#SOLC17: Maker Day – a new take on learning

The Slice of Life March Writing Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers – 31 days of  a writing community

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Today was Maker Day in our middle school.  A dedicated and talented group of our faculty acquired a range of materials for our students for our students to explore, learn, and make all kinds of “stuff” with: creating circuits, building race courses, programming animation, and learning how 3D printers work – there was chance to work with all of this and more.

My own learning and teaching world is steeped in reading and writing workshop, and even though I’ve read and heard a lot about MakerSpaces and the remarkable learning that goes on when kids get their hands on all kinds of cool tools, I’d never seen one in action.  More importantly, I’d never seen own  my students working in such a space – and doing so was quite a revelation.

I learned that some of the greatest risk avoiders in my classroom, the ones who want to know exactly how many lines to every paragraph and how many paragraphs there needed to be in whatever it was that we were writing, were the biggest risk takers in this new setting.  They approached each new maker space with enthusiasm and often did not bother to read the directions, preferring to dive right in and figure their way through. I was surprised to see that these students, the ones who want very explicit directions (ones that are repeated many times) in my classes, felt such a degree of freedom in this space.

I learned that students who were the first to say “I’m done!” in reading and writing workshop, were often the ones who just kept going in our maker spaces.  They kept reaching for new pieces to try out, new combinations to manipulate together, and new limits to test.

And I paid close attention to the vocabulary of this new learning space:

“I wonder what would happen if…?”

“How about if I tried it this way instead of what the diagram says to do?”

“What if I flipped the whole circuit around?”

“Well, it didn’t work that way so I’m going to try this way.”

“I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m gonna  keep trying new combinations.”

“This started out being one thing, but I thought ‘why stop there?’ and kept adding stuff – and look, I made this, which is way cool!”

This is the vocabulary of curiosity, wonder, perseverance, and risk taking: the vocabulary of growth mindset.  How to bring all of that, or some of that, into my classroom? Well, that is what I have been thinking about all day…and will be thinking about for days to come.

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11 thoughts on “#SOLC17: Maker Day – a new take on learning

  1. What a fantastic opportunity for your students! I’ve only heard good things about Maker Spaces, and (as a maker myself) look forward to trying one in my school soon. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  2. Fascinating post. Not really very surprising, though, is it? We’ve known about Learning Channels for a long time. I’m happy to hear that kids are still interested in exploration and discovery. Now that’s a revelation! I’d be interested to read about whatever ideas you can come up with to apply your insights to your teaching practice.

  3. It’s always fun to see our students through a new lens. And now, we’ll be waiting to see how you bring the “vocabulary of curiosity, wonder, perseverance, and risk taking: the vocabulary of growth mindset,” into your classroom space.

  4. How exciting it will be as you digest and make sense of your observations and how you can be inspired to engage those excited maker learners in your literacy classroom,
    Can’t wait to hear more friend…

  5. Intriguing, isn’t it? I’ve watched this happen with younger students. Definitely the element of choice plays a big part. In reading and writing our “building materials” are more abstract by their very nature. Perhaps if we can find ways to make some of it more tangible.. more physical than just paper & pencil / keys & screen for those students ? ? Hmmm …

  6. Sounds terrific that you had this. You know that this is what we did at my school, amidst all the other, and the fact that some excel at it in contrast to other activities is eye-opening. My daughter is a “maker”, learned how to wire things with her dad, knew about engines etc. She does the other things, too, but loves the 3-d “making”. I always thought it was how our brain “sees”. Love seeing your pictures!

  7. Wonderful learning opportunity for kids, and as you say for you too. Curious to hear how your thinking leads to changes, how you bring the growth mindset vocabulary more into your classroom

  8. Our students have different talents and multiple intelligences. It’s fun to see them in a different learning space. I look forward to finding out how you answer your burning question.

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