Maker Identity: Students of Color Sustaining and Creating Identities in Maker Education

originally published June 12, 2018 by Agency by Design Oakland
note by Paula Mitchell



Roxanne Martinez, Monique Parrish, and I were all members of the 2017-2018 Agency by Design Oakland Teacher Fellowship. This fellowship takes a deep dive into the framework and instructional strategies of maker-centered learning, Fellows experiment with these strategies in their classroom practice and reflect on their learning within the cohort.  Each teacher in the fellowship completed a Picture of Practice highlighting what they learned from their inquiry work. Ms. Martinez’ Picture of Practice is an Ignite Talk (a 5 minute talk with slides) on the theme of Maker Identity.

Since completion of the 2017-2018 school year, Ms. Martinez has returned to her Southern California roots where she continues to make Maker-Centered Learning a mainstay of her educational practice. At Grass Valley, we continue to be inspired by Ms. Martinez’s strong stand for social justice and her ability to bring out the creative best in her students.


“Our students, youth of color, navigate worlds that tell them that their home identities and their school identities have to be kept separate. And, in fact, their ability to do that is essential for their success in education. Does the MAKER MOVEMENT contribute to these tensions? YES.”  


Roxanne Martínez is a Resource Specialist at Grass Valley Elementary School in Oakland. At the Agency by Design Oakland year end event on Saturday, May 5, Roxy presented her talk entitled, “Students of Color Sustaining and Creating Identities in Maker Education.” Roxy spoke to the importance of maker education not being another tool to oppress our students, and instead a means of liberation.

“Making is a manifestation, it’s a proclamation, and it’s a celebration of who we are, and who we always have been.”


“The maker movement has the potential to reproduce harmful hierarchies. Is it inevitable that the maker movement reproduce these hierarchies? Absolutely not. But unchecked and unchallenged, it will.”  

Check out Ms. Martinez’s amazing Ignite Talk below! 



-Roxy Martínez

Resource Teacher/Education Specialist, Grass Valley Elementary School, OUSD

Make it a Handmade Holiday

It’s December and the holiday season is here! The holidays are the perfect time to show off your maker skills with handmade gifts and decorations. However you celebrate, if you’ve got a Maker in your family, you’ll want to incorporate some of these activities into your festivities. Below are a dozen fun, inexpensive activities the whole family can make together.


Washi Tape Cards 4          Washi Tape Cards 5

Washi Tape 

from Art Camp LA

These are super cute and super easy cards to make with decorative tape and a few other materials.

Washi Tape Christmas  Tree

What you’ll need: black print washi tape, sequins or hole-punched card stock for balls, glue

What to do

  1. Lay a vertical strip of washi tape for your trunk.
  2. Build out your branches with skinny, black print washi tape (you can cut your washi tape down the middle to get these skinnier pieces).
  3. Glue on the sequins or hole punched circles to decorate the branches


What you’ll need: washi tape for scarf and buttons, googly eyes, small scrap of orange construction paper for nose, black pen for smile, pink for cheeks

What to do

  1. Scarf: Lay a piece of washi tape from the left side of your card to the right.
  2. Cut out 2 circle shapes from a strip of washi for your snowman’s buttons.
  3. Cut out an orange triangle shape for your snowman’s nose and glue it down.
  4. Add your googly eyes above your carrot nose.
  5. Draw a simple smile shape with a black pen.
  6. Add your rosy cheek.


Star card

Shooting Star


This festive greeting card is really easy to make — no sewing skills required. Check out the website above for step-by-step pictures & directions.

What you’ll need: Fabric or decorative paper, scissors, glue, blank card or piece of  folded cardstock, hole punch, embroidery thread

What to do

  1. Cut 2 or 3 different-size stars from fabric or decorative paper. Glue together.
  2. Cut 7 to 10 1/4″ slits on the bottom left-hand half of card, spaced 1/4″ to 1/2″ apart. Punch a hole about 1″ in from top right corner.
  3. Insert thread through hole, and wrap over the front of the card, securing string inside first slit; repeat until all slits are threaded. Trim and knot ends together.
  4. Glue star over hole.

Easy Holiday 


Super simple and fun- the sky’s the limit with these cards

What you’ll need: scrap paper of different colors, glue, fine point pens or markers

Light Up

from Melanie Stemdola

For those who want to take their card making to the next level, add some led lights. Let your imagination run wild with all the images you can light up once you get the hang of making a complete circuit. You can draw your own pictures, use stickers, or cut out images from magazines to decorate the front of your card.

What you’ll need: cardstock paper, glue, foil, tape, brass fasteners, led lights, &  a 3v battery.



Washi Tape Festive Wreaths

Festive Wreaths

from Parents.Com

Made from clothespins, these graphic rings are terrific for kids and parents to do together. The best part: You can hang them up and admire them for years to come.

What you’ll need: clothespins, embroidery hoops, washi tape or decorative tape, small scissors, ribbon

What to do
Start with wooden clothespins (available at the Dollar Store, Target, Amazon). Apply strips of washi or other patterned tape (available at craft stores like Michael’s or Joann’s)  to one side of each pin (smooth it right over the groove that holds the metal spring). Trim the edges of the tape with small scissors. Discard the outer rings from embroidery hoops (we used a few sizes, ranging from 4 to 7 inches) and clip on the clothespins. Hang the wreaths with nylon thread or ribbon.

Screenshot 2018-12-05 at 10.57.32 PM

Ugly Sweater Garland

adapted from Fun Learning for Kids                     image from Oriental Trading Company

What better way to get in the holiday mood than create this fun ugly sweater chain to decorate your home.  Make at least 10 sweaters to add to your string or ribbon

What you’ll need: sweater template, red, green or any other color/patterned cardstock you like,  glue, pom poms, buttons, jingle bells, confetti, stickers, sequins, & any other embellishments, ribbon thick enough to glue the sweaters onto

Christmas collage art activity for kids.

What to do

  1. Draw a sweater or trace the sweater template on the cardstock. You can also just print the template directly on to the cardstock ,then just cut the sweaters out.
  2. Put all of the supplies in a tray with separate compartments for easy access.
  3. Glue on the embellishments any way you wish
  4. Repeat with as many sweaters as you want to string on your ribbon
  5. Glue your sweaters to the ribbon, let dry completely, and hang

Magazine Christmas Tree

This quick video from the School Library Journal shows how to make a Christmas tree tabletop decoration from a magazine- reduce, reuse, recycle!

3D Star 

from Sea Lemon

You can use this easy tutorial to create a start to top your magazine Christmas tree or use it as a festive decoration anywhere in your home. The best thing- it’s made from recycled cereal boxes! Here’s a link to the star template mentioned in the video


Peppermint Sugar Scrub 

This scrub from the Jacolyn Murphy website makes a great gift for anyone who wants to keep their skin glowing all winter long.

What you need: white sugar, olive oil, peppermint extract,  food coloring, a pint glass jar with lid, ribbon, candy cane as decoration

What to do

  1. Mix together white sugar, olive oil, coconut oil and peppermint extract or oil in the amounts described in the website linked above.
  2. Add food coloring and mix to desired color.
  3. Layer in pint jars and decorate the jars with ribbon and candy cane.

Change it up: Check out Murphy’s post to change the colors and scents of the scrub. Or make one without scent or coloring, decorating the jar with a special holiday ribbon.


Sock coffee cozy handmade gift

Jolly Java Jackets


Kids can take an old sock and give it new life by turning it into a reusable sleeve for coffee or hot cocoa to go.

What you’ll need: Old socks, fabric scissors, buttons, felt, felt stickers, fabric glue

What to do: Cut 4 inches from leg of sock to form a cup cozy. Add embellishments using fabric glue.


Pom-Pom Pens

These pretty pens from the Sew Sara blog are a go-to gift for teachers and students, and a fun project for beginning sewers. Check out the blog post for step by step instructions. This activity is best for kids 8 years and up.

What you’ll need: pens, fabric strips, glue gun, needle & thread, scissors

What to do

  1. For each pen, measure two strips of fabric (one measuring 3 1/2 inches x 13 inches, and one measuring 3/4 inches x 13 inches). Wrap the pen with the narrower strip of fabric and glue in place.
  2. Create and sew a pom-pom from the wider strip according to the directions on the blog post and glue to the pen.

Change it up: Wrap the pen in duct tape, and/or add a flower instead of the fabric pom-pom.


Cookie Mix in a Mason Jar Christmas Gift - Sugar Cookie Recipe & Label - Free Printable

Holiday Cookie Mix in a Mason Jar

from Mom Skills

This is a great gift  for all the people in your life who love to bake or who love to eat cookies!

What you’ll need: green felt, red felt, mason jars (quart-sized) , twine, craft glue, red buttons, scissors, pen, paper for tags, dry ingredients from your cookie recipe

What to do

  1. Add sifted dry ingredients from your favorite cookie recipe (or the recipe from the link above) to a clean, dry Mason jar. Press each layer firmly into the jar.
  2. Add a pop of color to the top with holiday-themed candy sprinkles.
  3. Print out the tag from the blog post or make your own if you’re using a different recipe and decorate the jar lid with felt and buttons.

Wishing you and yours a happy handmade holiday!

Grass Valley’s Maker Program is an LRNG Innovators Challenge Grant Winner!

Previously Published by Educator Innovator

Note by: Paula Mitchell

In May of 2017, we were thrilled to learn that Grass Valley Elementary’s Wonder Workshop in conjunction with MakerEd had been awarded one of only ten LRNG Innovators Challenge grants given out nationwide. This grant helped fund the materials and supplies for our 2017-2018 Maker program which included classroom making projects, individual student maker projects, after school maker workshops, family making nights, and our soon to be released Library Maker Take-Home Kits.  We focused on bringing students’ passions to life by linking home and school interests.

As this grant comes to an end, look for more posts that examine and share the work we did during the past year.

Read on to find out more about the LRNG Innovators Challenge Grants and Connected Learning.

LRNG Innovators began in 2014 and launched its third challenge in the beginning of 2017, inviting educators to imagine engaging ways to help young people explore their interests, thereby igniting a passion that can lead to college, to a career, or having a positive impact in the community. We sought proposals for programs, curricula, or projects that actively help youth discover interests connecting the spheres of their lives, both in and out of school, and provide potential future opportunities.

Connected Learning research demonstrates that all young people benefit from opportunities to follow their interests with the support of peers and mentors and that give them the time and space to create work that is meaningful to them. With support from the National Writing Project, John Legend’s Show Me Campaign, theJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Collective Shift (, the LRNG Innovators challenge supports teams of educators in designing, testing, and sharing solutions that build the future of creative and connected learning today.

Linked Learning with Maker-Centered Education
Oakland, CA
Grass Valley Elementary Educators will expand project-based learning and Maker Education throughout school and the community, including the school library space and students’ families. As a small public school in Oakland, California, embarking on a culture shift, these educators are moving away from whole-class, lockstep instruction, and toward small-group, personalized learning with differentiated instruction based on students’ interests and needs. In the expanded MakerSpace, the school community will be invited to come tinker, explore their interests, and make, in collaboration with expanded project-based learning opportunities throughout the school. The school library will extend access and equity by making available take-home Maker Kits that include books and hands-on activities that students can make on their own or with their families.

What is Project-Based Learning and Maker Education?

All of a sudden, so it seems, the terms “Maker” and “PBL” are everywhere in the educational landscape. You may be wondering what each of these terms means, how they are related and how they differ. You are not alone. I myself wondered the same thing as I made my journey into the field of Maker Education and Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning and Maker Education are terms which are growing in use these days. Here are two definitions:

“Project-Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” —The Buck Institute of Education

Maker Education brings the Maker movement into the school setting to provide students with hands-on learning that promotes creativity, thoughtfulness, a community of learning and sharing ideas, as well as, the idea that each person can create what they want to see or use as opposed to just buying it. Making combines new technologies with old-school arts and crafts and vocational education.

Maker Education focuses on bringing together Science, Math, Technology, Engineering, and Art in a student-centered, creative way. Often times Maker Education happens in a Maker Space:

“… [A] space where kids have the opportunity to make – a place where some tools, materials, and enough expertise can get them started.  These places, called makerspaces, share some aspects of the shop class, home economics class, the art studio and science labs.  In effect, a makerspace is a physical mash-up of different places that allows makers and projects to integrate these different kinds of skills.” –Dale Dougherty, The Maker Mindset, in Design, Make, Play

After having immersed myself in the field of Maker Education and Project-Based Learning for the past two years, my main takeaway is that they are quite similar. They both focus on the creation of projects, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, creativity and have the potential to foster empathy in students. The main difference is that Maker Education has a big emphasis on “hacking” or “tinkering” where you take something that already exists and makes it better or you make something entirely new for the fun of creating it. Maker Education also has a strong tech bent with the inclusion of coding, computer science, and engineering while Project-Based Learning can encompass any and all subject areas.

At Grass Valley, we are combining these two related approaches so that we use the best of both approaches. Our focus is hands-on, project-based learning where students create a product that they showcase at an expo. The Maker Project-Based Learning units can focus on any subject area and integrate a low or high tech component into the end product.

We invite you to check back here often to see where our journey in PBL/Maker Ed takes us.



Paula Mitchell, Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA)
Paula is a 20+ year veteran Oakland teacher who has been crafting, designing and making since she was a little girl. She is delighted that her job as a TSA for Project-Based Learning/ Maker Ed allows her to bring more hands-on, minds-on learning to the community she loves.