All posts by Amber Lovett

Houghton Lake

It’s been a couple weeks since our workshop at Houghton Lake ended – but we are still riding high off the thrill of our interactions with the educators and librarians we met there. We were so pleased with how the workshop went, and with the great ideas that were shared there.

We loved the energy of our participants, and their willingness to engage deeply with ideas. The small size of the group allowed for personal conversation and relationship-building and networking with participants. We expect that the great relationships and enthusiastic attitudes we saw during the workshop are going to translate into some exciting new maker initiatives in local schools and libraries!

One of the many highlights of this workshop were the small group activities. We were particularly impressed with the thoughtful, thorough designs we saw during the design-a-bag activity.  The board game activity also allowed the groups’ creativity to shine.

A huge thank you to the Houghton Lake Public Library and our hosts Sarah and Kimberley, and to all the amazing folks who attended and helped make this event a success!



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!


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!