Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to Top

To Top

2014 November



In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Notes From the Makerspace: Your Role

On 27, Nov 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

I was totally baffled when someone asked me at the beginning of the makerspace what curriculum we would be using. That implied, at least to me, that there was some series of activities and standards and skills I would teaching to the kids. I know not all curriculums are teacher- or skill-driven, but I wasn’t quite sure what using a curriculum would mean for me. So, what exactly is the role of the adult in the Makerspace? After working in the makerspace and seeing how other people run theirs I think the answer is, it depends.

A big part of your role will be determined by your personality. Personally, I can handle a lot of noise, chaos, and questions flying fast and furiously. I let the kids come in and get to work on whatever it is that strikes their fancy. I can help teach them skills (if I have them) or find someone who can. I help hold things here and glue things there. If that kind of thing bothers you, you may want to be more strategic in how you set up the makerspace. You’ll also want to have more planned activities where you can lead a group or groups of kids and keep a lid on the chaos.

Another factor is what the purpose of your makerspace is. Mine is to expose kids to new experiences, tools and materials and let them go. If you want to do some more formalized making then your role is going to be a lot more proscribed. You might set up an activity before each session and take the kids through it or, at the least, monitor their progress through it.

Your role can also be determined by the kids in your space. Are they younger or older? Do they need more or less prompting? Do they need a lot of hand holding? Do they need a lot of help learning how to use the tools? My kids are younger and while they don’t usually need help coming up with ideas they do need help using the saw (they aren’t tall enough to get good leverage to cut). Sometimes they get stuck and need a little help moving past a roadblock. All that means I’m more hands-on than someone who might be working with high schoolers might be.

Finally your space may play a role in determining what you do. Larger spaces may be more conducive to having a lot of projects going at once. Whereas a smaller space may require you to run a tighter ship. And if you have to set up specific activities for a smaller space you may have to keep the kids reigned in and give them more direct instruction.

As it is, I run our makerspace out of boxes that have to get unpacked and repacked each day. So part of my role is to keep us contained and set things out so the kids can actually use the materials. I help them out when they ask, especially with tricky or unfamiliar materials and tools. I also set up a little provocation each day to inspire, intrigue, and entice the kids. But mostly I’m there to keep an eye on things, make sure they have the things they need to be creative, and get out of their way.

Tags |



In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Middle Grade Review: The Greenglass House by Kate Milford

On 26, Nov 2014 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

GreenglassThe Greenglass House by Kate Milford

From GoodReads: A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet’s Chasing Vermeer series.

It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House-and themselves.

This book totally knocked my socks off. I love a good solid mystery, but this had so much more.

One of the great things about the mystery was kids got sh*t done. Milo takes on this role in a role playing game that he and his new friend Meddy connect to real life and it turns out he’s pretty good at getting to the bottom of mysteries. But he isn’t a super genius and he doesn’t have super powers. He just thinks through things logically and notices little details. Since they’re in his house and he doesn’t like change, he notices when things have moved or been tampered with. Nothing magical here. Even better, the grown ups aren’t treated as imbeciles who need some genius kid to come in and set them straight. Most of them have secrets and Milo’s parents have their hands full of caring for 5 (and eventually 8) unexpected guests during a severe snowstorm. They’re busy or are too involved with their own agendas and don’t have time to sneak around the house solving mysteries.

Being trapped in an inn this isn’t exactly a fast-paced, high suspense mystery. In fact the mystery is really a device that leads to soul searching for a lot of the people involved. Milo is adopted and, being Chinese, looks nothing like his white parents. Milo isn’t angst-y about being adopted, but he is curious, a little confused, and feels guilty for feeling those emotions since he does love his adoptive parents. There are a lot of layers here for Milo to work through and the role playing game Meddy introduces him to gives Milo an outlet for exploring having a parent that looks like him. It also gives him permission to imagine what his biological father could have been like. It’s interesting to see how Milo takes the folklore he reads, the role playing game, the stories the guests tell, and the information about the inn that comes to light and interprets it all through the lens of a confused, adopted kid.

The adults are all also fairly fleshed out and some of them are quite the characters. All of them are not at the inn by coincidence, but arrived looking for information about its history. None of them are forthcoming with this information and it forms the basis for the mystery. As it turns out, while the information all of them are seeking is interconnected, it is still separate.

There is also a thread of friendship as the guests come together to tell stories and are brought together by the information they are seeking. Most of them do not leave friends, but do leave with a greater sense of tolerance and understanding. Milo, who was looking forward to a Christmas vacation alone with his parents, comes to accept the guests and feel for them. He also builds a friendship with Meddy and learns to work with her as a team through the role playing game.

So I have to say there is a huge twist very near to the end. I’m not going to spoil it, but I wanted to talk around it a bit. I totally did not see it coming until the last possible second. It’s a device I’ve seen employed in other mysteries so maybe people who read mysteries more than I do will see it sooner. Maybe not. However, the times I have seen it used it often feels like a really cheap trick. That was not at all the case here. It was very masterfully done. Well played, Milford, well played.

Greenglass House would be a good one for kids who enjoyed The Westing Game or even Blue Balliet’s mysteries. While its length and slower pacing make it feel more like a middle grade novel (6th-8th grade) I could certainly see a strong 4th or 5th grader loving this too.

Tags | , , ,



In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Middle Grade Review: The Cabinet of Curiosities

On 25, Nov 2014 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

CabinetThe Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief and Sinister by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne, illustrations by Alexander Jansson

From GoodReads: A collection of thirty-six eerie, mysterious, intriguing, and very short short stories presented by the cabinet’s esteemed curators, otherwise known as acclaimed authors Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire LeGrand, and Emma Trevayne. Perfect for fans of Alvin Schwartz and anyone who relishes a good creepy read-alone or read-aloud story. Features an introduction and commentary by the curators, and illustrations and decorations throughout.

Ignore the discrepancy between the number of stories on the picture of the cover and the title and description here. The copy I have says 36 (although it felt like a lot more, in a good way), not sure what the deal with that is.

I had really mixed feelings about this book. At its heart, it’s a collection of deliciously creepy, wonderfully macabre stories. I love short stories, especially creepy ghost stories, and I think they are excellent choices for kids with little time or little inclination to read. These stories are really engaging and they are short (the longest I recall was 25 pages). The language isn’t dense so the pages fly by. But the book is almost 500 hundred pages. You’re going to need to do a lot of convincing to get those kind of kids to pick this up or you’ll need to hand it to a serious reader. Actually, I think most kids will need a lot of convincing to pick up a 500 page book.

I loved how they were grouped into stories around themes: luck, travel, flowers, tricks, etc. That makes the book feel cohesive even though it’s really a collection of unconnected short stories. But, the concept of it being a cabinet of curiosities that then included letters from the “curators”, really the authors, to each other was kind of odd and oddly executed. The stories themselves sounded very modern and often included references to cell phones, the Internet and pop culture (although nothing that will make this sound so dated in five years). Sometimes they had vaguely historical settings and fantastical kingdoms, but they never sounded old-fashioned.

The letters between the curators, though, I think are supposed to be modern but employed this stilted, vaguely Victorian sounding dialect and writing style. They call each other “my dear curators” and the like, and sprinkle in words like “alas” and phrases like “particularly fond” and employ an oddly formal syntax. Not only did that feel silly to me (and this could be me as an adult reader who reads and likes Victorian literature reading a kid’s book) it felt very jarring when paired with the stories. It was hard to understand exactly what they meant by the “cabinet of curiosities”. At times there are references to rooms, then drawers (not necessarily in rooms), a building, and a museum. I know what cabinets of curiosities were in the Victorian era, but this didn’t feel like that. I found myself skipping the letters and just reading the stories. Would a kid have trouble with this, I don’t know? Should they read this? Yes, especially if they love creepy stories.

Nothing struck me as particularly gory or inappropriate for upper elementary, but this could be enjoyed well into middle school maybe even lower high school depending on the tastes of the reader. Wish I had had this book as a kid and despite my complaints will be buying a copy to keep on my shelf.

Tags | , ,



In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Kidlit Review: The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan

On 24, Nov 2014 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

IridescenceThe Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse written by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper

From GoodReads: If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France, what would your life be like? Would it be full of color and art? Full of lines and dancing figures?  Find out in this beautiful, unusual picture book about one of the world’s most famous and influential artists by acclaimed author and Newbery Medal-winning Patricia MacLachlan and innovative illustrator Hadley Hooper.

WIridescence 2hat a lovely picture book. Our whole family enjoyed this one. For all of us it was the illustrations. Matisse is such a sweet, dreamy looking boy. The illustrations have this 1950s/60s feel to them which I think is part the color schemes used and part the technique. The pictures are so simple yet their bold lines and colors really make the ideas contained in the words pop off the page. The story is quiet and a bit meandering, but captures the feel of a dreamy childhood. It’s such an enticing book.

I love the idea of introducing young children to famous and important people and I think the picture book makes a wonderful way to do this, especially with artists. I think it is done especially well in The Iridescence of Birds because you see Matisse as a boy in his rather ordinary home and city. I think kids could easily see his inspirations in their own lives after reading this.

Some of Matisse’s works are woven into the illustrations which I think helps connect the reader to his adult, working life and shows children where his creative influences led. But I don’t think the point of the book is to tell kids exactly who he was, simply to give them exposure, pique their interest, and inspire them.

Iridescence 1I was especially taken with how Hooper introduces the adult Matisse when the book turns to his painting. Boy Matisse is always in the picture with adult Matisse keeping that connection to what is essentially a story about an artistic child. Even the cover has adult Matisse seen through a set of doors similar to those you see young Matisse through. Their paring is a visual reminder of where the grown-up artist came from. I love that the first introduction of Matisse as a man is this one to the left with the two of them on the ladder, boy Matisse looking sweetly at his older self. Even his pose on the ladder is such a kid pose- leaned back a bit and up on tiptoes.

There is a lovely note at the end that talks about Matisse’s mother who was quite influential on him as an artist, inspiring and encouraging him.

Although very different in illustration style, you could pair this with Yuyi Morales’ Viva Frida which also explores artistic inspiration.

Tags | , ,



In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Notes From the Makerspace: Provocations

On 20, Nov 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

One place my makerspace struggles is keeping the kids engaged when they are in between projects or, especially, when they are waiting for help or materials. Part of this has to do with the ages of the kids in the makerspace. They’re young (second and third grade primarily) and while I wish they could be totally independent they can’t be. A second grader sometimes needs help sawing or setting up the drill.

I found an inspired solution to this problem in one of the makerspace presentations I went to at the CUE fall conference. The presenter said she sets up little activities for the kids (more on your role and curriculum in the makerspace in next week’s post), but that the instructions should fit on a post-it if you need them at all.

In Reggio classrooms teachers set up what they call provocations. These are little set-ups with materials and context that hint at what kids can do with the materials, but still allows for some interpretation and individual exploration. Drawing on this, I decided to start this practice in the makerspace. Kids can go there if they are bored, if they are waiting, if they need inspiration, if it looks interesting or I may send them there if they are off task (I haven’t actually done that yet and I don’t want to make it a punishment, but there are a couple friends that may need some specific redirecting).

I came across this article on the Inquire Within blog about how creativity and passion can’t happen on demand. It’s a lot more organic than that. I totally agree with this article and how it advocates for having creativity and passion built into the day in all lessons, however, sometimes you only have the allotted time to build and work with materials, as we do in the makerspace. I like to use the provocations to expose the kids to ideas and concepts and help get them into a maker mindset.

Some provocations we’ve done so far:

  • Take apart: old laptop, set of tiny screwdrivers
  • Hammering & Drilling: table full of wood scraps clamped down, bowls of nails and screws, drills, hammers, and drill bits
  • More exploring buoyancy: Can you make boat that will float? Supplies: tub of water, bin of Legos
  • Exploring buoyancy: Can you make a boat that will float? Try different shapes and sizes. Supplies: tub of water, bowl of tiny aquarium stones, roll of aluminum foil
  • Markers and graph paper
  • Marshmallow challenge: Build the tallest, most stable structure you can in 18 minutes. You can make teams or work together. Supplies: 1 marshmallow, 20 spaghetti noodles, 1 yard tape (masking), 1 yard string, kitchen timer
  • Slime Kitchen Recipes: Here’s my list, recipes, and planning for this one. The link will open a pdf in a new window. It’s a little longer and more involved than the others and was driven by the kids starting out using up all our glue, glitter, and some cornstarch and water.



Tags | , , ,



In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Middle Grade Review: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale

On 19, Nov 2014 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

DonnerNathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale

From GoodReads: The Donner Party expedition is one of the most notorious stories in all of American history. It’s also a fascinating snapshot of the westward expansion of the United States, and the families and individuals who sacrificed so much to build new lives in a largely unknown landscape. From the preparation for the journey to each disastrous leg of the trip, this book shows the specific bad decisions that led to the party’s predicament in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The graphic novel focuses on the struggles of the Reed family to tell the true story of the catastrophic journey.

Being a native Californian I remember studying the Donner Party. Being from Sacramento I have been to Sutter’s Fort (the destination of the Donner Party) on many occasions. At the fort they have Patty Reed’s doll, a tiny doll Patty brought with her and kept with her through the whole ordeal. The Donner Party story is incredibly grizzly and, even as an adult reading this book I learned a ton of information about it. I think being a kid I heard a much shortened and sanitized version of the story, plus it’s been years since I studied it.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, the party, consisting of several families, took a “short cut” on their way out west. It was difficult, nearly killed them and put them way behind schedule. When they reached the pass over the Sierra Nevada mountains, a pass that now bears the name Donner Pass, they became snowed in. Weather that winter was particularly harsh, but it’s also at a very high altitude which receives a lot of snow. It shuts down several times a winter even now with roads and snow machines. Stuck up in the Sierras with little food, the party loses a lot of people and has to resort to cannibalism. Only 48 of the original 87 eventually make it to Sacramento, but not after an incredibly harrowing journey.

Nathan Hale doesn’t hold back and while that might make this book not such a great fit for the faint of heart, it does make it a fantastic book. Plus, it’s a graphic novel (no, there aren’t any pictures of them actually butchering or eating people). The narrative structure has a man about to be hanged telling the story to a soldier and the hangman which adds some humor and much needed breaks from the action of the story. The story itself appears to be very well researched. There were a lot of details I didn’t know and a few I had forgotten. I was very surprised to learn how many of the party were actually eaten (the number now escapes me, but more than 10). I also didn’t realize how many rescue parties left from the camp and tried to reach the camp. And how many were really unsuccessful.

Such a tragic tale, but told in such an engaging way. Like Steve Sheinkin’s books these are historical books kids will want to read. If you have a fourth grader (the grade when you traditionally study state history) who is really interested and has a strong constitution then I would certainly say they could read it. For those chicken-hearted kids (that was me!!) save it for middle school…or adulthood. I’m kinda creeped out by it even now.

Tags | , ,



In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Kidlit Review: Hatshepsut of Egypt by Shirin Yim Bridges

On 18, Nov 2014 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

HatshepsutHatshepsut of Egypt (The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses) written by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by Albert Nguyen

From GoodReads: When explorers first chipped a hole through a wall and shined a light into Tutankhamun’s tomb, everything it touched glinted with gold and gleamed with silver. The boy-king so surrounded by this treasure would become one of the most famous names in history. But it was a less-famous princess who had accumulated a lot of the wealth that was buried in that tomb. Her name was Hatshepsut. How did she make Egypt so rich? And how did she come to be buried, like Tutankhamun, in the Valley of the Kings? This book brings to life the story of a real and remarkable princess who had the nerve to declare herself Pharaoh.

First off I hate that the description from the publisher has to compare Hatshepsut to King Tut. This is supposed to be about princesses. Also Hatshepsut is pretty famous being the only female pharaoh and all. Egypt is filled with really, really amazing artifacts and history of which Tut is a tiny (albeit famous) sliver. Let’s stop making such a BFD out of him and look at some people who actually ruled and did stuff.

In terms of content the book was fine. It didn’t get into a lot of detail so I think it would be better for kids with a passing interest in Egypt (and who may simply be interested in history), kids who want to read the whole Real Princess series and aren’t looking for something in-depth about Hatshepsut, or kids who are just getting interested in Ancient Egyptian history. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Just don’t make this the focus of your Ancient Egyptian history collection or the sole book in it.

I wish there had been more about daily life and life of Egyptian royalty, maybe even religion, but it was light on much beyond a semi-fictionalized story of Hatshepsut’s life. I think there was opportunity for a little information about Egyptology and the archaeology in the region, especially as pertains to how we know all this stuff about Hatshepsut. For example, the discovery of her mummy (kind of a big deal!) was dealt with in a sentence or two with no explanation why it took so long, what the tomb she was found in was all about and why she wasn’t found in her own tomb.

What I wasn’t so happy with was the overall look of the book. To me, it screams educational publication. I don’t see any kid, besides the die-hard Egypt fan, picking this up on their own and since the content is fairly light I would say they’ll be disappointed. On the cover, why is she standing with the Sphinx and the pyramids? Those predate Hatshepsut by a thousand years and her temple is incredibly impressive, why not show pictures of that?

Inside the graphics are not especially appealing. They look like a cross between educational fare and a picture book. Many of the photographs are not labeled or are poorly labeled, which is too bad. For the wealth of Egyptian temples and artifacts there could have been both more and better pictures of those things. There was one especially confusing family tree that needed better indications of relationships, better flow, and better explanation of who every one was since there were second and third wives listed and people with the same name. Finally, going back to the cover, did they really use papyrus font for the title? Ugh. Such a cliche and such an ugly font.

I do, however, applaud the author and publisher for putting together a series of real princesses who are not those vapid Disney ones that need men to save them.

Tags | ,



In Remix

By Elizabeth Wroten

Notes From the Makerspace: CUE recap

On 13, Nov 2014 | In Remix | By Elizabeth Wroten

Two weekends ago I attended the CUE (Computer Using Educators) fall conference. I really like this conference because it is for education (a lot of the professional development I do is really just for librarians) and it has tons, and I mean tons, of session options. It runs over two day, a Friday and a Saturday.

I went last year and attended one session that was all about makerspaces and the maker movement and it is what really started my mission to get a makerspace up and running. My husband and I talked a lot about it and we got the after school enrichment administrator and the art teacher on board. And then we let the ball drop. I was busy at home with our daughter and my husband has plenty on his plate.

This fall we picked up again when the head of the middle school gave us a little kick in the pants and started the conversation up again. We pretty much picked up where our plans from the previous school year and had fallen off and now I’m running the makerspace.

This year at CUE there were a ton more sessions about makerspaces I tried to attend them all, even if they were more about getting started than about actually running it. It was such a relief to hear people talking about the same things I have been thinking about for a couple years now (in conjunction with makerspaces and with the Reggio approach that I’ve been researching). It was also a relief to hear that other people are just jumping in and learning as they go along much like I am.

My biggest take-aways:

We need a dedicated space. In our own space I won’t be having to clean everything up and tuck it tightly into bins every afternoon. I can leave projects out and this helps the kids pick back up where they were and keep projects going for extended periods of time. I know that this kind of thing will help kids delve more deeply into projects and learning.

I want a 3D printer. Last year I saw a session on copyright by Christine Mytko. This educator is amazing. She made copyright cool. This year she was talking about 3D printing and you should have seen the stuff she has had her kids learn how to do. It was stunning (her site has more). I know a 3D printer isn’t absolutely necessary, but if I could use one to get the kind of learning she got out of her kids it would be incredible.

It’s wonderful to know that there are people who want this in education. Sometimes I feel very lonely and out-there with my educational ideas. Unstructured time for kids? Letting a second grader use a drill and hand saw? Yes! Let’s have some faith in kids and let’s give them time to be creative and thoughtful and follow what they are interested in! It was nice to hear that others think about this the way I do.

If you do have activities set up, they should fit on a post-it. Instructions should be simple and the set up should help make what needs to be done evident. (I will talk more about this in my next makerspace post).

-I need to read Invent to Learn and Tinkering from Make magazine.

In all, I’m so glad I went to this and got to talk about makerspaces some more.

Tags | ,



In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Kidlit Review: The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

On 11, Nov 2014 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Hundred DressesThe Hundred Dresses written by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

From GoodReads: At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.” 

What a beautiful story for young children. The Hundred Dresses is a book about bullying, such a timely topic, and felt very before it’s time in addressing this. I think the fact that Wanda was a poor immigrant, picked on by her peers could easily be relatable to many kids, even if they aren’t white immigrants. It also has a good call to action in the form of Maddie who regrets not sticking up for Wanda. She feels terrible knowing that she felt the teasing was wrong and yet never said anything.

Maddie was cowed by her friend and knowing she could be the next target, for even though she wasn’t as poor as Wanda, who only had one dress, she still wore hand-me-downs. This felt so realistic, the desire not to draw attention to yourself or stick your neck out for fear of being hurt and ostracized. I think all kids experience this to some degree.

For those cynical readers out there, this isn’t for you. It has a relatively happy ending with a satisfying resolution. The mean girl is, if not transformed, humbled and Maddie, who tells the story, decides never to be a bystander again. Wanda writes to her former class and essentially forgives them.

The edition I read had a foreword by Eleanor Estes daughter which, as an adult at least, I found very interesting and enlightening. I would suggest, as a parent, reading the foreword (and story) and using this as a discussion starter with your child. Maddie is actually Eleanor who had a girl like Wanda in her elementary school class. The girl left after a lot of teasing and Eleanor regretted not saying anything. She never found the girl again and, as her daughter points out, it seems she uses this story to make things right in a way. I think knowing the Wanda was a real girl who never got an apology from her class and knowing this story is at least in part true could be a very powerful message for kids.

Give this to kids in second and third grade, even up into fourth. It isn’t a chapter book, but it’s a much longer book with fewer pictures. It’s such an important issue to discuss and think about because it can be so easy to not say anything when bullying happens. I’ve said it before, but kids are very attuned to justice and injustice and I think we as educators and parents can tap into that in a positive way.

Not exactly a read-alike considering it’s a much shorter picture book, but Crow Boy by Yashima Taro is another fabulous book about bullying and kids who are different.

Tags | ,



In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Notes From the Makerspace: Resources

On 06, Nov 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

Below are a few resources you might find helpful in creating and maintaining a makerspace. I think I’ll add to this as I go along because I imagine I will come across more and more sites, ideas, and articles that will be worthwhile.

Start-up Resources

Makerspace Playbook: This is an awesome publication from Make Magazine’s makerspace arm. It will give you lists of supplies to consider, space considerations, set up considerations, etc. I read this when we were first doing planning and found it invaluable even if our makerspace ins’t run or structured exactly like the one they create in the playbook. Okay, so here’s where this gets hairy. Here is the link to request a free copy of the Playbook. When we were getting started a year ago I just printed it out from somewhere and here is a link to the pdf to print or save. I don’t know why I can’t find where to simply download a copy instead of requesting they send you one. I did find a direct link to the pdf, though, but am not sure if this is totally kosher to post it. I will, but if anyone thinks it’s unethical let me know.

Also check out the Makerspace Education Initiative. They have great resources.

I also highly recommend the book Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert if you are creating a makerspace for younger students. The learning space this book helps you create is essentially a makerspace. She also has great advice about how to help kids bring their own interests to the learning space and how not to step on their ideas or thinking.


Pedagogy Resources

I cannot encourage you enough to look into the Reggio Emilia approach to education. They are essentially the maker movement for kids (although they started right after WWII in Italy, long before the hipsters). Some of the core principles of a Reggio education are: student-/interest-led projects and learning, a belief in the capability of kids, the One Hundred Languages (which are essentially any media or material kids use to make their learning visible), detailed documentation of what students are doing that makes their thinking visible, provocations or set-ups that are thoughtfully created to entice children to play with them and tie in with some aspect of what they are learning about, and the environment as the third teacher (so the importance of setting up the learning space). If you want books I suggest Project-Based Homeschooling because this is closest to creating a makerspace (as opposed to an ECE classroom). There are a lot of great blogs out there, but for a good mix of pedagogy and projects (so that you aren’t stuck with tons of ideas for preschool art projects) try The Curious Kindergarten, Miss Reggio, and TransformED.

The San Francisco based Tinkering School has a blog just for educators. They have a great series going about tool training that is well worth reading, but they are sharing all kinds of stuff. is a makerspace resource that gives out digital badges for mastery of a huge variety of hobbies. I would say you could use this as a curriculum of sorts. There are certainly tons and tons of choices for topics and activities here.

Ideas & Inspiration

The Show Me Librarian Makerspace post: Amy Koester, the Show Me Librarian, is all about STEAM programming in her library. She has tons of fabulous ideas and she supports making. This particular post pulls together a treasure trove of makerspace resources.

Wonderopolis: an awesome site that features a “wonder-why” style question every day which it goes on to answer.

Make: The website for the magazine. Has a HUGE selection of projects with step-by-step guides. They also have a store for purchasing supplies. It can’t hurt to have a couple copies of the magazine out in the makerspace for inspiration either.

How To Smile: Here’s a fantastic website that was put together by children’s science museums around the country (including the Exploratorium). The site features tons of STEM projects and experiments. It’s organized around various topics such as chemistry, math, energy, etc. It also has badges and points you can earn if you are so inclined.

Tags | , ,