This is 'Iolani School

This is 'Iolani School

Thursday, March 31, 2016

"This is how we do it." : How 'Iolani Use The Lower School Makerspace/FabLab

I have heard a lot of discussions lately about how makerspaces are used in schools. There are stand-alone spaces...rooms/labs set aside just for making. Some schools have put makerspace technology in their libraries. There are also schools that have put a piece of makerspace technology (like a 3D printer) in a singular classroom, and it's used mainly by that class.

It seems like the majority of these school makerspaces are run as a "special" art or music. Depending on the grade, students come to the space and work on a given challenge from the teacher in charge. A lot of these schools also run "club" programs for smaller groups of students to come to the space during or after school to work on individual or small group projects.

The responsibility for running, planning and administering these spaces has been placed on a teacher, librarian or administrator. Other schools have hired people specifically for the job as a "makerspace" teacher.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with any of these approaches. Whatever way making works for a school, where children's learning is enhanced, we should whole-heartedly support it.

The Lower School Lab at 'Iolani School is run differently then any other school makerspace that I am familiar with. There is a bit of a backstory to how we got to where we are, and if that interests you, contact me or look back at our blog posts. For the purpose of this writing, I want to explain how we are running things in this, our second year.

We started the 2015 school year with a schedule that was totally clear. No prescheduled classes, no required courses to teach. Last year, everyone got a glimpse of what could be done in the Lab. This year, teachers and students were ready to incorporate more making into the curriculum.

Teacher came up with units that were project based and used design thinking or the design process. Part of my job is to sit down with them and discuss how best to use the Lab's technology and come up with a time line. We would then schedule sessions and the making would start.

For our kindergarten and first graders, we found units from the Science Museum-Boston's program, "Engineering is Elementary" (a hands-on science/engineering set of 20 different units across a variety of topics) that aligned with the curriculum. Teachers would sign their class up for 6 sessions of about 45 minutes each and we would go through a unit. Kindergarten built bridges and first grade learned about light & sound.

Those are the only "external" curriculum we use. Everything else comes from the teachers/students, Here are some examples of projects we did this year:

Kindergarten garden stakes (laser cutter): Students design stakes for their garden on paper. They are then scanned into the computer and laser cut. Although the children do not do the technical aspect of this project, we show them how we use the software and let them watch the laser cutter in action.

First grade fictional rainforest creatures (recycled material): As part of the rainforest unit, these students worked in groups to create a fictional creature that lives in one of the layers of the rainforest. Using design thinking they imagine, plan, create and improve this creature. The teachers also enlisted the help of our high school biology class.  The first graders shared their ideas for the creature and the HS kids gave them feedback about how "real" their animal was. The students then came to the Lab to create their creature using recycled material. We first gave them a lesson on connecting materials (tabs, flanges, slots, etc.) and then the followed their plan and made their animal.

Second grade statue pedestals (cardboard): After a few lessons on building structures and how different forces affect the structures, these students designed and created a pedestal to hold a statue they made. Using cardboard, these kids came up with some amazing designs.

Third grade desk caddies (laser cutter): As part of a design thinking activity, our third graders had to solve the problem of not having anyplace to put their supplies (pencils, markers, erasers, etc.). They solved the problem by designing and building desk caddies. They made drawings and then prototypes cut out of cardboard. Next they wrote out their plan and included a labeled diagram of their caddie. They transferred the design to the computer and then to the laser cutter the pieces. Finally they glued them together and put them on their desks.

Fourth grade volcano poems (Scratch): After writing poems about volcanoes, the fourth grade went on the computer and after an into lesson to Scratch, they began programing. After 3 sessions on the computers, students brought their words to life on the screen.

Fifth grade game board pieces (laser cutter & 3D printer): After reading a novel, students were challenged to make a game board that would show what they learned about the book. They were given the option of using the Lab and some kids did. We had game piece made on both the 3D printer and the laser cutter. Students made signs on the laser cutter too.

Sixth grade Ancient Egyptian artifacts (laser cutter & 3D printer): During the sixth grade year, students learn about ancient cultures. One of these units was on ancient Egypt. Students were challenged to create an artifact and give a report on it. Given the option of using the Lab, a number of students came in and made a variety of things.

One additional program we offered was "mini-sessions" for grades 2-6. The students needed to have basic knowledge of what could be done in the Lab and how to use the technology. We developed a 90-minute session, specific to each grade level. The topic was based on their curriculum and what we thought their needs for the Lab might be. We came up with the following plan...2nd grade would learn Scratch Jr; 3rd would be exposed to Scratch and MakeyMakeys; 4th would learn how to use the laser cutter; 5th would be introduce to 3D printing; and 6th would get basic circuitry. Teachers were asked to find a 90-minute slot, any day at anytime and I would teach the lesson. The thought is that by the time a student goes through the Lower School, they will have a basic understanding of all these things so that in the Upper School's Sullivan Center (that's another great story) there will be almost no limit to what they can make.

This is how we do it here at 'Iolani's Lower School FabLab/Makerspace.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Third Grade Mini-Society Unit

In the spring, our third grade students do a major unit called Mini-Society. The class comes up with a name for their town, a form of currency and then each student comes up with a business and business plan. Part of their plan is to create a poster and button for their business...that's where the Lab comes in. Each student designs a poster and button, we scan them into the computer, do a little work with "Preview" and "Inkscape", turn them in to PDF files and laser cut them.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

We Are On Spring Break This Week But Check This Out...

'Iolani School is on spring break, but some of our Upper School student/makers are off to Florida. Not to spend time at the beach but to work with NASA on a lunar lander. Check this out...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Some Thoughts From The Lab

Individual Circuit Boards Soldered

After designing their own circuit boards with Fritzing and milling them with the Othermill by the Othermachine Co., our afterschool students soldered their battery holder, LED, resistor and button to their board.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

6th Grade Medieval Faire Items Made In The Lab

Today was our annual 6th grade medieval faire. Over the past 4 weeks, students have been working hard to research all about their position in this society. Some of the items were made in the Lab.

The archers made a deer, a knight and 2 chickens to shoot at. With the help of their families, they built stands for the targets, that would fall over when hit. For the deer, they put it on a pulley system and moved it back and forth across the beam.

One of the medieval surgeons made instruments to use for their "operation".

The Alchemists used the Lab to make signs and necklaces

The Herbalists made signs, describing the plants they had.

The knights  made daggers that they used as a last resort in their sword battle.

Some of the students made medieval games on the laser cutter.

 An astrologist made question boards and gifts to give out if anyone could stump his wisdom.

Medieval torture devices were made...a replica of a rack was made on the 3D printer and the heretic fork was created on the laster cutter.

Another great year at the Medieval Faire.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Catapults Take Shape and Launch

Following the criteria (no more then 3 rubber bands, must launch material at least 3 meters) our 6th grade students have been making catapults for their science class. So now, after imagining, planning, creating prototypes, improving, creating laser cutter plans, cutting, and glueing, the 6th grade catapults are ready to test.

Testing began by weighing out clay catapult balls so that everyone was launching the same mass (Yes, I know, technically, mass and weight are not exactly the same).

Then outside they went to test their creations. Using protractors, they launched at a variety of degrees, each time measuring the distance their projectile traveled.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Afterschool Circuit Class-Soldering and Circuit Boards

One of our after-school Lab classes focuses on electricity and circuits...six 3rd-6th graders come on Tuesdays and love to make stuff. When the class started, we made simple circuits with copper tape, LEDs, and coin cell batteries. They then went on to make interactive game controllers using MakeyMakeys (see previous posts). Now we are starting to learn to solder. Using some wires to old blank circuit boards, the students tried their hand at this new skill.

With the addition of the OtherMachine Co. CNC machine, the Othermill, we can now make our own circuit boards.  Next we used Fritzing and each student create a board...battery, LED, switch and resistor.