Summer Maker Days

A few months ago I was awarded a mini-grant from my school system’s Educational Foundation.  This organization gives scholarships to students within our school system, provides funding for various projects, as well as funding mini-grants for teachers within the county who write a grant proposal showing need for materials.  The proposal I wrote this year was Making Connections with Makerspaces in which I asked for $750.00 in materials that would be used during four Maker Days with students and parents from my school.  I would then keep the materials for Maker Days in our media center and have the materials available for check-out by teachers in my school.  I purchased the following materials from Amazon.com.

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Chromakey Green Screen Lighting Kit, Rory’s Story Cubes Complete Set, K’Nex Education (Elementary and Intermediate Math Sets), Lego Classic Medium Brick Box and Supplement Sets in Bright and Original, Snap Circuit and Snap Circuit, Jr, a Duct Tape Book and 16 rolls of duct tape, the littleBits Deluxe Kit, a Makey Makey, Magnetic Tile Building Set, and a Jewelry Making Kit.

I advertised the Maker Days through Facebook, the school’s website, and created a brochure to hand out at the Summer Parent Awareness session.  Yesterday was our first Summer Maker Day and I didn’t really know what to expect.  I created a challenge card for each station which listed the Basic Information about the station, materials needed and three challenges (easiest challenge listed first, followed by more difficult subsequent challenges).  At the bottom I included a suggested age range (with consideration for parent interaction), estimated amount of time needed to complete a challenge, as well as an overall difficulty level.  I created these levels based on where I knew my students were at the end of the year.

Doors opened at 2:00 and the first parent/student combo was there within 5 minutes.  It was a father and son who made a bee-line for the Lego station.  At the Lego station the challenges included reading a picture book and then using Lego to recreate the setting, their favorite part of the story, or creating an alternate ending to the story.  As you can see, the challenges increase in critical thinking, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and engineering abilities.  After spending about 15 minutes in the Lego station, the father/son duo headed to the K’Nex station and began building the Super Roller Coaster (not part of the grant, but a donation from my family friend).  By 2:30 pm, there were several families moving throughout the stations.

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Over the course of two hours, 23 people participated in the first Summer Maker Day.  There were no major issues and things seemed to run smooth throughout the course of the afternoon.  The only thing I plan to alter for next time is the location of the Green Screen.  I am going to put it in the tutor room of the media center to cut back on noise interference in the videos and put the green screen flush against the wall as it is a pretty thin backdrop and anything behind the curtain was visible when shooting the videos.

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The green screen, littleBits, Makey Makey, and Snap Circuit kits were the big hits of the day I believe.  I have some true green screen pros who will be helping me teach other students in our school how to create quality green screen productions when school starts back.  Our next Maker Day is in July, and each of these families said they would definitely be returning for it.  I’m looking forward to watching these days grow in popularity as word spreads about the quality time spent between student and parent.  My principal suggested doing a Maker Day for teachers to encourage usage of materials in the classroom and curricular connections.  I think the staff at my school will love these new materials!

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