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 (lrng.org), 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
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.
Taking making to another level or to your home has never been so easy. Today’s technology makes it easier for parents and educators to provide another mode of making that doesn’t need a makerspace.
We encourage you to introduce technology such as your smartphone or tablet to your child or student to start making. These mobile devices have made software practically free and in abundance and are a great resource for creative education.
So what apps do I encourage to download?
Does your child ever wonder how games are made? Now, your child gets the insight by making their own game using The Foos. This app lets them learn simple coding to make their game the way they like it. The animation is cute and bright that it will definitely catch their eyes. Plus your child can get a certification of completion for “The Hour of Code.”
Ideally for ages 4 and up
Available on the App Store and Google Play, FREE (In-app purchases available)
Do you want your children to make their own game, website, animation or app? Those things are now possible with this app. Children will learn through color and simple commands that will set their foundation in the language of coding for the future.
Ideally for Ages 9 and up
Only Available on the App Store, FREE (In-app purchases available)
Do not want to carry a bag of Legos everywhere you go with your child. Well, let me introduce you to this app that lets your child build their own island using digital Legos. Your child will learn what he/she need to build an environment and let his creativity run wild with his own type of world.
Ideally for Ages 9-11
Available on the App Store and Google Play, FREE
Go beyond the coding apps, this app shows and help develops manual making. The app explains different types of making such as leatherworks, homebuilding, film, and the list goes on. Children learn by watching videos, gathering experience points, doing challenges and getting encouragement from fellow app users. Children gain online patches for each type of making completed.
Ideally for Ages 9-11
Available on the App Store, FREE
Kids love robots. This app lets your kid use coding to guide the robot to complete the task. There are multiple levels with each one getting more complicated by the time they complete the app they will be experts in coding. Sounds a bit complicated, no worries the app teaches the student how to use the app and the different coding commands.
Ideally for Ages 9-11
Available on the App Store, FREE or for extended version $3.99.
Also available on Google Play, $2.68.
There you have it, 5 great STEAM Making apps, that any parent, educator or maker enthusiasts can download. Remember, Everyone is a Maker, so even adults can download these apps to learn.
Featured Image is Designed by Freepik
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.
Join us for the April East Bay Maker Educator Meetups (EBMEM) at Grass Valley Elementary in Oakland for a night of culturally responsive making!
We’ll begin by learning about Grass Valley Elementary’s recent event, Black History Month Family Making Night, an event that included students, parents, and teachers in a convergence of both traditional and new forms of making. Teacher on Special Assignment, Paula Mitchell, and Maker VISTA members Crystal Le and Maria Renteria will provide a presentation on this event devoted to honoring and exploring historic and modern contributions of African American innovators. After this presentation, we’ll dive into a hands-on making activity inspired by an African American innovator and explore culturally responsive making.
Register for the event here.
Grass Valley Elementary is located at 4720 Dunkirk Ave in Oakland. There’s always plenty of street parking right out front. Please arrive ready to make!
We are excited to announce that we will be at the Lighthouse Maker Faire. Our students will be leading a maker station and there will be demonstrations by our Maker Ambassadors.
Lighthouse Maker Faire takes place April 21, 2017, from 10 am -2 pm. Join us for Wonder Workshop’s first official Maker Faire.
Register here to attend for free.
We hope to see you there and our students can’t wait to share their making knowledge with you.
Our world is what we make it
The Wonder Workshop started with Paula Mitchell, the teacher behind making at Grass Valley. She had a dream to turn Grass Valley into a making school with its very own Makerspace. She attended many maker education workshops and became a member of Oakland’s Maker Fellows Program. There she met a Maker Ed Americorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service for America) member, who told Ms. Mitchell about the difference she was making at La Escuelita. Ms. Mitchell decided to apply to Maker Ed’s VISTA Program, and Grass Valley was granted two new AmeriCorps VISTA members.
This brings us to today: the VISTAs, Crystal Le and Maria Renteria, have been working behind the scenes of making at Grass Valley for 9 months. Recently, Maker Ed asked Miss Crystal and Miss Maria to participate in an online Q&A “Ask a Maker Educator: VISTA Edition.” They talk about why they are serving with the Maker Ed VISTA program, how they started Grass Valley’s new makerspace, and how they’ve creatively approached gathering resources and much more. Watch “Ask a Maker Educator: VISTA Edition” for their experiences and insights!
Our world is what we make it
Previously Published on Makered.org
February 27, 2017 by
This past Thursday, Maker VISTA partner site Grass Valley Elementary School in Oakland, CA held a Black History Month Family Maker Night & Heritage Potluck. This event featured a little bit of everything—making, breaking bread, discussion—and a whole lot of one thing: intention.
From the night’s theme of honoring and exploring historic and modern contributions of African American innovators; to its effect of including students, parents and teachers in a convergence of both traditional and new forms of making; down to the signage that invited youth and adults alike to snap selfies among acclaimed scholars and creators so as to envision themselves as #IAmNext, this event was thoughtfully designed to both engage and reflect the members of Grass Valley’s community.
Maker VISTA members Crystal Le and Maria Renteria organized and fueled this event from start to finish, led by their phenomenal, powerhouse supervisor Paula Mitchell, a Teacher on Special Assignment for Maker Ed/PBL & Blended Learning. Together, this team solicited and comprised a panel of professionals, parents, and local makers to kick off the evening by sharing their diverse STEAM career paths, stories, struggles and successes with gathered guests. Then, Crystal, Maria and Paula choreographed a making and sharing progression down the school’s main hallway, utilizing color-coded tabs and music cues to weave students and parents in and out of pop-up classroom makerspaces. In each space, participants could take turns building their own interpretation of an African American innovator’s invention—entirely guided by a student maker. Stations in the spaces included opportunities to create lanterns, guitars, 3-D glasses, pens, three-wheeled vehicles, and even an x-ray.
A particular moment of impact emerged when one of those student makers, a giddy and expert first-grader, explained to a handful of friends and peers (and this novice, yours truly) how to construct a lantern. The experience of having us in rapt attention, grouped around her, asking her for advice—in front of her mother and grandmother—made her bounce confidently on tip-toes, eager to answer all of us. She struck exactly the braggy balance between identifying what worked for her, and encouraging us to figure out what worked best for ourselves, all while showcasing to her family what she has been troubleshooting for several weeks. Like the tea-light lantern she proudly held up, she glowed.
After the hands-on activities, students and parents convened in the cafeteria for presentations by the first-ever cohort of Grass Valley Maker Ambassadors. These four students, from 3rd through 5th grade, had devoted the entire month to researching an African American innovator and developing a project inspired by that original work. They visited the school’s makerspace, the Wonder Workshop, during recess, library time, and after-school in order to devote time and effort to their self-driven explorations. Their completed projects were met with admiration and applause from their peers and parents as they received recognition from Paula on stage—but what’s more, each shared plans for continued making.
Paula and the Maker VISTAs mindfully coordinated this evening so that they could offer varied and numerous entry points for parents, staff, and visitors to engage in the environment and with the approaches that students are diving into everyday. From the materials, to the spaces, to the voices providing real-world context—voices ranging from a PG&E apprentice, to a designer and fashion professor, to a grandmother who started her own crafting business; from a principal, to an after-school specialist, to a first-grader explaining how a lantern functions—the event was structured to include, to invite, to inspire. Whether in small steps, along the periphery of a making station, or in emphatic cheers or laughs of delighted discovery, parents and families joined young makers in homage and in aspiration. Intention, with invention, made for an amazing event.
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR