Friday, October 13, 2017

Making in the Middle #MakerEd #Badges

Our makerspace, the Knight's Forge, is in complete disarray after school...and I couldn't be happier about it.

One of the part of my amazing job at University Liggett School is to build a Makerspace for the students at the Middle School level. While this is a school that is project based and student driven, the Maker Mentality had not been explored fully. I wanted to really create a space based on what the students wanted to do and help them show off what they learned. After going back and forth over where to start and what to do, I settled on Minecraft and Badges!

I spent time talking with students and found that many of them were into Minecraft and I figured that would be a perfect place to start. I dove in and started creating badges and skills students needed to master to earn the badges. Here is a one of the badges I created, the Level 1 Minecraft Badge.

Students were pumped about the chance to earn badges and jumped at the chance to get started. I had 6th through 8th grade students reaching out to me to sign up to use the Makerspace during their study hall. Quickly, I found myself in the great problem of not having enough space for all of the students who wanted to Make!

There were still students who had not come to the Makerspace because Minecraft was not something they were excited about doing. So, I talked to students and the idea of coding seemed interesting, but I did not want students to just sit in front of a screen. I wanted them to explore physical computing like I did when I went to Picademy. I recreated some of the hardware that Matt Richardson and the North American Raspberry Team created for the World Maker Faire so my students could get their hands dirty. Based on Matt's original designs, I added a Motion Sensor and a Light Sensor.

I only have three kits set up for the students to use for the physical computing, so I had to create a waitlist! I never thought I would have this much excitement for the new space.

As word spread about the different things students were doing in the Knight's Forge, more students showed up to see what was going on in the Makerspace. Soon, students started to explore 3D design on Tinkercad and have started to design items of their own.

I have not even had a chance to dive into littleBits, Sphero, Makey Makey, and other great tools because I am just swamped. Kids are flocking to the space, but I wanted them to explore more on their own and create something new instead of just following directions. I wanted to install that Maker Mentality aspect of exploration. To do that, I asked if anyone in the Middle School wanted to help create gadgets to protect against the zombie apocalypse.

Raspberry Pi has a Pioneers program for Middle School students that gives kids a challenge and a set time to accomplish it. Sadly, the competition is not currently available in the US, but I figured that didn't mean we couldn't build cool things. After sharing some tweets, I connected with a school is Mass. and we are going to support one another as our students explore the different projects they create using a Raspberry Pi.

I had two groups form right away and start brainstorming on what different types of gadgets they could create. They were driven to explore different sensors and the code needed to learn how to use them. The students have until December 22 to create their gadgets and the guides on how to build them. My budget is tight, but I might have to start a 3rd group because the project is very popular.

Multiple students have come in to earn their LED, Button, Buzzer, and Motion Sensor badges and that leads to more students wanting to do the same thing. I am a bit overwhelmed because I haven't had time to print the sticker badges and set up the digital portfolio aspect of the badging system.

I have a great problem that I'm too busy and I don't have enough supplies for everyone. This is way better than sitting in the Makerspace after school with a very sad look.

All of this is possible because of everything I learned in building my first Makerspace. I'm avoiding the mistakes and have the pulse of the students body. More students want to make and explore what is possible. Not because they want to play with new toys, but because they want to explore and learn new things.

If you are thinking about creating your own Makerspace, check out my book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces, and drop me a line if you have any questions. I'm happy to help in any way that I can.

Hugs and High Fives,


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