Black History Month of Making Challenge:

This the final installment in our four part series- Black History Month of Making where we’re sharing some of our favorite maker moments and projects inspired by Black creators, makers, scientists, and inventors. Remember to let us know how you enjoyed these Black History Maker projects and show off what you made. #GVMakes

As we move from Black History Month into Women’s History Month, we present a Maker Challenge Mashup inspired by two Black women pioneers in the field of aviation and aerospace. Bessie Coleman & Mae Jemison broke barriers and changed ideas about what was possible for Black women. What do you dream about doing or becoming? Keep going after what you want and who knows how high you’ll fly.!

Click the poster ⬇ to print or download the challenge and get the tutorial links.

Remember to share your creations with us at school or tag us on social media

Instagram: @grass_valley_ousd Twitter: @GrassValleyousd Facebook: @grassvalleyelementary

Black History Month of Making Challenge: Design a Paper Lantern

Lanterns created by GV 1st & 2nd graders for our Fall Maker Expo

Part Three in the Series- Black History Month of Making where we’re sharing some of our favorite maker moments and projects inspired by Black creators, makers, scientists, and inventors. This one is just in time for some weekend fun. Remember to check back next week for a new hands-on project.

Lanterns help shine light in the darkness. This week’s maker project is inspired by Black inventor Michael C. Harvey who patented an improvement on the wick for oil lanterns. See how creative you can get making your own lantern and shine your light bright!

Check out the design challenge below and scroll down to watch a video of some of our GV students to get even more inspiration. Click this pic ⬇ to download the challenge and get the tutorial link.

Downloadable Lantern Design Challenge + Tutorial Link

Want to get even more creative?! Check out this video from our Fall Maker EXPO featuring Mrs. Coleman’s 1st & 2nd graders. They learned all about the scientific aspects of light and then combined that knowledge with the arts to make lanterns highlighting their special qualities and created a dance to showcase their maker brilliance.

Remember to share your creations with us at school or tag us on social media

Instagram: @grass_valley_ousd Twitter: @GrassValleyousd Facebook: @grassvalleyelementary

Make Your Own 3D Glasses

Part Two in the Series- Black History Month of Making where we’re sharing some of our favorite maker moments and projects inspired by Black creators, makers, scientists, and inventors. Remember to check back next week for a new hands-on project.

Click the freebie above to access the tutorial & video links.

Share your creations with us at school or tag us on social media @grass_valley_ousd #GVMakes

Bay Area educators testing out their own 3D glasses in the Wonder Workshop.

Black History Month of Making

During the month of February, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite maker moments and projects inspired by Black creators, makers, scientists, and inventors. Check back each week for new hands-on projects.

Kicking off our Black History Month of Making, learn to make your own Black power, pride, or joy images that you can wear all year long. You can follow along with the tutorial below which features our very own Teacher on Special Assignment, Paula Mitchell, who was inspired by Emory Douglas’ printmaking art for the Black Panther Party.

Check out this episode of Maker Ed’s Learning in the Making to learn not only how to screen print but also learn some of the history of the Black Power movement, from the Black Panthers to #BlackLivesMatter. Also check out the Activity Guide that lists all the materials you’ll need and step-by-step instructions in both English & Spanish.

Share your creations with us at school or tag us on social media @grass_valley_ousd #GVMakes

Shout out to former GV Special Education teacher, Roxy Martinez, who helped develop this activity for us for our 2018 Black History Month Celebration!

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!

Student Choice and Agency Let Super Powers Shine

Maker Playlist Highlights Perseverance

Creativity is inspired by many elements. In our Wonder Workshop, we hope people’s inspiration comes from the supplies in our space or from our Maker challenges. We try to foster a creative environment and activate all the senses. One of these senses is sound and what better way to activate this sense than by playing  music.

Here is the Wonder Workshop’s Perseverance Playlist. It’s filled with songs that encourage children and adults alike to continue on and not give up on their endeavors or, in our case, their projects. Like one student in our Makerspace said, “If Thomas Edison gave up after his first light bulb, we wouldn’t have this light in this [Maker]space to create this.”

If you’re feeling in need of some inspiration, give these songs a listen.

“The Power of Yet” Janelle Monae

Believe in yourself, work hard, stay focused, and one day you’ll get to where you want to be. That’s the power of yet.

“Try Everything” Shakira

From the movie  Zootopia, Shakira brings the Latin pop beat to this song about trying even though your chances of failing might be high. “Try Everything” teaches our students that you have to try, try and try again to learn and expand your knowledge.

“Fight Song” Rachel Platten

A child might get discouraged from peers or get down on themselves because they might compare themselves to others but Rachel Platten tackles this problem with her anthem to keep fighting.  You have to fight back and prove that you can achieve.


“The Greatest” Sia

The song and music video empowers the child who has creativity and strength. The value of stamina is highlighted and reminds us that is the way to become the greatest. It reminds us to keep going even when times are hard.

“Get Back Up Again” from The Trolls movie

Even though the idea of failure can be scary, this song reminds us that when we get knocked down, we’ve go to get back up again. That’s a big lesson children learn when working on projects-not everything goes according to plan, but you have to keep on trying and you just might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.


“I Am Changing” Whitney Huston

This song reminds us that it’s ok to ask for help from our friends. It’s ok to start over and change what you’re doing for the better.


About the Author


Maria Renteria, AmeriCorps VISTA 
Maria comes to us from the South Bay of Los Angeles. She has been a Maker since she can remember. She is excited to share this passion with Grass Valley Elementary students because she wants them to create their best memories of school through making like she did when she was little.

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.

Agency by Design Highlights Maker-Centered Learning at Grass Valley

Previously published by AbD Oakland, October 19, 2017 see original article here

“Maker-centered learning means that there’s choice, freedom for students to explore what they’re really interested in, to develop a passion for something, to really get engaged and light up their minds.”
Paula Mitchell, Teacher on Special Assignment for Maker Ed and Blended Learning
Grass Valley Elementary School


Click to view Agency by Design and Grass Valley Elementary School Video

In the fall of 2014 Grass Valley teacher Paula Mitchell attended the conference: Project Zero Perspectives: Making, Thinking, and Understanding, in San Francisco. When she returned back to her classroom she brought new ideas, thinking routines, and making. Her principal at the time, Dr. Brandee Stewart, recognized that she was onto something: “I’ve always been on the search for this engaging culturally relevant way of engaging kids. And when I went into Paula’s classroom and saw and heard what she was talking about around maker education…I felt like this was the missing piece throughout my career.

Since then, in order to create a sense of agency and empowerment in their learners, Grass Valley has made the shift to maker-centered learning, placing it at the center of the school curriculum and culture. With the guidance of Paula Mitchell, who was hired as a Teacher on Special Assignment with Project Based Learning & Maker Education, the school prioritized hands-on experiences, with the goal of getting students excited and empowered about learning.

“What can kids notice about their place in the world? And then how can they push against that? And how can they demand more for themselves?”
Roxanne Martinez, Resource Specialist, Grass Valley Elementary School


Click to view Agency by Design and Grass Valley Elementary School Video Pt.2

The overall shift toward maker-centered learning was implemented by first creating a long term vision then adjusting resources and schedules along the way to support that vision. Cohorts of teachers were created to collaborate on maker projects and share strategies within their Professional Learning Communities. Teachers in both special and general education collaborate alongside each other to share approaches and ideas, ensuring that the special education curriculum mirrors that of the general student population.

“Students who traditionally may not show up as the successful student can actually exhibit a set of skills and knowledge and talents that often surpass students in general education classes.”
Dr. Brandee Stewart, Principal, Grass Valley Elementary School

In November 2016, the school opened their maker space, called the “Wonder Workshop,” a classroom dedicated to maker-centered learning during the school day. This space has also served as a space for teacher collaboration, family making night events, and professional development workshops.


The success of the maker-centered learning program at Grass Valley Elementary is due to collaborations across multiple individuals and organizations. Within the school, Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, provide dedicated weekly meeting time for teachers to come together and share curriculum ideas and professional development tools. In addition to the PLCs, community partners such as Agency by Design have and continue to play a key role in providing professional development, support, supplies, and funding along the way. Not only did Grass Valley teachers Paula Mitchell and Diana Culmer participate in the 2016 – 2017 Agency by Design Oakland fellowship, they, along with two other colleagues, took the online Agency by Design course Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom, which was funded by a grant from the Light Awards. In addition, Grass Valley has partnered with Maker Ed to receive Maker Vistas, and has collaborated with numerous community makers.

Three times during the course of the 2016-2017 school year teachers brought their students together to share and celebrate their learning. The year-long curriculum focus on Health and Wellness was centered on these driving questions:

  • How can we as students take control of our food sources?
  • How can we, as food scientists, investigate ways to interact with food?
  • How do we share our knowledge of health and wellness with others by producing, packaging, and marketing a product for a farmer’s market?

In Expo One students demonstrated what they were learning through visualizations of healthy food, maps of local food sources, and planter boxes they had built for seedling vegetable plants. In Expo Two students became food scientists, which was visible in their re-constructions of the human digestion system, cookbooks with their own recipes, and a variety of food offerings they had made. In Expo Three, the culminating event of the year, students produced a farmer’s market, showcasing products they had made, packaged, and marketed themselves.


Click to view Grass Valley Student Expos Video

Grass Valley teachers’ energy and dedication to pursue maker-centered learning continues to grow. This year there were seven Grass Valley applicants to the 2017 – 2018 Agency by Design Oakland fellowship! We are excited to announce that Monique Parish and Roxy Martinez will be joining us this year, and Paula Mitchell will be joining the Agency by Design Oakland coaching team as a Senior Fellow.

Lastly, we celebrate and appreciate the leadership of the Grass Valley educators! Three years after Paula Mitchell attended the Project Zero Perspectives conference in SF, she and and Diana Culmer share what they’ve learned through a workshop of their own, “Authentic Inclusion and Hands-on Engagement,” at the May 2017 Project Zero Perspectives Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

PZConference.jpg          PZ_Goals.jpg

Grass Valley is a small elementary school in the Oakland Unified Public School District serving just under 300 students, mostly students of color, in kindergarten through fifth grade. Over 70% of the student population is socioeconomically disadvantaged, 25% is served by the special education program and approximately 17% of the students are classified as English language learners. 

“Book knowledge is just one piece of a larger education. What you learn must be applied in your everyday life. They’re the next scientists, they’re the next inventors, they’re the next presidents. And all of that starts here.”
Dr. Brandee Stewart, Principal, Grass Valley Elementary School