Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ed Camp Maker Promise

Last Saturday morning, Friends' Central's Lower School campus was buzzing with the excitement that comes along with great professional development.  Maker Ed, Digital Promise and Ed Camp Philly all came together to kick off of a new educational partnership called Maker Promise. 

Check out Maker Promise for free support and resources in Maker Ed. 

This event was the perfect opportunity to make the Ulmer Family Light Lab studios and resources available to the wider community. We welcomed teachers from a variety of public, charter, and independent schools in the Philadelphia area and beyond, as well as participants planning summer camps, building partnerships, and tech enthusiasts interested in trying new skills.

The Ed Camp model is characteristically an "unconference," meaning participants are encouraged to put up suggestions for workshops and discussions they are interested in facilitating or attending.  The session board was populated that morning while attendees networked, snacked, and perused the fantastic Mobile Makerspace set up in the gym.  

We had some old friends (also Light Lab Advisory Board members) from Maker Ed and Digital Promise sharing the awesome ways they are helping ensure maker resources can get into the hands of more teachers and students.

Digital Promise also offered an easy inexpensive circuit-building activity for testing and feedback. Their "yes and" improv project planning cards were also a big hit - a fun way to push your ideas by using other awesome maker minds to brainstorm.  The registration table was filled with great maker swag.  Educators love free stuff!

Maker sessions took place in all four studios of the Light Lab and expanded out into Lower School classrooms.  Discussions included how to start up a makerspace, how to assess projects, and how to create buy-in from faculty.  Other sessions zoomed in to allow teachers to try specific tools like micro:bit, a vinyl cutter, or a specific type of robot.  

When wrapping up the day, attendees shared their favorite take-aways.  Here are a few:

  • Maker Ed doesn't have to be expensive (so important!)
  • Trying out Wonder Workshop with Dash and Dot robots
  • Exploring micro:bit
  • Creating paper roller coasters
  • Sharing effective forms of assessment
  • Networking with other makers
  • Making a vinyl sticker

When the tables were cleared, chairs folded, and bags packed, I stopped to chat with a colleague.  She shared that she overheard a NYC teacher saying on her way out, "My soul has been fed." 

That's what good PD does.  It's why we, at FCS, were thrilled to play a part in Ed Camp Maker Promise.

This event marked the first (definitely not the last) time we have leveraged our new facility to help provide professional development to a large number of educators beyond our immediate community.  

Big thanks to Maker Ed, Digital Promise, and Ed Camp Philly for asking us to host this amazing event.  And to the army of makers who came with mobile materials, can-do attitudes, and muscle power to set-up/clean-up: You rocked it!  We are grateful.

Are you ready to make the Promise and commit to being a champion for making?  We are!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Our Littlest Makers, Fall Projects, and Pumpkin Fair 2017

The Light Lab Studios have been full of children in all grades making cool things that connect their learning to Fall Project with their homeroom teachers and specialists.  

It's wonderful to see our littlest makers in the Light Lab so often.  Nursery classes have enjoyed using the learning kitchen in the Natural Sciences Studio to make applesauce and pumpkin muffins.  They are practicing measuring correctly, mixing ingredients, and being brave enough to try new foods.  They've also had valuable time building with open-ended materials and listening to great stories during cooking time.

We had a fun Mini Maker Morning from Nursery A and Pre-K A and B when our Upper School Service friends joined us for the day.  Since our Fall Project theme in the Lower School is "The Arts," we decided to make food art.  Beautiful and yummy!

3A and 3B have been in almost every week.  I love seeing how deeply they are diving into their fall project themes and just how varied their maker projects are as a result: cooking southern food, weaving sweetgrass baskets, making ragtime instruments, hand sewing different stitches for Robin Hood hats and satchels, and learning to use the sewing machines - among many others!

The wind tunnel at Pumpkin Fair was a big hit for makers of all ages - even adults!  It was great to see everyone experimenting with everyday materials to make parachutes, gliders, hovercrafts, and cool flying inventions.  I was delighted to witness so many "aha" moments.

Monday's Maker Club started the first fall session by making insulating playdough, building squishy circuits, exploring robots, and using the laser cutter to craft moving cardboard props for animation.  

Squishy Circuits is a product of FCS alumna, AnnMarie Thomas, '97.  How cool that our current makers get to learn from a former FCS maker by using her invention!   AnnMarie is also a member of the Ulmer Family Light Lab Advisory Board, using her expertise and love of FCS to help guide our program as it develops.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

World Maker Faire 2017

Working with students is the very best part of my job.  I get a chance to see the joy, frustration, humor, and serious learning that take place every time students are in the Light Lab, but I struggle to share that broadly enough with others.  I was delighted when I received word that we were selected to present at this year's World Maker Faire.  I know firsthand that our FCS students have plenty to share about the positive impact of Maker Ed. 

On September 24, Friends' Central students traveled the NY Hall of Science in Queens to present. I moderated our small panel of FCS teachers and students on the Make Education Stage.  Our goal was to share the power of increased student choice on engagement and learning in the context of two incredible fourth and fifth grade projects from last school year.

Panelists introduced themselves and shared a brief description of their projects.  Last year's fourth graders studied United States geography.  They each chose a state to research and brainstormed a unique maker project they would complete in order to demonstrate their learning for the community.

Students had full access to the Light Lab Studios and equipment.  More importantly, they were given a Maker Mentor - a community adult with a skill set that could support their personal project's development.   Mentors included faculty and staff members: art teachers, our technology integration specialist, science teacher, homeroom teachers, and our librarian. In one student's case, we tapped the expertise of an Admissions Staff member who just happened to be a professional musician and performer.

This shift to a more personalized approach to the fourth grade state project came in response to the homeroom teachers' desire to expand the range of projects.  Although given some choice in the previous years, students tended to gravitate toward models and a few digital productions.  

Adding Maker Mentors allowed for more one-on-one interaction and guidance through project development.  Conversations were deeper because each Mentor held relevant experience in the area a student was exploring.

Last year's fifth graders shared the projects they made while reading If the World Were a Village in Math.  Using global statistics about education, age, religion, and other subtopics, each student developed a project plan that would both demonstrate what they learned and point towards solutions to global challenges and inequities.  

Maker Mentors were again utilized in this project model successfully, and the range of projects was extraordinary.  From a model of a multi-generational community center to an interactive language translation board to a working water wheel, students created, shared, and developed with a new confidence in their ability to make a positive impact on the world.

Both projects culminated with a Community Expo - a chance for student makers to share their process and product, seeking feedback and reflecting on their learning.  This time reserved for feedback and reflection is not just an integral part of Maker Ed but also happens to be in complete alignment with our Friends' Central Quaker values.

I was especially taken with how our students shared the setbacks in their maker projects.  Each student came alive while reflecting on what was truly hard.  They smiled and laughed about how things kept falling apart or didn't work as planned, how they ran out of time or how they learned not to wear green in front of the green screen.  

Their failures didn't feel negative and they couldn't wait to tackle them a new way.  

This project model combined the best of any teacher's educational goals; our students grew socially and emotionally while also engaging in highly academic content.   

I am in awe of my students' bravery in sharing this experience on the stage at NY Maker Faire.  I hope their message inspires others to explore Maker Ed and encourages teachers to increase the amount of choice students have in creating things which demonstrate deep learning.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

FCS Mighty Maker Camp: Week 1

We are wrapping up the summer in full maker-style with the first year of FCS Mighty Maker Camp in the Ulmer Family Light Lab.  Makers of all Lower School ages joined together for two themed maker sessions: Robotics & LittleBits Electronics and Invention Convention.

We started our week all together to explore the four unique makerspaces and the tools available.  Why use boring white name tags when you can design your own custom wooden name tags using Adobe Illustrator and the laser cutter?

Next, makers built art bots that scribble, spin, and create unique marker patterns using the vibration from a motor and battery.  We made the bots' bodies using egg cartons, pipe cleaners, loads of tape, hot glue and wooden dowels to support the marker legs.  When we adjusted and optimized performance, we made a long mural with all our bots drawing at once.  Check out the video here.

Robotics and Invention Convention campers split up in the following days to explore deeper in their areas of interest.  Robotics & LittleBits used Bee Bots to make fun dance moves and put them together to choreograph a group dance party.  Video coming soon!

Our Dash robots played a wild game of Robot Basketball when we attached launchers and practiced sending our balls catapulting into baskets with different totals based on difficulty level.  Campers were intensely focused on making it into the smallest, tallest baskets to maximize points.  Players worked in teams of two to drive, launch, reload, and keep score.  We had a blast!

Invention Convention campers learned to use the sewing machine by making elastic bookmarks to take home.  They also explored Blockify, a great 3D design app, and printed their creations.  After learning about simple machines, they worked as a group to plan, draw, and build a Rube Goldberg machine aimed at popping a balloon.  Their sequence included a marble run, homemade basket, dominoes, pulley, and a nail to pop their balloon.  It was an unpredictable and silly labor of love.  Robotics campers were treated to the final run one afternoon.

Campers in this class also completed a Cardboard Challenge together.  They brainstormed and agreed on a building plan.  As a group, they used almost all the cardboard in the Light Lab to make large buildings complete with skylights, a working drawbridge door, and turrets.  They added finishing touches like sewn curtains and electronic lights just for fun.

In between all our making, campers have enjoyed playing fun games to get to know each other, building with free build materials like Legos, marble run pieces, and magnets, and swimming.

We're looking forward to hosting families on Friday for the Inventor's Expo!