Forum Replies Created
Grade 6: Air, Aerodynamics and Flight
A series of MakerEd Challenges that I have undertaken in the past were related this unit. Through collaboration with my team partner at the time, we designed several “hands-on activities” requiring students to design a glider that could be manipulated to complete a specific movement, a parachute to protect an egg and a functioning propeller. We titled these challenges “Junkyard Wars,” as students were asked to use random materials to complete each task. Even before “MakerEd” was well known, we had students test, reiterate their design and reflect on their effectiveness in meeting the challenge, often in relation to observations of others’ products.
Grade 6: Trees & Forests
One challenge that I attempted this year aligned with our study of environmental stewardship and management of renewable resources. After reading the story, “The Lorax,” students discussed the problems associated with logging and forestry. Some students created machines that would support in efficient re-planting of trees while others focused on pollution caused by logging machines and tree processing factories.
In attempting to “wade deeper” into MakerEd, it has helped me to consider how I can frame a “hands-on learning” activity as a MakerEd Challenge.
Recently, we were discussing democracy in Ancient Athens and I asked myself, “How can I make this more engaging?” My thoughts… build something. We had already discussed some topics related to Ancient Athenian society, such as Greek myths and daily life; some students had researched food, the Olympics, and war and warfare. In an attempt to connect the learning to modern day democracy, I started to think about the ways in which the Ancient Athenians impacted our lives today. In exploring warfare, I realized that use of the trebuchet (a form of catapult) was created and used by the Greeks and this changed the stage for ranged warfare. A MakerEd Challenge was born.
Although a loose connection, I introduced the concept to my students, explained the history, showed a video of a trebuchet in action and gave the parameters for the task (cannot be secured to the ground/table, can only use a range of materials provided, two challenges: longest projection and most accurate, time limit).
Students built, had a chance to complete a preliminary shot and view others’ projects and then complete iteration of their design. Our final test was a lot of fun and the conversation that followed was the most valuable part.
This was a definite win and it really wasn’t that hard to organize or lead! AND NOTHING HORRIBLE HAPPENED! My students were engaged the WHOLE time and had great conversation afterward regarding challenges, problem-solving strategies etc. I would probably attempt this challenge again. I may not show the videos first, but maybe halfway through the challenge, as I felt many students “copied” the design shown. We also provided spoons for the challenge, which made a natural catapult cup… Next time I might not provide these, as I felt this stifled the creativity of the task.
The roadblock or challenge that I experienced was 1) students not participating, despite encouragement from the rest of the group and 2) really bossy, overbearing students that took charge of the challenge. I’m not sure how to navigate this? I obviously considered the combination of students on each team. Would assigning roles help? Options to complete the task individually?
I have spent some time looking online and have found several collections of Makerspace Challenge Cards (using LEGO, Knex, popsicle sticks etc.) which I purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers. I feel that one of my biggest roadblocks is coming up with ideas, so I found these cards helpful.
Ideally I would like to have bins of supplies, including a bin of LEGO and Knex etc. with cards available for students during a built-in MakerEd block each week. There’s no denying the benefits of MakerEducation for students: the creativity, problem-solving, perseverance etc. and I appreciate the option for student to self-select challenges that align with their personal interests or curiosity.
I would like to alternate between these “free” MakerEd periods each week and a more structured challenge that directly connects to curricular concepts. My hope is that through these experiences I can develop my own challenge cards that clearly align with the grade 6 curriculum. These would not only state the curricular connection, but outline some background information with visuals that may be beneficial in approaching the challenge. Time to reflect on the design and learning would be built into each MakerEd Challenge period. Therefore, specific open-ended questions used to prompt this reflection should be added to the back of the challenge card.
Having these types of resources (challenge cards and ideas) available on your website would help to support teachers that are “Wading In,” however I don’t know about copyright rules etc.
Thank you so much for providing the link to the article, “Five Ways Real Learning Happens in Maker-Enhanced Projects.” I connected with many of the comments, examples and quotes shared and I feel this is a perfect article to share with teachers that are “Wading In.”
I agree with Michael Stone when he stated, “If you are going to do maker-enhanced project-based learning, it has to have explicit connections to standards. Otherwise you’re going to have a hard time justifying the time investment” (as cited in Schwartz, 2016, para. 5). When introduced to MakerEd last year, I quickly drew parallels to problem-based, hands-on learning activities that I have designed in the past. For example, building a functional parachute or a glider that can be manipulated to perform a series of movements. I am now starting to branch out and consider how I can implement Maker challenges within some of my other units of study.
Each year our school participates in Innovation Week, wherein students identify a problem and design an innovative solution to address this. This year, our team is doing something a little different and I couldn’t be more excited. Our focus for Innovation Week requires students to design a MakerEd challenge that aligns with one topic within our Science curriculum. They will be responsible for examining the learner outcomes, researching a specific topic and designing a hands-on MakerEd challenge for their peers. In this, students will have to outline the expectations, consider the constraints and identify the materials that will be provided. They will also have to justify the purpose for their activity and how this connects to the learning standards. Each group of students will go through a testing (iteration) cycle with their peers, during which they will receive feedback for improvement.
Of course, through this work, I am not expecting perfection. As the article outlines, the process is just as important as the product. Over the past 5 years, I have moved away from only evaluating the final product and now assess on “process skills like collaboration, critical thinking, communication and innovation alongside the specific content goals” (Schwartz, 2016, para. 11).
This article did highlight some areas that I will focus on through my experience with ThinkMakerEd.com and in the future. One is my ability to design a larger scale, MakerEd project, in which I am required to consider the scaffolds required for individual student success. I am currently only designing small scale (1 hour) challenges for my students; as I am “Wading In,” I feel this is a good starting point for me. How would you recommend I transition to designing larger-scale MakerEd projects? What should my “first steps” be?
I would also like to focus on letting go of control when it comes to MakerEd challenges. I fear the activities I am designing are too structured and do not allow for as much creativity as I would like. I find myself providing essential skills and knowledge before having students engage in the task, instead of letting them discover these through the process. How can I move beyond this?
After reading through the definitions of each stage, I feel I am “Wading In.” I have tried to provide opportunities for students to develop their skills and competency in MakerEd, but these have not allowed for deep engagement Design Thinking Process. I would like to develop greater confidence in how to lead students through this process, in challenges that align with curricular outcomes at the grade six level. While I understand some of the benefits associated with MakerEd, my hope is to develop a more comprehensive understanding of “Why” I should embed this work into my daily practice.
I acknowledge that my biggest roadblocks are:
1) Time: With the intense pressure to complete curriculum in preparation for the P.A.T.s, how do I build in time for Maker challenges? How do I ensure that this does not become a “waste of time”?
2) My confidence level: How do I help students navigate frustration?
3) Ideas: What resources can help me in developing ideas for Maker challenges that align with concepts at my grade level?
My instructional goal over the next five weeks is to “rip the Band-Aid off” and set aside time for Maker challenges each week. I keep putting this off, and I know I just need to do it in order to develop my confidence. I hope to engage my students in some discussion about how we can connect this work to our units of study.
My professional goal over the next five weeks is to complete some reading on MakerEd. I know I need to get more “on board” with this focus; connecting with literature and studies might support me in understanding the “Why.” If I can be totally honest, I am hesitant to engage in this fully, as I feel this focus might come and go with the traditional swing of the pendulum. I hope that going through this process will help me realize the true potential of MakerEd, wherein I will incorporate this into my classroom regardless of what the “new” focus in education is.