Stimulating Creativity in a Maker Space

Collaboration, creativity, innovation, Maker Movement, MakerEd, MakerSpace, STEM


Our first Next Generation Classrooms teacher professional development of the year was focused on creativity. These teachers have one to one iPads in their classrooms, flexible learning spaces including multiple collaborative work spaces and focus on including 21st century skills as part of their curriculum.

Through my work in the MAET program at MSU, I have grown an interest in the Maker Movement and its implications in education. We were offered an opportunity to work on a 20% time project as part of our work in Saline so I have chosen to work on creating a Maker Space in our fourth and fifth grade building. In order to prepare for that project, I toured a Maker Space operating in Ann Arbor called Maker Works. I thought it was an inspiring space with tools that made you really think about all of the elements that go into creating a product.

Our director of tech toured the space shortly after and loved the idea of holding our Next Gen training there! The rest of the design was up to the Maker Works team and they did a fantastic job designing a fun, engaging and out of the box creative experience for our teachers.

IMG_1498The teachers first got a tour of the facility which is much bigger than it appears! They toured the circuitry room, the collaboration room, the woodworking shop, the metalworking shop and the crafting room. The group learned a little about the company and the space and its emphasis on providing a space for anyone to come and make. They talked a lot about the awesome collaboration amongst all ages that they see there as people learn and help each other with creative projects.

Then, the teachers were introduced to their creative challenge. The teachers had to save the world by creating a superhero identity. They designed a superpower and superhero name. They designed an emblem to go with that superhero and gave the superhero a back story.


Assisted by a Maker Works helper, the teachers transformed their sketched emblem designs into CorelDraw on the computer. The designs then were sent to a vinyl cutter which our superintendent and assistant superintendent of curriculum helped to set up! The teachers printed and then cut out their vinyl design, placed them on a t-shirt and then heat pressed them onto the t-shirt. Pretty awesome!


From there, teachers used the laser cutter to cut superhero masks and then decorate using an assortment of materials. The teachers could then cut and sew a cape to attach to their t-shirt.


Our tech director also put together an awesome creativity stimulator for these teachers that they were given the night before the training. What a great way to get them in the mood for some training! She included some purposeful items like vanilla coffee as vanilla is a proven creativity booster. She included Sir Ken Robinson’s book Out of Our Minds– which I am now currently reading!IMG_1470IMG_1473We ran out of time to reflect as a group on our experience but followed up with an e-mail with some ideas to self-reflect on their creative experience. We also included the K-2, 3-6 and 7-12 creativity rubrics that we want teachers to start incorporating with their students to better evaluate the creativity skills that their students are gaining in their experience as a Next Generation student.

Three Little Pigs Creativity Project- Kindergarten & First Grade

creativity, innovation, MakerEd, STEM, Tech Integration, TPACK

Beginning with the framework that we used with fourth grade, we created a simplified and shortened version of the creativity project to use with our kindergarten and first grade Next Generation classrooms.

We did a quick think-pair-share retelling of the traditional Three Little Pigs story.

Then, we read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and talked about similarities and differences in the two versions of the story.

We discussed the strategies the three little pigs used to keep the pig out and then revealed their challenge. The students needed to design a house that would stand up to the big bad wolf. IMG_1355

Within the time constraints of an hour, we had students go through a brainstorming process and create a design either on paper or their iPads. Working collaboratively to create one unified design was more challenging for this group of younger students compared to fourth grade but after some questioning they developed strategies for creating a design. One group had everyone create their own design and then shared them and picked the best one. Another group took parts of everyone’s design to create one design. This was probably the most time consuming part.


After their design was approved, the groups were given their materials to start building. We did give different materials to this group and gave them a base to put their structure on to help them develop sturdier structures.



It was extremely interesting to see how the different groups created their structures. Some groups were very detail oriented- worried about chandeliers, signs, furniture and a yard. Other groups tested their structure by all blowing towards the structure at the same time to see if it would stay up.


After about 20 minutes of work on their structure, we had each group come up and present their structure and tell us about why they did what they did. They had some well thought out reasoning! We then had the Big Bad Hairdryer come out and test the design to see if it would withstand the huff and puff.


Finally, we self-reflected as a group using the K-2 BIE Creativity Rubric.




Three Little Pigs Engineering Design and Creativity Project

creativity, innovation, MakerEd, STEM, Tech Integration, TPACK

After our Creativity and Innovation professional development (Next Gen Teacher Academy) training, the tech team pushed into Next Generation classrooms before Winter Break to tackle some creativity projects.

In designing this creativity project learning experience, I used TPACK to create the most effective learning experience.

Pedagogy: First, I considered the pedagogy that would help stimulate and develop creativity. In project or problem based learning, students are solving a complex question or problem that does not necessarily have one correct answer so it really lends itself to thinking creatively to solve problems. It was important to consider other best practices such as Backwards Design, UDL, differentiation, scaffolding and inquiry based learning and they seemed to complement a project based learning approach to the creativity project.

Content: Next, I considered the content that would frame the creativity project. We pushed into Kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade classes for our creativity project so we needed content that could be adapted to be applicable to all grade levels. Making interdisciplinary connections, I settled on a STEM and literature project. I worked backwards to design essential questions for a fourth grade creativity project.

Big Questions: What is the Engineering Design Process?

How can you design a solution to a problem?

What strategies does a write use to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes?

How do folktales provide insight into other cultures and teach us lessons for our daily lives?

Objective: Students will engage in the steps of the creative process including defining the creative challenge, identify sources of information, idea generation and refinement, openness and courage to explore, working creatively with others, creative production and innovation and self-reflection.

Context: Next, I considered the context. We are pushing into Next Generation classrooms which have one to one iPads and flexible learning spaces. We also wanted to design a lesson that would adaptable to several grade levels.

Technology: Finally, after considering all of the above did I start to think about the ways in which technology could enhance the creativity lesson. The technology used for this lesson needed to provide a tool for collaboration, for publishing and sharing and also for engagement and creation.

The Three Little Pigs Engineering Creativity Project

Hook: To quickly engage students, we told them a little about how they would be using some engineering skills combined with a story they would be familiar with but that they would have to use some creativity as well. We showed The Three Little Pigs advertisement from The Guardian & discussed the different points of view within the video.

Retelling: We then moved into a retelling of the traditional Three Little Pigs story through a Think, Pair, Share. We found that there was some confusion so decided to just read the original folk tale aloud to clear up any misconceptions.

Then, we read aloud The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, the version of the story told from the point of view of the wolf.


Compare and Contrast: We asked students to think about the different points of view found in the three different versions of the same story and had them discuss with partners. We then had them create Venn Diagrams on their iPads.

On Day 2 of the creativity project, we began to shift our thinking towards engineering and how that played a role in this story.IMG_1414

Ask (Define the Creative Challenge): Students were shared a Google Doc to begin to explore engineering and what an engineer does. They were provided with this What is Engineering? ThingLink to help them start to define their creative challenge.

Here is what the Google Doc looked like with the red text being the student feedback summarized:

We had a fantastic discussion while sharing out what we had learned during our exploration time.

Driving Question: We wrapped up this discussion on engineering by asking the students “If we were engineers designing a house, what is the potential real world problem we would be trying to solve in our design?”.

Students determined that they were trying to design a structure that could withstand strong winds from hurricanes or tornadoes and thus designed their driving question for this project.

Imagine & Plan (Identify Sources of Information/ Idea Generation & Refinement):

Now we introduced the groups and materials to the students. Each group had a bag of materials that they were able to use to create their structure. They were also provided with a ThingLink with resources  on wind power, architecture & engineering that they could explore if they chose.

Groups had to brainstorm and create a general design either on paper or iPad and be able to explain it to one of the teachers in the room. If the design was approved, the group received their building materials and could begin building their structure. If their design was not approved, they had to make changes using the teacher’s suggestions before the group could begin.


Create (Creative Production & Innovation, Working Creatively with Others, Openness & Courage to Explore):

Students worked very hard creating their house the first day.

However, on day two of building we introduced some constraints in order to really stimulate some creativity and create some roadblocks that had to be overcome. First, we introduced the Pig Depot. Each group now had a budget and had to purchase the supplies that it was using to create their house from the Pig Depot adding some layers of math that had to be considered.


When the groups were reading, they   could test their structure using the Big Bad Hairdryer. If their structure did not stand up to the Big Bad hairdryer, they needed to make improvements.


Finally, we introduced the bigger badder fan that students had two chances to try and get their structure to stand up to.


 Self-Reflection: After all groups had tested twice on the bigger badder fan, they had to reflect as a group and individually using the Saline Area Schools creativity rubric that incorporates the Buck Institute for Education Project Based Learning Creativity Rubrics and the EdLeader21 Creativity Rubrics. Each group presented their house design, whether or not it stood up to the bigger badder fan, their successes and failures throughout the process, what they would do differently and how they worked as a team.

The feedback that I got from the fourth grade teachers was that they were really excited about how the project engaged and hooked some of their normally disengaged students and how the students seemed to gain a recognition of how valuable collaboration was for solving a complex problem. The students made tons of cross-curricular connections and all developed unique structures with supporting rationale. We then took this activity and adapted it for our Kindergarten and first grade classrooms.