Monthly Archives: June 2016

Exploring the Upper Peninsula – Making and Learning at the Pickford Community Library

We had a wonderful workshop at Pickford Community Library from June 20th to 22nd. Special thanks to Ann Marie Smith, director of the Pickford Community Library, for inviting us to her library and hosting our activities, with a special mention to Chris Smith and his talk on his use of Arduino microcontrollers in educational projects ranging from aquaponics to lightsaber design(!!!).

Chris smith passes around homemade lightsaber.

We also explored a number of other hands-on making activities to explore first-hand what it’s like to be a maker in a learning environment. We certainly weren’t teaching these people to be creative, but we were helping them think about creation in a new way. From board game design to squishy circuits made of conductive dough, we enjoyed a wide variety of creative activities in the activity space in the same space as the Friend’s Bookstore at the Pickford Community Library.

space2 space1

With attendees ranging from local artisans to middle school teachers, ISD executives to recent art-school graduates, it was one of our most diverse, exciting groups so far. With such a creative community we knew in advance that the maker activities would be some of the most creative and varied that we had seen, and we weren’t disappointed. People especially enjoyed hacking (that is, modifying) the simple LED flashlights that we made together into something unique to each participant.

Light-up feathered bracelet.
Small light-up robot.
Man made of pipe cleaners with an LED idea bulb over the head.
An actual LED lamp that stays on without pressing a button!

The squishy circuits creations were highly creative and varied as well, ranged from prototypes for wearable light-up shoes to an exploration of switches made of various colors of dough.

squish1 squish2 squish3

Various creations made of conductive dough combined with a title/subtitle activity.
Various creations made of conductive dough combined with a title/subtitle activity.

Once more we’d like to thank Ann Marie Smith for being a great host, her local planning committee for the event for putting together a wonderful space, great food prepared by the Iris and Main Street Cafes, and generally supporting our project. Final note, you can find more pictures of the event on the Pickford Community Library’s facebook page, found here.

A stamping activity with various words that capture our personal ideas of what a makerspace should be.

With all three days now completed, here are our slide decks:



We thank our host Ann Marie at the Pickford Community Library for arranging the workshop. And a special thanks to Chris Smith for the fun session on microcontrollers (and light sabers!) We had a wonderful time in Pickford.

Here are the materials we used:



Good morning everyone! We can’t wait to see you all again for a great day full of making and experimentation. We will upload the slides later (today is mostly a day of hands-on activities, so there won’t be many slides).

See you soon!


Making as Learning: Houghton Lake

Created with flickr slideshow.

We kicked off our first three-day workshop June 15 – 17 at the Houghton Lake Public Library. Thank you to Kimberly Young, library director, and Sarah Maddox, youth librarian, for hosting us!

From designing the ideal work bag to making playdough circuits light up, making robots run to talking about making for those with special needs, 3D modeling and printing to designing our mission, we had a great time in this deep-dive into the why and not just the what of making.

Here is some of what we learned from our peer participants:

  • Making can be a way for those with disabilities to show what they can do.
  • Shifting kids from adult-directed activities and into open-ended, student-directed activities can be tough!
  • Prototyping is a lot of fun (and can even inspire the occasional runway show)!
  • Putting people with different jobs but similar missions together can create synergies.
  • Some people have really interesting hobbies at home (quilting, making log furniture)!
  • Hands-on skills can lead to real jobs.

We even got to meet (or see again) some kids and families at our community-focused Houghton Lake MakerFest. Not only could families see a 3D printer in action, make a marble maze, play with LEGO and K’Nex, make a Shrinky Dink souvenir, drive a robot, or make a Squishy Circuit, but they could go outside to see the mobile science lab from Saginaw Valley State University. There, they could peer into the microscopic world of butterflies and water; see the SVSU drone; learn about soil and other environmental testing; and meet some skilled professors eager to share their world with them.

You can view our activities by clicking through the slides above (or visiting our Flickr album).

Day 1 Slides 

Day 2 Slides

Day 3 Slides

Next week, we head across the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula and Pickford, the smallest town on this year’s road trip.

If you’d like to join us at a future workshop, we’d be glad to have you! You can find our complete calendar here.

Hope to see you soon!


Learning With Each Other at Benton Harbor


Benton Harbor was the first experience for our newest team members (Quenton and Kamya) to lead a Making in Michigan Libraries event for adults, on May 10th, 2016. We got to see some of the improvements being made to the Benton Harbor Public Library building, including some unique art:


Some great modern art decorating a stairwell:


And our workshop was watched over by some national leaders:


Overall, it was a great setting for our workshop.


Junk Box

As usual, the junkbox provided some of the most creative and visually interesting activities at our workshop. The idea behind our junk box project was to provide a design challenge. or We presented two options for this workshop: either work alone and illustrate a theme from a work of fiction or, as a group, brainstorm a challenge at your library or space and design a problem to solve it. We had plenty of attendees select each option. From there we allowed them free access to the eponymous junk box, filled with all kinds of semi-organized, semi-curated scrap material, including (but absolutely not limited to) small scraps of cloth, foam, and paper; spools of ribbon; a large plastic vase; the metal frame of a lampshade; straws; as well as non-junk tape, glue sticks, and scissors. We then left them to their devices for about an hour, occasionally intermingling to take the odd picture or ask about a particularly creative in-progress design. Following are some images of the in-progress activity:

Collecting “raw” materials:

A literary illustration in progress:


Early stage of design:


Creative use of straws and manilla folder:



After the designs were completed (and lunch was had) we divided the room into two groups to perform a ‘gallery walk’, during which one group would host the other group as visitors and discuss their design, and after everyone had their fill the roles were reversed. We feel that this is a great way to develop skills in talking about your design process, presenting your work, and, for the visitors, networking and asking productive questions. An important rule of a maker-style gallery walk is that visitors are not to give even constructive criticism unless it is asked for – if it’s asked for, it’s absolutely fine. This allows the makers to have more comfort in sharing their work and prevents them from becoming disheartened if they’re self-conscious of their creation or it’s an early-stage prototype. Here are some more pictures of the final creations, along with some artists’ statements and titles:


Peer Resource Sharing – Knowledge In the Room

We decided to have a semi-structured section for sharing resources which was very successful. Not only does it give our attendees a chance to share their passions and best resources, but also encourages networking between individuals who might not otherwise have learned that they shared a particular interest. During this sharing time we focused on adding these to our slides in real-time, so they would appear on the big screen and be easy to share after the event. Here is the list we got from this session:

-When introducing maker movement to teachers, will stay away from technology at the start.  Start with crafts materials, then go to tech later.
– Started w/coloring and duct tape #coloryourcollections
– Use compasses & protractors to make coloring pages
– Writing as making (haikus on content topics)
– Kids who delete work before being done – easier for those who see kids daily to get done
– Oriental Trading Company? Depends on the situation. What about hacking the OTC kits in new ways?
– Abuse of materials? Limit what goes out, natural social consequences? Tape spoons/plastic flowers to pens/pencils?
– fabric stores, grocery stores castoffs


Obviously this had a context specific to this event, but the resources should stand relatively well on their own. One example of the power of this is that we’re exploring a new addition to the junk box activity, in which we include a foam kit similar to those that the Oriental Trading Company sells, and encourage our attendees to make something other than the intended end product using the pieces of the kit and the junk box. Not to spoil anything, but our Ann Arbor one-day event, including our “hacKIT” event, seems to have been a success!

You can download our slides here.

Change your Words, Change your Mind

On Friday, our team had the privilege of visiting the enormously fun and immensely welcoming Gretchko Elementary School, a K-2 school in West Bloomfield. Our tour was led by the lovely and talented Amy Quinn (as well as some of her first graders).

Projects in the makerspaces were connected to the Engineering Process Pathway.
Projects in the makerspaces were connected to the Engineering Process Pathway.

Gretchko has truly embraced a culture of making. Teachers have their own mini makerspaces in their classrooms, the school’s media center, called the icenter, has exploratory stations that seamlessly blend literacy and STEM, and the school has transformed an old hallway into another shared makerspace.

Kids had ownership over their spaces.
Kids had ownership over their spaces.

Throughout our tour of the classroom and shared makerspaces, we were struck by two things. The first was how engaged and on-task the kids were. Even in the rare cases where kids needed to be redirected, they were quick to refocus just by asking, “What are you working on?”

One of the teachers applied for a grant for giant Legos. During our tour, we got to see kids prototyping designs for zoo habitats using the blocks.

Second, we were extremely excited to see how the whole school has embraced a maker culture. Teachers collaborate and support each other, with the help of administration. The atmosphere advocated exploration and reflection, all while seeking to foster a growth mindset in students. Teachers don’t place limits on their students. Instead, they seek to facilitate and further their learning by creating opportunities to make thinking visible.

“See,” “Think,” “Wonder,” is one of the protocols used to help students make their thinking visible.

Gretchko was such an exciting place to visit, and an encouraging example of how powerful the maker movement can be in education when it is embraced as part of the culture of the school.

One of the many awesome stations in the icenter - this strange contraption is actually used to explore music and sound.
One of the many awesome stations in the icenter – this strange contraption is actually used to explore music and sound.

Check out more photos on our Flickr!