Feeling the fear and doing it anyway – my foray into the world of maker education

Our mound of cardboard

I’ve never been the type that has been good at building things with my hands. Being barely able to write my name legibly, constructing things and making objects of art was something that other teachers did.

Outside of the milk bottle igloo, I really hadn’t done much work on physically creating things.  Most of my classroom creations were digital because I lacked the skills to conjure up creations out of trash or make lovely

While I was at ISTE I stumbled into a session on maker education by Sylvia Libow Martinez and  Gary Stager and was transfixed. I immediately bought their book, Invent to Learn. The book confirmed a lot of my own thoughts about teaching, that kids will do amazing things when they are relevant and significant to them.

After reading the book, I quickly realised the problem wasn’t that I lacked the technical know-how, it was that I hadn’t sold the children on the purpose of what we were doing.

As if by luck, I saw a series tweets coming out of #NISTthink about the global cardboard challenge. With our new unit of inquiry coming up I thought rather than a traditional ‘tuning in’ activity, why not turn the traditional inquiry cycle on its head and start the unit of with some creative action. So instead of the usual tuning activities of listing types of transport on postits we decided to have a buildathon with a transport theme using bits of cardboard, drink bottles and other packaging lying around the children’s homes.

A finished produc

I did some research and remembered hearing the story about Caine and his arcade. Caine was the same age as many of my students yet his idea had touched so many people.  Creativity in action was our big idea that Friday to set the scene. The children were immediately enthused and were desperate to have a turn at making their own games so that’s what we did for the last 20 minutes on Friday.

At the end of the session there more questions than answers.

How did Caine get so famous?

Can we do that again?

Rather than the children exhibiting the usual signs of tiredness typical of kids last period on a Friday afternoon the students were energised and inquisitive.

Our phase cleared our timetable as much as we could to devote an entire day to building transport in class. As we were getting started, some of the kids suggested that we should all watch part 2 of Caine’s arcade.

Clearly the children had been interested in the story that they had gone home to independently research more about Caine.

We divided up our research, I gave each team in my class an iPad and they went to work.

iPads as tools to be put down when not in use

What was amazing about the day was that most of the issues around the use of the iPad weren’t that they were were being misused for games but… wait for it..  the kids kept leaving the iPads on the ground. The technology had become just another learning tool. The children were picking up their iPads in order to do a specific job: recording a wow moment, researching designs for their transport and then… believe it or not… they put the iPad back down wherever it was they were working.

The results of the children’s learning that day was phenomenal. We had a car that imagined a car that drives you while you are asleep, an alligator submarine. Children were able to build wheels that spun and cars with doors that opened. One group of year 3s built a cable car which is now suspended across their classroom.

More importantly, I witnessed a change in after school routine. Usually the kids rush out the door to see their parents and head home from school.  Instead, the children were desperately pulling their parents into class to gush about what they had created during the day.

What better advertisement is there for maker education than that?

People inside the cable car


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