When is a duck not just a duck? When it is used as the intro to engaging kids in open-ended, hands-on learning, such as the approaches I learned about yesterday in my Maker Space session. Our introductory activity consisted of a bag of Legos and the simple directive to construct a duck. Of course without a model or step-by-step directions, our ducks looked very different from one attendee to the next. The point, of course, was that today’s learning should not be recipe-like directions with one correct final product in mind, but rather learning that allows for creativity, inspiration, and many “right” answers.
We were able to try four different hands on maker space centers in the workshop. I found a couple of them very interesting – e-textiles and Makey Makey.
In e-textiles, we were given baggies of felt, fabric stickers, scissors, an LED light, a battery and a battery holder. Accessory materials included conductive and non-conductive thread, needles, and things like buttons. We were tasked with making something out of our fabric and stickers, and illuminating it. As it was a tutorial we began with some step-by-step instructions about color-coding the shorter leg of the LED light and the negative terminal on the battery holder, but from there we got creative. On person in my group made a flower, another turned theirs into a minion. I grabbed an extra LED and made a smiley face with two glowing blue eyes.
The second maker space activity I enjoyed was Makey Makey. Check out Makeymakey.com for a video about it. In Makey Makey, you get a kit with a mini circuit board and some alligator clips, which can connect to your computer with a USB cord. The idea is that for simple programs with keyboard commands (think piano programs, Mario, even typing) you can substitute any conductive material for the keys by alligator clipping it to the same port on the Makey Makey circuit. The circuit board has arrow keys, space, and letter and numeric ports. We used fruit, and turned strawberries and apples into space bars and arrow keys, which we then were able to play music on with a piano-playing program. I even had a teammate hold a clip, and hit (really gently tapped) him for one of the notes. By the end, we were holding multiple pieces of fruit to make chords, and had sounded out a somewhat accurate rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
I am left with interest, but also questions. I think there is great opportunity in establishing maker spaces in schools and allowing kids the freedom to engineer creatively. My question, I think, is where it fits into our curricular goals. Maker education might encompass some of the NGSS standards and Maine’s Guiding Principles for creative problem solving, communication, and so on, but can we tie it specifically to content standards of knowledge and skill? I am curious what people think, and hope that there is a way to embed this type of learning for more than just choice or flex time for students who have the opportunity.