Sunday, November 22, 2015

MakerSpace Simple Machines

The Rowdy Kids in 3 love our classroom MakerSpace. Although this type of space for older students might include 3D printers, saws and soldering irons, my third graders have a closet stocked with duct tape, yarn, stickers, paint pens, feathers, legos, blocks and any other craft supply I happen to find on clearance. It also includes trash, lots of trash. Anything destined for the recycling bin is rescued for our MakerSpace closet. My students bring in old boxes, bubble wrap and plastic containers from home, and it isn't uncommon for other adults at the school to drop off interesting packaging.

When I made the move from Kindergarten to third grade, I was struck by how little crafting of any type students are exposed to after Kindergarten or first grade. Besides adding a drawing to a paragraph, their creative expression beyond creative writing was almost nonexistent. I noticed the students loved to draw during free time, so I started gathering other supplies. Soon we had a large pile of odds and ends. Our facilities manager brought me a large Rubbermaid container to keep it in. As the students brought in more items, the container could no longer contain the mess and their current works in progress. Some mornings it was obvious the custodians had been given clear instructions to keep our pile in check. I added a sign that said, "THIS IS NOT TRASH. IT IS A PILE OF POSSIBILITIES!" At the end of the school year, we learned that third grade would move into another building. The new classroom had a closet and much more storage space. I think it was an attempt to give me space to organize the rowdy kids' mess.

My students often ask to "makerspace" during any free time. With pressure to master so many standards, free time is rare. I begin looking for ways to utilize our MakerSpace across our curriculum. Every time we use our MakerSpace it makes a terrible mess. It takes far longer than simply asking students to draw a picture. Parents are often puzzled by the strange creations their students proudly bring home. I believe the benefits of allowing students to plan and create on a regular basis, far outweigh these drawbacks. Makezine has a great article with information on MakerSpaces at MakeZine MakerSpace.

Last week during our unit on simple machines, I assigned student groups a type of simple machine. Each group was tasked with creating an example of a simple machine. It didn't have to be a full scale or working model, it just had to show me that the students understood their assigned type of simple machine. I'm including pictures of my students' creations because I want it to be obvious that these are not professional models of simple machines. I will accept almost anything a student can defend based on the skills being taught. I love nothing better than a noisy, messy classroom full of engaged students.  If you would like to try this in your class, check out my Simple Machines Maker Activity on TeachersPayTeachers. It includes a reading passage, vocabulary, and paragraph writing assignment.

Light Bulb
One student noticed plastic cups
have threads like a screw.
Balloon Car