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.

Press Start: Useful Websites for Game Design

Is your child at the age where all they want to do is play digital games? As educators or parents, we want to restrict this type of game-play, but that should not always be the case.  What if I told you that playing and creating digital games is a productive and educating moment for the child? Well, it is–and we want to talk to you about it.

Here at the Wonder Workshop, we want to inspire children to make their own digital games. It is a valuable outlet for them to learn more about coding, mathematics, design, planning, and creativity.

How can my child and I  create a game?

Doing so is easier nowadays with all the free resources available online (a heads-up that you might have to download some software). Below is a list of our 3 favorite websites for game making.


Lets you create different types of games from 8-bit arcade games and flash games such as puzzles, 3D adventures, and classic creator.  It is a drag-and drop interface, where you can drag pre-designed graphics and add pre-written coding.  It is a super easy–I created this game within 20 mins.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 5.47.32 PM




If they are more confident, they can create their own graphics through the graphic editor.

The best part is that child can share their work with friends and loved ones. The platform is free on computers and laptops. However, there is a fee of $1.99 for those downloading through the App Store and Google Play Store.

TIP: There are several Youtube tutorials videos for this game creator. For example: Jaction Rowe, a kid, created this video for the Retro arcade game creator. It is easy to follow and shows how child-friendly this game creator is.

Construct 2

This HTML game creator is an easy program that lets anyone design 2D games. Here is a mini preview:

It is super easy. The drag and drop design makes it child-friendly, which makes it perfect for users who are not familiar with creating graphics for the games. You can purchase add-on graphic packages for a small fee.

The limited Construct 2 is available for Free for Windows here. If you want to create applications for Android and Apple products, you will need to purchase the download for about $129.99. Of course they have also an Education discount for educators and schools (prices vary).

If you do not know what version of the program to get, check out the Compare Features section here.


This drag and drop interface makes it easy for anyone to make their own 2 dimensional game. Stencyl Starter download is free for Macs, Windows and Linux computers, and laptops. If your child is very invested, you can upgrade to Indie for $99.99 per year. Here is a preview and tutorial of how to make your own game.

You can build your own apps on multiple platforms such as Android and iOS. Download Stencyl Studio for a fee of $199.99 per year.

With these tools, you and your child have an opportunity to not only create, but build confidence. It’s also an opportunity to brag about your child genius and show off their digital creations to loved ones. Of course, you can show off on this blog post, too! Please feel free to comment below with a link to your child’s creations. And don’t feel like it’s only limited to your child–we’d love for you to share your work as well! Remember, Everyone is a Maker, so even adults can create their own games and learn.

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.

Catch Us at Lighthouse Mini Maker Faire

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. 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

Grass Valley’s Cohort 1 Maker Project Expo

Join us for our Maker Cohort 1 Project Expo, as they explore the question:

How can we, as food scientists, investigate ways to interact with food?


Hope to see you there!

Intention and Impact at Grass Valley’s Black History Month Family Maker Night

Previously Published on

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.


African American Innovators Invite
Maker VISTA members created the invitation for the event

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.



First-Grade student Maker
A third-grade student leads the lantern making station

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.

Maker Ed & AmeriCorps VISTA are the sponsors of the two Maker Ed VISTAs at Grass Valley Elementary School. For more information about applying for the Maker Ed VISTAs program, visit

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.