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In Remix

By Elizabeth Wroten

Notes From the Makerspace: Making in the Library

On 12, Mar 2015 | In Remix | By Elizabeth Wroten

So part of my goal with the Makerspace has been to get out of our space and into the library and the classroom. I have also mentioned in other posts that I volunteer in the Lower School library. I have now combine the two and the librarian and I have planned a week of making in the library for all the grades of the Lower School (except Pre-K)!

The program won’t be complicated, a few tables and stations set up with various Makerspace activities, provocations as I like to call them. While I run the after school Makerspace as a pretty free-wheeling place with snacks, loud noises and free making this is going to be a little more tightly controlled because of the number of students (I have a limit of 10 students after school and these classes will have closer to 22) and because these kids haven’t had a year to learn what makerspace is all about. If it works well, maybe it can be a regular event and/or have a maker station out every week as an option for the library.

Each station will have materials set out with a question, an example, and an inspiring, related book. In this post I thought I would share what the stations will be. They will run in the second week in March and after that I will share thoughts on how to improve and how it went. I broke the activities down into groups for Kinder and 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and 4th and 5th. This limits the variety of supplies we would have to obtain and cuts down on set up.

Kinder & 1st:

  • water color & salt
  • paper tube marble runs (back of shelves)
  • foam bead necklaces
  • building with recycled materials
  • exploring lines (wire, markers, string, glue, paper strips)

2nd & 3rd:

  • gumdrop structures
  • marker explosions
  • building with recycled materials
  • plastic marble runs with blocks & recycled materials (Rube Goldberg-esque machines)
  • squishy circuits (
  • rock painting

4th & 5th:

  • Take-apart table (essentially a table with e-waste and screwdrivers for the kids to deconstruct)
  • Snap Circuits
  • Drawing with circuits (using copper tape and LEDs to embellish drawings)
  • Hand sewing bean bags, finger knitting & spool knitting
  • building with recycled materials

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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.

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In Remix

By Elizabeth Wroten

Remix: Judging Books by Their Covers

On 19, Dec 2012 | In Remix | By Elizabeth Wroten

I just read this article about the racism that is rampant in YA book covers. It was such an informative post and I for one will admit I was only partially conscious of the state of YA covers.

What I wanted to add to this article was something I became acutely aware of after becoming a mother to a girl. These YA covers are detrimental to white girls, too. Notice that the girls on the covers shown (and the many more put on display in libraries and bookstores) are very airbrushed? They have flawless skin – not a pimple, red spot or freckle in sight. They are wearing sexy clothing. They are very thin and mostly tall. How many girls of any color do you know that are naturally built like that? I only know one, maybe two. Lucky her. Unlucky the rest of us who are told to make our bodies conform to that ideal. No matter how accepting we are of how we look (tall, thin, short, round, busty, hippy, brown, white, etc.) we still feel the pressure and still have moments of weakness where we look at ourselves in the mirror and wish we were just a little bit thinner, a little lighter skinned, a little taller.

And it isn’t only girls who get bombarded with impossible body ideals. Boys get it, too. Not every man has a rippling chest and six pack. Not every man is tan with perfect skin. I feel for the boys too.

Now it’s creeping into our books. A place that should be an escape. Especially since so many books do such a good job of putting girls of all stripes up on a pedestal. How about Katniss? She wasn’t much of a “girl” but she still kicked some serious ass. How about Ismae from Grave Mercy? She’s got some serious scars on her body, but she also kicks ass. Even Bella from Twilight is supposed to be plain, not some great beauty. I like beautiful book covers and I frequently pick up books where the cover has caught my attention. But I think you can have your cake and eat it too. You can have normal looking girls, girls who match the character in the book, and a beautiful cover.

So it comes down to the question, what can we do about changing or at least impacting bad body image as librarians? I don’t know. I really don’t. As a parent I will be doing my utmost to ensure that my daughter has a healthy self-image and understanding that Hollywood bodies do not equal normal. We don’t talk about weight in a negative way. We don’t hold up images of women as an ideal. I try to show her diversity of all kinds. I tell her she is beautiful. Did I mention my daughter is only 16 months? It needs to start early because the media gets to them early (Pink Legos? That make tea parties? As if girls can’t play with “boy” colors and don’t want to make their own forts, planes, trains, etc.). But as a librarian, I just don’t know.

I have seen an activity that could help to combat some of this negativity. It might be worth a try and if nothing else, it would be fun. Have either a book club or TAG or English class read a book with out seeing the cover (enshroud it with kraft paper), then create their own cover. I know a lot of kids might shy away from this. Especially, if they felt they had to draw a person, but I would encourage them to take their own pictures or find images online. This doesn’t have to be a super-slick, publisher-quality cover. Just a good representation of what they think the cover should look like. Then do a big reveal of the publisher’s cover and compare and contrast the two. I’d be very curious to see what happens if you use one of the books where the picture on the front doesn’t match the words in the book at all.

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