Apps for Makers

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?

The Foos Coding


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)

Lego Creator Islands

lego-creator-islands-on-the-app-storeDo 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

DIY  App- Creative Community for Kids


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

Robot School Programming for Kids

robot-school-programming-for-kids-free-on-the-app-storeKids 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.

Maker Ed Convening 2017

Our wonderful Makers from the Wonder Workshop will be holding a workshop and a quick talk at the 3rd Annual Maker Educator Convening: Impact and Outcomes of Maker Education: Empowering Youth and Educators on May 17, 2017 in San Francisco.

The Maker Educator Convening

highlight[s] the diverse outcomes of maker-centered learning for both educators and youth–not just in knowledge acquisition, but in the (co)development of knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions. At the convening, educators and practitioners will showcase the diverse ways maker education has impacted educator practice and youth learning. Additional goals include:

  • Connect both formal and informal maker educators
  • Share examples of the impact of maker education across various settings
  • Offer diverse formats to explore and discuss the impact and outcomes of maker education

Paula Mitchell will be leading a workshop titled “Authentic Inclusion and Hands-On Engagement: Empowering Special Education Students and Students of Color through Culturally Responsive Maker Centered Learning.”

Maker Empowerment and Visible Thinking have become integral to Grass Valley’s school culture and curriculum. Paula’s workshop will showcase Grass Valley’s best practices with regard to maker centered learning for students of color and special education students. Through the use of an Agency by Design thinking routine and discussion of best practices around culturally responsive Maker Education, participants will come away with tools to use with their students that will help expand their mindsets so they can become agents of change in their world.

Crystal Le and Maria Renteria will be hosting a 5-minute quick talk about “Unconventional Resources: Creative Capacity Building,” in which they will talk about gathering resources from unlikely places or groups.

We hope to share the wealth of knowledge we have gained since we officially launched the Wonder Workshop back in November. Unfortunately, since the date this blog was written, tickets are no longer on sale. However, it’s never too early to save the date for the future Maker Educator Convening, which we highly recommend you to attend. Follow the #MakerEdConvening to live twitter updates about the event.


Our world is what we make it

Featured Photo by

Meet 2 Makers behind the Wonder Workshop

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

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.