Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DIY is Right on Time

I'm back! And this time, I bring with me some fresh experiences with the Maker Movement. All this talk on Twitter about letting our students become "makers" has definitely sparked my curiosity. The Maker Movement (a.k.a. Maker Spaces) promotes the idea that students learn by doing. It puts students in an active role when it comes to their learning because they are in charge of selecting, planning, and the actual creating or building of whatever it is they are making.

Exploring DIY
Our main source in our journey has been I learned about this amazing site from Dr. Brian Housand at the National Association for Gifted Children Convention in November. Apart from being one of my top take aways, the site provides a wide selection of challenges, or tasks, that students can complete on their own time and share within the community (if you register). Another great feature about this site is that skills are divided by categories that reflect interests or professions such as linguist, architect, and interior designer (to name a few). This complements the notion of multiple intelligences since students are able to select skills that tap into their strengths and interests. Under each category or skill, you will find the accompanying challenges along with examples of finished products for inspiration. The page alone excites my students, especially when they run into interesting skills such as cardboarder and Minecrafter! Below is how we have implemented DIY Challenges in our classroom:

Independent Projects 
For my upper level group, I have had a couple students select their own skill/profession. They then selected a challenge to complete. This has worked out great, especially since these students are normally early finishers and self-directed learners. They have worked independently on the planning and actual making. As they are working, I guide them in their problem-solving and brainstorming as needed. These two have loved the project so much that they beg to stay with me during their Activity time (P.E., Music, etc.) to finish their projects. Both students have also thought or worked on their projects from home, which is not a requirement. One student mentioned that he started to build his helmet at home but was disappointed when it was misplaced. The other actually brought some patterns from a craft store to add to her final project. When they shared these stories, I have to admit my heart smiled.
Cardboarder: Design a Suit!

To Enhance Reading Projects
For my intermediate group, I modified one of the challenges and offered this as an option for a final project. This group has recently completed reading the novel, Tuck Everlasting, and were to re-create a scene from the story using cardboard and other items. With this group, I also provided guidance as needed. We also reflected on and discussed some recommendations for staying organized and building things. This group offered some great tips and were very engaged and helpful towards each other throughout their projects.
Recreating a scene from a novel.

So far, the process of making is a messy one but so well worth it! My greatest challenge is staying organized and finding storage for all projects. Right now, I am using these storage bins and placing them under tables and on top of file cabinets. For this reason, I had to start with two groups; a larger one and a smaller one. As soon as I can find a solution for storage or as students complete their projects, I will offer more DIY challenges to different grade level groups. If you have a storage solution or tip, please leave me a comment!
My storage solution for the moment.
 Are you interested in joining the Maker Movement? Some great starting points are @cybraryman1's Page on Maker Spaces. You can also check out the hashtag #MakerEd on Twitter to follow some folks who are sharing and using Maker Spaces in their classes. Finally, for the tech savvy, check out @TeachThought's post on 39 Tools to Turn Your Students into Makers By Edshelf. So what are you waiting for, let's MAKE it happen!