MakerSpace WonderLab Shelves

Why We Make

The Montessori environment is all about learning by doing and bringing learning to life, so it’s the perfect platform to apply the “Maker Movement”. Students are learning by doing in the classroom, and creatively learning by making in MakerSpace.

MakerSpace provides open-ended inquiry opportunities for students. They are able to combine art, science, technology, and engineering to demonstrate their knowledge creatively, while enhancing their hands-on classroom curriculum.

For example, when Upper Elementary students were studying the continents and plate tectonics, they used their MakerSpace Open Lab time to expand the classroom lesson. Students created outlines of the continents with blocks, then used blocks of different sizes and colors to map out the convergent and divergent plates.

With my background in Library Science, it was natural to develop the position into that of a MakerSpace Librarian. That means Lamplighter’s MakerSpace is based more on STREAM – Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Math – than just STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

In Early Childhood classes, we use books as jumping off points for the lesson. Sometimes the book fits the subject we’re working on, like reading Scarecrow by Cynthia Roland when we were designing our school’s Scarecrow Contest submission, or reading Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter when we learned about Matisse. But sometimes the books are the basis of our exploration in MakerSpace that week, like reading Perfect Square by Michael Hall, and then letting our imaginations run wild with our own squares of paper.

In Lower and Upper Elementary classes, we often use books for background information and research, but also we have read books aloud to inspire our lessons. We read Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O’Connell George while we studied origami in MakerSpace and they studied poetry in the classroom. The book is full of poems about the art of origami, so after reading the poems out loud, practicing our expressive speaking voices, students wrote their own poems, shared them with the class, and then wrote them on origami paper before folding them up into an origami creation.

We have seen a jump in student enthusiasm and love of learning. The MakerSpace has been a catalyst for change, and we see that students are thinking more creatively in the classroom. Lessons learned in the classroom are being reinforced and explored in different ways in MakerSpace, and vice versa.

Abstract thinking students are able to learn on their level and have increased the scope to demonstrate their knowledge. Montessori allows us to reach students on any level, so MakerSpace goes hand-in-hand with this to ensure that all students are engaged in their lessons.

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The Grand Scarecrow Finale

After learning so much from our Visiting Artist, Youngblood Studio, students were more than ready to work on the school scarecrow. The studio sent back 4 composite drawings and we had students vote on what scarecrow they would most like to make.

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We voted anonymously and then predicted what scarecrow we thought would win. Though the votes were fairly evenly distributed, number 4 won!

Youngblood Studio let us upcycle leftover shop materials to create our scarecrow body. We dedicated a day to applying over 9,000 sequins to our owl form! Every student had an opportunity to help out, so our scarecrow is truly a team effort!

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We named our scarecrow owl “Dr. Hoo”, and Youngblood Studio delivered him to Lichterman Nature Center for us.

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The very next day, we were informed that Dr. Hoo had won 1st place in the Best Critter category! All of the students are so proud, and excited to go see him in the wild. The win was a great way to wrap up our scarecrow project, and we can’t wait to have him live on our campus after Lichterman’s exhibit closes in November.

More Scarecrow Structures

Our students have been a roll with creative scarecrow ideas. They have been using unconventional materials to build unique scarecrows that we can’t resist showing off.

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A scarecrow drawing was transformed into a mask after using a paper punch.

 

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The Lego scarecrow has long arms for the birds to land on.

 

Even scarecrows built from blocks all look different:

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This scarecrow has two tall yet sturdy legs.

 

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This scarecrow includes elements of color and texture to attract birds.

 

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Students worked together to create a large, detailed scarecrow: notice the shoelaces on his feet! They are hiding a ticking timer in his arm to scare off birds.

 

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Inspired by all the scarecrow designing and building, a student decided to draw a crow!

Scarecrow Study

To prepare to build our school scarecrow, students have been learning about the history of scarecrows and examples of durable materials.

Students shared what they knew of scarecrows’ design and purpose, and we learned that children in medieval Britain used to act as their own scarecrows! They would stand in the fields and wave their arms to scare away birds. This and other historical instances of humans acting as scarecrows led to our more modern interpretation of scarecrows dressed in human clothes, with lifelike faces. Scarecrows are still used today, and often use technology to help scare off birds with noises and movement.

We designed scarecrows using a variety of supplies in the MakerSpace WonderLab.

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A scarecrow puppet
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A scarecrow face designed with Tangram pieces – she even added a white moustache!
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Magnaflex pieces created a flexible dancing scarecrow

 

Students talked about durable materials, and what we could use to make our scarecrow last outside for two months. Students tested different materials for durability, and built sturdy scarecrow structures that were tall, yet tough to knock over.

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Our tallest scarecrow yet!
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A sturdy scarecrow with small arms – less room for the birds to land!

 

Youngblood Studio: Visiting Artist

Visiting artists from Youngblood Studio, Tylur French and Amanda Nalley, gave a presentation about being working artists and shared some of the projects they’ve created, such as sculptures at Overton Park, structures at the skate park, and artwork for Le Bonheur and St. Jude hospitals.

Whether they are working on a large project or a smaller scale, Mr. French starts with an idea, then takes to paper with a loose sketch. A partner in the studio transforms the sketch into a detailed watercolor piece. From there, Ms. Nalley uses computer mapping to see how the completed piece might look and how it can be assembled.

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The concept changed slightly between the watercolor stage and the finished piece. Mr. French explained how projects can take several years and go through multiple design changes.

After the presentation, Mr. French and Ms. Nalley facilitated a scarecrow brainstorming session with Lower and Upper Elementary students. Each student sketched one to three ideas for Lichterman Nature Center’s Scarecrow Contest, then came back together as a group to explain their thought processes.

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Some students were very specific about how to build their scarecrows. There were many innovative ideas that incorporated technology, movement, and even trap doors!

Our students’ designs were creative and unique. Since it would be too hard to pick just one, Youngblood Studio is going to create composite designs, meaning they will take aspects of everyone’s ideas to be incorporated into our scarecrow.

Youngblood Studio will send three composites back early next week, and the school will vote for their favorite. Then we will choose what materials to use and decide how to manage our workload. We plan to start building at the end of next week, with all students from Early Childhood, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary helping out.

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Clockwise from top left: Mr. French answers questions about being a working artist; Mr. French and Upper Elementary students check out the scarecrow frame; Ms. Nalley and a student have a great time with the sketching process

A bonus quest: Students learned that Mr. French hid a golden squirrel eating a diamond in the bike arch at Overton Park. Try to find it whenever you visit the park!

A Little Bit of Everything with Upper Elementary

Upper Elementary students also had a chance to explore MakerSpace activities before lessons begin. They divided their time pretty equally between the WonderLab, the GeniusLab, and the LegoLab.

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After building a two-level structure, students guessed how many people could fit inside, and then climbed in – carefully!
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Sending commands to “play fetch” with Chip, the robot dog, who we proclaimed to be the MakerSpace mascot!
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Check out our Instagram (@lamplighterschool) to see a video of the mischief Chip got into.
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Trial and error with the Van de Graaff Generator to see what materials conduct electricity.