Months of work and planning culminated last week in the MAKERSPACE KICKOFF at the elementary school. It went off without a hitch. Here are some pictures:
I will say, the word “Kickoff” might be a wee bit of an exaggeration, if it implies that the Makerspace is completely ready to go. The room is getting painted today, I need to add some more shelves and some locking storage, and the Makedos and Skallops are out of stock. There is a lot more to do, but the Kickoff event was a huge success and a great starting point. Want to do a Kickoff of your own? Here are my tips.
- Get help planning – Julie Graber was my great partner-in-crime from the AEA. I couldn’t have done it without her. If possible, get some on-campus help, too. My principal was a full partner, but he’s a busy guy and I couldn’t exactly spent fifteen minutes a day debating whether Squishy Circuits or Snap Circuits were the way to go, or if the room should be painted in canary yellow or lemon yellow. It would have been nice to have someone here every day – a teaching partner or para (mine was having a baby!) – to bounce ideas.
- Plan early – Those of you who know me know that this isn’t exactly a strength of mine, but it is what it is. In the fall, I did go to see Iowa State’s “Flextruck” (a portable setup taken around to schools by some folks at ISU’s College of Design with virtual reality and other tech tools) with the elementary and high school principals, and we got on their calendar early, then built the Kickoff around that. I also applied for and received the ITEC/Mediacom Grant, so that kept me honest as far as planning goes.
- Be flexible – We had eight stations total, but after Thursday with grades 3-6, I realized that some of the stations were just too difficult for the K-2 kids coming the next day. We switched out Paper Circuitry for 3D building, with Skallops and cards (borrowed from another school), straws and connectors, and tanagrams (the last two borrowed from the preschool teacher). We got rid of Cardboard Challenge (not that young kids can’t build with cardboard, of course, but our quantity of “clean” cardboard was diminishing and getting students to build for a purpose – making a game – wasn’t really working in such large groups). The coding station went fine for grades 3-6, with students using CodeMonkey, but it was a stretch on Friday. Kindergarten classes were the last two session of the day, and the high school helpers begged me to change it up. To what? I wondered. They knew –> Minecraft. We got that set up and it went perfectly.
- Enlist lots of volunteers – We had over 40 high school students who came over on Thursday or Friday to help out all day. We seriously couldn’t have done this without them. I told them that they may have noticed that I never sent out an all-call email asking for help – I asked for them specifically, because I knew them and I knew they were people I could count on. Only 2 students who I asked said no, and seriously, they were starring in the musical that night. We also had some parent volunteers, old friends of mine, specials teachers when they were without classes, our tech guy, and more help from the AEA. Then there are the people who weren’t there but helped immensely, like my library assistant at the high school. I definitely couldn’t have done this without her! (I say that a lot, I know. But it’s true.)
- Here is our schedule, so you get an idea of what our days looked like. I know of some schools that let students decide which stations to go to, so there were a variety of grade levels together. We didn’t do that, instead, classes stayed together all day, going to different stations. All classes saw the ISU Flextruck but the 3-6 classes each missed a couple of stations through the rotation. We’ll hit those up in Library/Tech class.
- You may be like I was, wondering how we could possibly get people on board with giving up a whole day for this event. We met with teachers early this year to discuss the idea of Makerspace, and we kept the idea front and center. I wrote about it in the school newsletter to get parents interested, and I just kept my focus this year on Makerspace. I’ve been a bit like a broken record – “A Makerspace is a community center with tools . . . “
We’re certainly not done. As I said, everything needs to get in place, and we need to start presenting challenges to be fixed. We’re also building a Makerspace at the high school. I know what I’m doing this summer!