world.
  • Create a DIY Inventor’s Kit with items from your junk drawer.
  • Have a take-apart station with items that don’t work (reverse engineering).
  • Use rocks, acorns, leaves, and twigs to create nature masterpieces. 
  • Ask for donated scrapbook supplies for creating bookmarks or mini-books.
  • Ask your principal and colleagues if there are extra materials around the school
    (ex. K’Nex kits, science kits, math blocks, paper)
  • Kindness Carts – ex. Cards for veterans, an ornament for someone at a nursing home
  • Challenge Cards – ex. Build a bridge out of paper. Whose bridge can hold the most blocks?
  • Collaborative art projects – Design a leaf for a group tree, add a bird, write your name in graffiti
  • Recycled art – ex. Turn old magazines into beaded jewelry, Blackout Poetry with discarded books, Milk Carton creations
  • Home challenges – ex. repurpose a plastic bottle, create something out of newspaper, fashion show out of recycled materials

Virtual Makerspace
  • Check out Stephanie Bode’s Maker Symbaloos at
  • Makey Makey projects are at
  • Scratch
  • Apps like PBS Scratch Jr

Participatory Displays
  • LEGO walls
  • Building materials left out on tops of bookcases
  • Magnetic Marble Trax on AC unit
  • Chalkboards/Whiteboards
  • Weaving 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Makerspaces 3 of 4: Tips

  • Let students know which stations/supplies are available to use. Rotate supplies.
  • Mark certain containers/supplies to let kids know that they need adult supervision.
  • Ozobots, LittleBits, and other electronic items can easily get misplaced or even stolen.

Recruit Volunteers
  • Guest speakers (local crafters and artists, former student now a computer programmer)
  • Maker Workshops
  • Lab Dads
  • Helpers

Easy Ways to Get Started
  • Connect it to a lesson
  • Make it available during circulation
  • Have a Maker Day/Week
  • Start a Maker Club
  • Spotlight students’ creations

Choose a Theme to Maintain Interest
(Monthly, Quarterly, or Yearly)
  • Gifts for Others
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Just Build It (Engineering)
  • Coding & Robotics
  • Character Lab

Overcoming obstacles
  • No experience with robotics? Watch a YouTube video or learn with the kids.
  • No space? Use a cart, think vertical (LEGO wall, tops of bookcases, sides of filing cabinets)
  • No money? Ask for donated materials, write a DonorsChoose project, use the Scholastic Resource Catalog
  • Do some people think it looks like playing and free time? Spotlight the benefits.  Share photos on social media.  Talk about how it connects to their curriculum.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Makerspaces 2 of 4: Resources

Favorite Makerspace Items
  • Arts and craft materials
  • Snap Circuits ($20 for a basic set)
  • LEGO sets ($99 for the LearntoLearn set)
  • Laser Cutter ($175 for Silhouette Cameo)
  • Keva Planks ($50 for a 200 piece set)
  • Avoid buying Maker kits on Follett.  They are overpriced.
  • Mackin has a new resource and their prices are reasonable.

Favorite How to Books
  • Big Maker Book by Colleen and Aaron Graves
  • Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects by Jack Challoner and Jack Andraka
  • STEAM Kids by Anne Carey
  • Make book series (ex. Make: Start Making)
  • Worlds of Making by Laura Fleming

Read Alouds
  • What do you do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
  • Roxaboxen by Alice McClerran
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
  • Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

Student Books
  • Art Lab for Kids
  • The Art of Tinkering
  • Duct Tape Projects
  • Books in the 740s

Available through the Scholastic Resource Catalog
  • PowerClix Magnetic Blocks
  • Makey Makey (Classic and Go)
  • LittleBits (Try the Base kit first)
  • StikBot Studio (for animation)
  • Kaleidoscope Maker Pack
  • Circuit Madness
  • Be a Maker book series
  • Cool Industrial Arts book series
  • Cool Great Outdoors book series
  • Origami books

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Makerspaces 1 of 4: What They're All About


Makerspaces are about:
  • The Design Process
  • 21st Century Skills: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking,
  • Real world connections and authentic learning
  • Student choice and student voice
  • Engagement and reflection
  • Building community
  • Providing opportunities for divergent thinking

More about Making
  • The process of creating is more important than the products you have in a makerspace.
  • It’s not all day every day, but it does begin to embed itself more and more. It’s about changing the culture and creating innovators and makers.
  • It’s about providing equitable access to materials. Not all classrooms have robots. Not all students have access to these maker supplies.
  • Failure is part of the process. That’s how we grow.
  • The writing process is similar to the design process.
    Ex. Brainstorm, research, rough draft, edit, product, share

  • Students are more excited about learning
  • Great for visual and kinesthetic learners
  • The materials can be made available for Genius Hour
  • Inspires students to research and read
  • Provides the foundation for Project Lead the Way in middle and high school

Examples of Makerspace Curriculum Connections

  • Science: Circuits, Forces, Simple Machines, Light, Energy, Sustainability
  • Technology: Computer Science, Code, Robotics, Graphic Design
  • Engineering: Design Process, Building
  • Math: Calculation, Measurement, Patterns, Sequence,
  • Language Arts: Retelling a Story (ex. w/ LEGO bricks), Reading Instructions, Speaking
  • Other: Music, Visual Art, Global Connections, Making a Difference, Empathy