One of our most successful projects this semester was making T-Shirt Light Up Bracelets! We pre-cut rectangles of cloth from different colored t-shirts and gave students the option of picking their favorite color.
The students then sewed a simple straight line to make the rectangle into a tube. (Some of them stopped after this point and simply made an arm sleeve with no bulb or battery.) Then they took a battery and an LED bulb of their color choice and put the battery inside the tube and poked the LED wires through the fabric. To create an on/off button, the sleeve was turned inside-out and double-sided tape was positioned in such a way that the wire would only touch the battery when pressed!
Finally, the kids measured the bracelet around their wrist and made one more sewing line. We could imagine this with hand-sewing as well, but it was an extremely easy introduction to the sewing machine for many of the students!
This week we wanted students to work as teams to create boardgames. We thought starting with boardgames could make an easy transition into videogames but the pathway wasn’t so clear. Students were very happy to make boardgames together though — we had a lot of cool ideas! Check out these pictures.
As the students wanted more exposure to videogames, we had considered Scratch, but the open-ended nature of the platform usually led to them just playing already-made videogames within a few minutes.
Returning to Scarlett we had contacted the after-school coordinator Sal Barrientes, and he had promoted our club more broadly throughout the school and when we returned we had more than double the students we had last semester! We almost ran out of buttons for students to make!
Our first couple sessions involved brainstorming what sessions would be most engaging for the students. We heard multiple students ask for building their own videogames and a couple for slime as well. Other suggestions, like “robots”, were a little beyond our abilities, but we tried to tease out what exactly the students wanted.
We also re-introduced the concept of Design Challenges, but students felt a little constrained by them. Since we had so many new students, we decided to do backstitching with them, but challenged them to first start with a sketch and a plan for how they wanted to use the completed design — what item would they end up ironing it onto back home?
Our final set of projects over the last two weeks were Electric Jewelry (with Kristin and Ben) and a Cardboard Design Challenge (spearheaded by Sarah).
Similar to flashlights, but allowing for much more room for decoration and individual expression, our electric jewelry consisted of small LED bulbs with coincell batteries, and decorative/colored duct-tape. The students chose a duct-tape type, measured their wrists, and were able to use what they had learned previously to connect the bulb to the battery, then decorate their bracelets with knick-knacks which they hot-glued on.
Sarah’s Cardboard Challenge was a great success, engaging many of the students for the entire 90 minutes. Using our Design Thinking Game set of cards, each group of students was challenged to make an item for a specific audience (e.g. a Fat Cat, or a Librarian), that served some purpose (something to Relax, something to wear on the feet). A major design constraint was only using cardboard and MakeDo screws and plastic saws. It was amazing watching the students work together and stay focused after they had decided how to narrow down the scope of the challenge!
We sent the students home with two paper bags of junk from the junk box so they could keep making during their spring break! Many students sought out our autographs on things they had made as this was their last meeting with us. We’ll miss you all! Special thanks to Ms. Duncan the librarian, and Principal Matt Hilton for organizing such a successful semester!
We had our ZineFest! Having the students sign their own work and hand it out to their peers was very exciting for them. We went around collecting zines from each author. We hope this small taste of authorship will continue to inspire and motivate the students to create something that means something to them.
After our successful mini-ZineFest, the students could participate in two mentor-led sessions: toy-takeapart, or finger-puppets. We also allowed students to just draw or continue with some of the projects from the previous weeks. Toy-takeapart continues to be an engaging project for students to work on as they puzzle over what’s inside their toys and how to make progress. Finger-puppets were a relaxing way to create small, inexpensive items for the students. We continued toy-takeapart the next week for those that didn’t get a chance to participate, and we also added crochet for those that found finger-knitting to be the most engaging.
Finally, we experimented with adding a couple of computers set up to use Michigan ZOOMin, a Zooniverse project by a professor at University of Michigan that can help students learn about Michigan wildlife by identifying pictures of deer, bears, raccoons, and other wildlife from trap cameras set up around the state. This Citizen Science project helps students take part in real research and learn about animals along the way. We had a few students take part in this and they identified over 50 pictures!
Our next two weeks saw Sarah and Tori taking more initiative by taking on their own projects. We gave the students one more option this time: finger-knitting (with Tori), flashlights (with Ben), or felt pillows (with Sarah). Organizing the zines took longer than we thought it might, but stay tuned for the ZineFest next week!
The students were able to pick a project and complete it — or sometimes move onto another one. With around 8-9 kids per project, it became a little difficult to go through the step-by-step instructions of many of our projects. The students showed a lot of patience in waiting for a mentor’s attention, and we even had a few students who were able to help their peers. In the future, we had a little bit more of a lesson at the beginning and that helped a lot.
This semester at Mitchell we had two new helping hands, Sarah and Tori! With four pairs of hands, we thought we might introduce Sarah and Tori as helpers first on two projects, zines (which we had been excited about for a while, and Sarah had experience in) and boardgames (which Ben really digs as a means to collaboration and choice for the students).
So we split the students up into two groups and had one group work on zines this week, and the other on designing boardgames in groups of two or three. The following week, the groups switched. If they finished early they could work on engineering toys or other items that we had brought in.
Over the two weeks we had a lot of zines made that were very thoughtful and described what the students were interested in. Some used some Ed Emberly books to enhance their drawing skills, but some created stories of their cats or about their interest in soccer. The boardgames also turned out well, as students were encouraged to use only the materials that were presented to them in a small ziploc bag. We were happy to get Tori and Sarah used to how Michigan Makers worked by using familiar projects!
For the last session at Scarlett before winter break, the activity was designing our own mugs. Each student was given a IKEA mug and access to several colors of the oil based paint sharpies. Small slips of paper had the baking instructions so that students with the help of an adult could bake the design onto the mug so that it would not rub off with everyday use and washing.
Many of the students created christmas themed designs they planned on giving as gifts to friends and family. While most of the designs were hand drawn, one students used stencils to create a stop sign. Her idea was to create an image and word that would prevent her family from using her mug.
One problem that arose was how to fix any mistakes on the mugs. The sharpies were fairly permanent so any mistake had to be quickly wiped away with an alcohol wipe. Sometimes being creative or accepting the mistakes was easier than correcting them. This forced the students to be intentional with their choices as well as accepting of any small mistakes that occured.
At Scarlett Middle School today the students were tasked with creating a Puppet Show from scratch. The students had a cardboard stage, fabric, junk boxes, and their creativity at their disposal to create everything they needed for their show.
Using toy parts, felt and other scraps of fabric each student created unique puppets. The students did not do much planning and preferred to jump right in to making the puppets. This allowed each puppet to be fully unique, however, they soon discovered that sometimes what seems like a great idea for a character might not be conducive to a 3D puppet. The students spent time troubleshooting how to get their floppy but pretty puppet to stand vertically. Straws, popsicle sticks and glue seemed to be the method of choice to support the puppets.
When it came to the stage, the students used fabric and other fun materials to drape over the stage and the area in front of it to create scenery. This was done instead of coloring or drawing on the stage. The effect was magically, however, like with the puppets the cardboard stage could not support all of the weight so it was back to problem solving and figuring out how to have a decorated stage that could stand up straight under the weight. The students used some of their books from school to prop up the stage from behind carefully making sure it was not visible from the front.
The last step was to bring all the pieces together to put on the show. There was no real planning of dialogue or action. It was definitely an improv session. The students took inspiration from shows and movies they loved as well as conversations they had in real life with friends and family for their shows. They were definitely unique!
We were grateful to finally return to Mitchell Elementary — and to be back in the gorgeous library which gave us more room to work with than the creativity-inspiring art room — in the third week of November. We had scheduled four weeks to work with the students with a break for Thanksgiving, but we ended up getting the first snow day of the year on our final gift-giving blowout meeting! Read up a little below on what we did and learned throughout the three fall sessions…
Diverging from our typical route of having (too?) many stations, we decided to try to have one large-group activity. The first week we went with our tried-and-true favorite: toy takeapart. The main reason we love this activity so much is it engages the most reluctant third grade students. Over the semesters, we’ve been adjusting simple things here and there about how we present the activity and how we monitor the students learning. We are also always searching for the perfect toy. This particular iteration featured a few too many smaller toys with specialty screws. Our librarian host and some parents who came early even stepped in during the waning minutes trying to help the students with pesky screws — we eventually discovered some of the thread on the plastic part had been eroded!
The second week we had plans to have the students make felt finger puppets using hand-sewing techniques and then design a short play that could be performed for the other students. We added the decoration of the stage as an extendable way for the students to further realize their designs. Our trustworthy junk box became the primary fodder for students to enhance their stage sets (made out of cardboard boxes). Students also created different mechanical set-ups attached to the stage to create both a stand for a soccer goal to sit on, and a way to have curtains be raised at the beginning of the play.
During the third week, we finished up puppets, stages, and plays, and finally had multiple groups show off their plays as their classmates looked on.