Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Creation Station: Year Intro

Hi Folks,

As most of you know, Village Elementary School is proud to have a MakerSpace.  Our "Creation Station" offers your class the space and supplies for students to think critically, collaborate, and choose how to demonstrate their learning through innovative creations. The motto of "Full STEAM Ahead" refers to our focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. (For those who are new, or just want to review, scroll to the bottom of this email for a full description of the Creation Station).)  

As we move forward this year, here are a few items to note:

  1. The Creation Station has undergone a thorough reorganization!  We’ll send out more info shortly to help you navigate the space.
  2. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Our goal as a MakerSpace Team this year is to eliminate the “overwhelming” feeling for staff by giving specific ideas for weaving making into the curriculum.  
  3. JOIN THE MAKERSPACE TEAM! Want to help guide the direction of the Creation Station and help spread the Maker Mindset at VES? Join our team!  So far, members are Annette Slone, Carolyn Dupre, Beth Burns, Pete Demeritt, Jenna LaRochelle-Parry, Michele Frietag, and Cynthia Keating.  We meet every other Friday (NOT breakfast/payday Friday) at 8:00 in the Creation Station.
  4. We’ll keep you posted on what’s going on in the space, awesome making that happens there, and news developments in STEAM Making around the world.  We can look forward to a staff meeting devoted to the Maker Mindset as well!
  5. Mrs. Dupre and Mrs. Burns are promoting the Maker Mindset within, and outside of, their library!  Stay tuned as they bring out the Maker in all of us!
  6. YOU have the power to schedule your class to use the space!  Visit our calendar and add it to your own so that you can add events.  The calendar can also be found by going to the VES Bluebook - Bluebook Table of Contents - Room Reservations - Creation Station.
  7. MAKING IS DIFFERENT FROM CRAFTING.  There is a time and a place for both, and we are lucky here in York to have admin who value of making as a vital part of learning!  (but by all means, you can make in your classroom as well!  Just allow students choice for how they learn or demonstrate skills!)  
    1. Here are some examples of making from last year:

Making                   vs.                  Crafting
Mindset:  Each child may choose how to demonstrate their learning.  Student plans design, materials to use, and construction.
Mindset:  Everyone makes the same thing, often with the same supplies.  Teacher usually plans steps or sets up station for the craft.
Output:  Projects vary greatly- often no two will be alike.  Results may look “messy”- you won’t be able to post a wall of the exact same perfect result, but students will love that their work is entirely their own!
Output:  Student projects created appear to follow the same format or steps.  Most look very similar if not completely alike. You’ll be able to display a wall full of uniform results.
Example of Making vs. Crafting
Learning Goal:  Show that you have learned the parts of an insect.
Example of making from last year: Using supplies in the Creation Station, each student constructs an insect using their own designs. (Requirements:  must demonstrate that an insect has a head, body, thorax, 6 legs, and 2 antenna.)
IMG_4063.JPGIMG_4045 2.JPG
Example of Crafting:
(this wasn’t observed; only included for purpose of comparison)
Every student glues 3 pompoms together for animal body and adds pipe cleaner legs and antennae
Clues that a class is “crafting:”
  • Teacher bought a bag of pom poms / popsicle sticks/ (insert other specific supply) to prepare.
  • Teacher checks the Creation Station to make sure there are enough _______ for every student.
  • Teacher gives clear directions for the craft.

Clues that a class is “making:”
  • Students may choose their own supplies.  (Keep in mind that you CAN put limits on a “Maker Project”, such as saying that “we’re only going to use supplies from THIS area” or “results today should be 2-D” (meaning use paper/felt, etc. and keep it flat).  OR, students may all need cups and markers for a doodlebot, but they don’t need to use the same cup and markers.  You may also come to the MakerSpace to all make journals that can be written in, but students would be allowed to choose HOW they construct and WHAT they use.
  • If one supply is used up, students creatively choose another that might work instead.
  • Teacher is clear with students about knowledge/learning that should be demonstrated through the students’ work.


Maker Mindset is one that you can embrace in your own classroom as well, and you might already be doing so!

Embrace a Maker Mindset in your classroom by doing the following:
  • Let students use blocks, art, or other manipulatives to design solutions to a problem
  • Offer opportunities to work on real world problems (Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers believe this starts in kindergarten)
  • Think PERSONALIZATION- allow students to choose learning paths based on their interests (Think about yourself- does your classroom have a theme?  You’ve embraced a topic that interests YOU!  I LOVED frogs, so my room was the “pond,” we earned critters, we “hopped into quagmires” of tough concepts, I taught by using frogs and toads as analogies, I formed interesting lead sentences to paragraphs about frogs… I had a passion for frogs, and I used it to promote learning.  What do your students love?  They can learn so much through their passions!)
  • Think PERSISTENCE- plan lessons where the outcome is uncertain, allow students to explore a concept rather than telling them about it directly
  • Allow students to grapple with a solution
  • Allow students to tinker/play- take things apart, construct things that your classroom needs, investigate new art supplies on their own to come up with guidelines for their usage...

Description of the Creation Station (written for the York Voter’s Guide- Spring 2016)- You’re welcome to add this to a newsletter to remind parents about our space.
The Creation Station is a MakerSpace at Village Elementary School.  Started in the Fall of 2015 as a revamp of the old computer lab, it exists to provide hands-on experiences where young minds, educators, and community members are inspired to wonder, explore, collaborate, problem solve, invent, and build.  The motto of "Full STEAM Ahead" refers to our focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. Three huge, rolling work tables provide plenty of surface for racing Doodlebots or building musical instruments.  Tubs and bins filled with upcycled materials like cardboard, beads, metal buckles, packing peanuts, fabric, and plastic bits feed the imagination and wind up glued, taped, or otherwise connected into all manner of inventions.  A class-set of iPads and 5 Chromebooks, as well as an interactive whiteboard, provide makers with the chance to write code or hunt for information needed to pursue a passion.  Activity options include a Tinker Table stocked with LEGOs and K’Nex, a Take-Apart Tech station, and a Green Screen set with iPad movie mount.  As it grows, the Creation Station intends to feature and host local Makers, welcome volunteers to assist with class visits, and pursue collaboration opportunities with other schools and community members. Through the collaboration of staff, and community members, the Creation Station has enabled many extensions to the classroom curriculum and will continue to do so!

Please reach out if you’d like to be a member of the Creation Station Team.

How will your class MAKE their year awesome?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Labels For All That STUFF!

Donations are an amazing boon to a MakerSpace!  Without a working budget (all our finances have come from grants thus far), we wouldn't survive without the "stuff" given to us by families and community members.  Excitingly, this is elementary school, and children figure out a way to use just about every recycled item that enters our doors, making it worth the work to sort it all.  It is worth finding a way to organize all of these donations that makes them easily available for makers between the ages of 5-8, but we're swiftly finding that this is MUCH easier said than done!

A huge part of fostering a "growth mindset" in children (a MAJOR goal for an elementary makerspace) is empowering student decision making.  Therefore, supplies need to be organized in a way that puts responsibility in the students' court.   Students should be making decisions about what supplies they'll need for a given project.   It should then follow that if THEY got the stuff out for themselves, then THEY understand the need to put it back and should make decisions about where the stuff should be go.  This is vital if we want students to take ownership in keeping the space neat and clean.  HOWEVER, and herein lies the rub- if we expect students to put items away, then the items must be organized in a way that makes sense, and often in a way that doesn't depend on excessive amounts of text on labels and signs to tell students where things should go.  So, we're working our way through the process of organizing and labeling our supplies to facilitate these processes.

(There it is again!  Can you hear how starting a MakerSpace IS a MakerSpace project?  There are quite a few places where we need to stop and reflect, or "think really hard about how to make it better," as the new Class Dojo video series explains for us.)

When we started our Take-Apart Tech Station, it was clear that we would need to label the technology that was OKAY to take apart.  Our working iPads and Chromebooks need to stay in one piece.


In much the same way, we need to label bins in a way that shows what items are okay to use and take home, and what items need to remain in the space.  For example, random wooden beads and blocks are consumable, but the bin of Matchbox cars is not- they need to stay and be available for testing ramps and such.


Some items are easy to label.  The word "consumable" clearly says that an item can be used up, so we use that on our labels of stuff kids CAN use up and take home.  Consumable items have labels that look the same- they say "Consumable Supplies" in green, which students are coming to recognize even if they can't read very well.  So far, so good.


Now we need to decide how to clearly mark the items that need to REMAIN in the space and NOT be used up.  We're wrestling with what words, or colors, or symbols should carry the meaning of being a permanent fixture in the space.  The decisions don't stop there.  Other labeling may also be needed, which we're discovering as issues arise:

  • Should we put clear directions on the bin of glue guns that state that cords must be rewound?  
  • Do we need to label pencils as NOT being consumable?  (We thought they would obviously be a TOOL that stays, but alas, half of our pencils have already ended up glued into projects.)   
  • Our tables, which are fantastically large and on rollers BUT are unfinished wood, are getting marked and painted up.  Should we put labels or signs in the middle of our tables that remind people to put a work mat down when using markers, glue, etc?
  • What items need to at least be labeled with our name, "Creation Station," so that they don't wander away into other classrooms?  Teachers are busy and have pockets, so often will mindlessly snag something like scissors and never realize they swiped it.
  • How should cleaning supplies be labeled so that people use them, and use them appropriately?  For that matter, how do we post visual reminders to clean up?

All of these issues would we easier if our space was staffed by the same person who could reiterate the expectations to class after class, but we don't have that luxury.

So we plod on, excitedly mind you, since we wouldn't have these issues if we didn't have this new MakerSpace.  If we want the space to be sustainable, the development of clear labeling and signage should be a focus.  Well HEY- we have a growth mindset!  We just haven't figured these issues out YET!


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Raid the Recycling: The Value of Consumables in the Creation Station

On her Renovated Learning blog, Diana Rendina recently posted an article entitled Make and Takes: Let Students OWN the Learning.  What a valuable reminder that MakerSpaces don't necessarily have to be stocked with the most expensive tools!  Sometimes repurposing things like cardboard, toilet paper rolls, and other consumables in a make & take creation can build more enthusiasm amongst students and families than anything else!  It's like sending home an advertisement for making!

This year at our K-2 school, students have created the following take-homes:

  • musical instruments that they played during the culminating fiesta for the Mexico studies 
  • alebrijes- students drew their own alebrijes in art and then created a 3-D sculpture in the MakerSpace
  • snow sleds to go with their Pushes and Pulls science unit (these even carried passengers down the hill- someone had donated a box of action figures!)
  • their own rendition of Chinese dragons (both individual and a collaborative class dragon for a parade)
  • scene / object depicting their own invented celebration or tradition of winter
  • their own rendition of Chinese lanterns (none of those "trace and cut on the lines" paper lanterns around here!)
  • newspaper towers used in a competition to see which team could build a tower to hold the most books
  • ... and more

I'm now getting quite a few parents who tell me that their child has started using what used to be trash and recycling containers to make creations at home!

In the back of my mind, I think the most wonderful thing about using recycled consumable items is that it evens the socioeconomic playing field!  Your family doesn't have to purchase expensive 3-D printers or Snap Circuits to foster a Maker Mentality!  Along those lines, a school that doesn't have plentiful funds can STILL have a great MakerSpace!

Chinese Dragon

Chinese Lantern






Monday, February 8, 2016

New Bin, Signs, and Tools

3 things everyone may want to know about the MakerSpace:

1) We have a "WHERE DO THESE GO?" bin!

  • This is where you can plunk any random item for which you cannot find a perfect home.
  • We are in NO way advocating for not cleaning up and putting items back from whence they came,but there are times when that ONE BIN out of 100 won't jump out at you, your kids need to get to P.E. at the same time as you're being summoned because a parent is picking their child up, but you want to save face😇 and leave the Creation Station as spotless as you found it (okay, don't laugh)... you know- THOSE times.  Just plop the items in this bin.
  • If ANYONE (parent volunteers, STUDENTS WHO FINISH EARLY, middle school kids...) has time to help out, we would 💙love💙 them for finding a few of these items a home.
2) Use these signs to keep your projects safe:
  • ​Tape one on to any project that you need to leave in the space. THEY HAVE 2 SIDES.
    • Use the FINISHED PROJECT WAITING FOR PICK-up side if you are coming back to pick it up at a later time/date.
    • Use the UNDER CONSTRUCTION side if you want to work on your stuff again and don't want anyone to mess with it.
  • They're on the metal shelf (for now) under the "Where do these go?" bin.
  • Please help remind students to respect the wishes of other people and refrain from touching projects that don't belong to them.
3) We have NEW TOOLS thanks to a grant from the Rotary!

We will keep you posted about what tools will be available to students while using the space, and how we will keep them stored and organized.

Creation Station Logo

Ashley Norman's Graphic Design class has created our logo!
  • Students presented us with 18 different logo options, and we are currently in the process of voting on the best match for the Creation Station!



  • Once we've decided on a logo:
    • we'll use it on Creation Station correspondence, labels for the bins, grant requests, and in so many other ways!  
    • Jenna LaRochelle, the art teacher at Village Elementary, will lead students in creating an artistic rendition of the logo to put in the hallway outside the space
    • we'll coordinate the color scheme of our website, and perhaps the space itself, to the colors in the logo
We're basically branding our MakerSpace with the intention of bringing it to life and establishing its existence for many years to come!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Chinese Dragons

Mrs. Crafts's First Grade class visited the Creation Station today 
to make their own version of a Chinese Dragon.  
The results were so diverse!