Maker Camp: Building a Maker Mindset

Collaboration, Growth Mindset, Maker Camp, Maker Mindset, Maker Movement, MakerEd, MakerSpace, Motivation

Everyone is a Maker.

At Maker Camp, we explicitly introduced something we called a “Maker Mindset”. We decided that it was important to highlight different parts of a Maker Mindset every week of Maker Camp. Maker Mindset introduced and reinforced qualities and the kind of growth mindset that our students needed to recognize in themselves while making and creating.

Our first Maker Mindset introduced the belief that everyone can be a maker. We knew many of the students came to Maker Camp because they had an interest in making, but we worked on projects that involved a wide variety of topics and skills that could easily have become overwhelming, frustrating and lead to feelings of defeat. We wanted students to understand that they all brought unique qualities with them that made them each unique makers. Creativity, problem solving, techy skills that students commonly see themselves lacking can all be practiced and developed- they are not a prerequisite to making.

Making and creating- along with the ownership and pride in that experience- is inherently part of being human. We have been doing it since the beginning.

As a result, we included our “Super Maker” project to kick off Maker Camp. This project prompted students to create a popsicle stick superhero of themselves, write their name and some of their making strengths. We posted them on the wall and asked students to use the wall for collaboration and support. If you wanted to make a movie, but you did not consider yourself a very good artist- go to the Super Maker wall and find someone who lists drawing or animation as one of their strengths. Ask that person for help or if they would like to collaborate on a project. This was a great way to connect our campers and reinforce the Maker Mindset belief that everyone is a Maker.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 9.21.15 PM.png

Maker Camp: Diving In

creativity, Failure, innovation, Maker Camp, Maker Movement, MakerEd, MakerSpace, Motivation, STEM

So let’s begin this first post on Maker Camp with a camp tradition:

The spooky campfire ghost story.

One day, two crazy educators bravely decided to host something called Maker Camp with only two weeks notice. So they cautiously entered into the abandoned school (Ok, it was summertime. But if you’ve ever been in school after hours by yourself, you know what I mean- it’s enough to give you the goosebumps). They entered with no budget, a cry for volunteer help, over 100 students and families registered and the hopes and dreams of inspiring and encouraging creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking in students, staff and the greater community.

To see how this story ends, follow my posts about our Maker Camp experience. These posts are written reflectively quite a bit later than I would have preferred but better to reflect late than never.

Still fresh and new in my role as a Technology Integration Specialist with my district, I was looking for a way to use the summer to continue to build relationships and bring awareness to technology integration and instructional design to our staff, students and community. Cue my colleague, Beth, whose mutual interest and passion for the Maker movement and its impact on education became our initial bond. We began looking for ways to introduce making and the Maker movement to our students, staff and community. But of course this was about more than just the Maker Movement. Our district, as are many others, is working hard to shift towards more project based learning and active learning pedagogies along with technology integration. The 2016 Horizon report identifies accelerating trends in technology adoption in education and Maker Spaces, a shift to deeper learning approaches like project based learning, a shift from students as consumers to creators and a rise in STEAM learning as key trends and important developments in K-12 and higher education within the next 1-5 years.

In my
experience though, systematic change is often slow-moving and complex. Transformations in pedagogy like that don’t happen overnight. Which is frustrating for someone who is passionate about instructional design and technology. I just want to jump into classrooms and shout LET’S DO THIS!”. But it was important for me to pause and recognize that successful change is about feeling and not about thinking. I can tell teachers about the Maker Movement and get them thinking about how it could impact their classrooms, but that will never live up to them seeing that student that they have been struggling to engage all year suddenly engaged and enthusiastic and creating SOMETHING. That’s feeling and that is why we do what we do in the end. And that is what gives us the motivation to change.

“The deepest problem for us is not technology, not teaching, nor school bureaucracies, it’s the limits of our own thinking.” – Sylvia Libow Martinez


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.

Creating a Student Maker Space

Maker Movement, MakerEd, MakerSpace, STEM

As part of a 20% time project, I decided to pursue my interest in developing student Maker Spaces. It just so happened that our main tech offices are moving to a new space and small space then has opened up attached to the library that I could create a student Maker Space. I have been doing some research and had an awesome visit and tour through Ann Arbor Maker Works. Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 8.08.07 PM


Obviously, there are tools that are not cleared for use with fourth and fifth grade student use but it was great to get an idea of how a true MakerSpace functions. A MAET alum and MSU Urban STEM professor Candace Marcotte

took some time out to do a Google Hangout with me and discuss how she has been transforming her Tech Club into an after school MakerSpace. She shared some really great ideas about what materials to start off with and how to structure the meetings. I was excited to hear that her work with the program stemmed interest from teachers who are now using the space with their students. That would be my end goal- to create an engaging and inviting space that could be used for interdisciplinary projects and fosters 21st century skills.

As the tech team transitions into their new space, I am looking forward to finding supplies to get our Maker Space up and running! Pictures to follow of what we end up with and how we shape our space!

Maker Activity #3 (Assessment & Reflection)

Learning, MAET Year 1, Maker Movement, Squishy Circuits

I have been using the Maker Kit of Squishy Circuits to design my Maker lesson plan and UDL redesign. I had never previously heard of Squishy Circuits before but do remember vaguely playing with electric circuit kits as a grade school student. As an adult, I can reflect and say that comparing the two circuitry experiences, I would have learned considerably more about how circuits work had I been able to explore circuitry as a young student through using the Squishy Circuits kit. The kit is more engaging than a pre-set circuit lab activity because Squishy Circuits have both cross-curricular ties and can be created unique to the learner but accomplish the same overall academic objective.

My group made many interdisciplinary connections while working with Squishy Circuits. It just seemed to make sense that students could use their “…cognitive-creative skills that cut-across disciplinary boundaries” with this kit (Mishra & The Deep-Play Research Group, 2012, p.15). However, without a culture of collaboration and team teaching amongst teachers, I think this would be more difficult to implement in practice. I am not highly skilled in the area of science, therefore did not feel like I could really use the Squishy Circuits to their full potential because I was lacking some basic foundational science knowledge to really help my students unleash their capabilities. For example, I had to look up which kinds of materials were conductive and which were insulators because I had forgotten. So it seemed like a times, in order to incorporate Squishy Circuits into my curriculum meaningfully and not doing some creative stretching, I would need to team teach with a science teacher which is why I re-designed my lesson to include that adjustment.

Maker education seems to fit seamlessly into fields of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics). As …. says,  “creative thought processes are considered increasingly necessary as criteria for accomplishment in the progressively complex and interdependent 21st century (Mishra & The Deep-Play Research Group, 2012, p.14). I think maker education can work in other disciplines but it will be incorporated most effectively if it involves teachers from all disciplines working together on student projects so that learning is more meaningful.  However, the challenge to this is that many of our school environments are set up to be “silo” oriented and do not allow for this type of collaboration.


Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group (2012). Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the Future.TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16.

From Trash to Treasure Part 2: Inspiration to Reality

Learning, Learning Theory, MAET Year 1, Maker Movement, Repurposing, Squishy Circuits

I recently shared my Thrifting experience and design plans for a Don Quijote inspired Spanish windmill. I had thought ahead a bit and designed my invention to be a “test run” of sorts for my potential lesson plan.

Again, the maker kit that my group and I had was “Squishy Circuits”. This kit is an awesome tool for younger students to more actively participate in the circuitry experience safely and creatively.

My third and fourth grade Spanish students focus their cultural learning on Central American countries. My goal for this particular lesson including “Squishy Circuits” is to have them contribute to their understanding of Culture through the Products and Perspectives Standard, which requires that students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied.

It would be easy to assign students to create a poster or a PowerPoint packed to the brim with information about a certain landmark from a country and present it to the class to demonstrate their understanding. However, this is a topic that students really struggle to assign meaning to. How without actually physically traveling to these landmarks am I able to get my students to achieve a deeper understanding and make connections? Regurgitating memorized information is not going to create that deeper connection.

My idea is that earlier in the year, we would have covered the basic geography of Central America and done a bit of background about each country. We would have explored Nicaragua deeply in fourth grade through a service-learning project and Guatemala deeply in third through a holiday related project.

Bringing in the idea that “…learning is enhanced…when teachers pay attention to the knowledge and beliefs that learners bring to a learning task, use this knowledge as a starting point for new instruction, and monitor students’ changing conceptions as instruction proceeds, ”(Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000, p. 11) I would begin this lesson by introducing students to a specific Central American landmark and have them help me produce some basic background information about that landmark. This would ensure that my students are achieving meaningful learning by giving them the background knowledge to build their future knowledge upon.

In my experience, Vygotsky’s learning theories of scaffolding and the zone of proximal development are key in successful language teaching. I usually scaffold my learners through teacher or student modeling, which I would do in this lesson by having them walk through an example list of resources that I would probably post using the MentorMob learning playlist tool for the example landmark. As we walk through these resources, I would ask questions to have them describe their thinking about the landmark and encourage them to make connections from the resources we looked at and from using prior knowledge. I would then divide my students up in small groups and assign each group a landmark.

Some examples of landmarks:

Panama Canal (Panama)

Ometepe Island (Nicaragua)

Tikal Temple in Tikal National Park (Guatemala)

Catedral Metropolitana/ Catedral de Panamá (Panama)

Joya de Cerén (El Salvador)

Depending on my students’ background knowledge of circuitry, I might either go through just the tools included in the “Squishy Circuits” kit, give an actual demonstration or just hand it to them with no explanation via the constructivist theory (or the Craig McMichael method).

I would give my students the tools to get started on their creation of this landmark and then focus on supporting the participatory and hands-on learning portion that really creates the meaning for this particular topic. I think it is awesome to have the science part embedded within the culture through the “Squishy Circuits” kit. I will probably be able to kick start some students’ motivation on the sole fact it is science related. I consider myself a global educator who “…use(s) participatory learning activities such as simulations because they infuse their classrooms with complexity, unpredictability, and realism.” (Byrnes, 1997, p. 100) Students have to be able to feel like they can go out and apply these skills in the real world. Through my use of participatory learning, I can see that “…participatory learning helps students develop analytic and interpersonal skills” (Byrnes, 1997, p. 99) that they would not be developing just working individually on a PowerPoint.


Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Byrnes, R. S. (1997). Global education’s promise: reinvigorating classroom life in a changing, interconnected world. Theory Into Practice, 3695-101.

From Trash to Treasure: Thrifting for Inspiration

Learning, MAET Year 1, Maker Movement, Repurposing, Something Fun, Squishy Circuits

As a relatively young teaching professional with a generous amount of student loans, thrifting has recently become a new default mode of shopping for myself. Yes, having shiny new things are nice and necessary occasionally,  but through some recent personal experiences I have become much more weary of the culture of consumption that we live in.

For this reason, I was excited to dive into thrifting for our maker project experience. I did not get a chance to visit the MSU Surplus store but did visit digitally via the website. I also physically visited several local resale shops to look for inspiration.

Our group’s maker kit was the “Squishy Circuits” kit. This kit uses conductive play dough and insulated play dough along with a battery pack, two buzzers and a rotor to allow younger students to safely and creatively play with circuitry.

I must admit, I approached this task thinking ahead to how I would incorporate my maker kit into a lesson for my Spanish classroom. At first glance, I was at a loss for ideas. This is after all a tool geared more for science and art.  When we had a our “play”sessions, we only seemed to go so far and then we ran out of things to do with this kit. So I began brainstorming to think of something I already do with my students and how I could incorporate the “Squishy Circuits” kit as a way of embedding the science portion into the Spanish content. My students study Hispanic cultures and one of the hardest things to give them is perspective. How do you accurately describe the beauty and significance of a certain culture landmark in ways that have meaning for students who have never had the experience of actually seeing the landmark in real life? Rather than research the landmark, print off some pretty pictures and give a poster or PowerPoint presentation, what if I had them actually work to (within reason) accurately create the landmark using “Squishy Circuits”?  They would get a hands on experience and have to research and answer those key critical thinking questions in order to be able to represent theirlandmark accurately. I could mold this idea to whatever country or concept we are talking about but the first inspiration to strike me was the majestic windmills in La Mancha in Consuegra, Spain that inspired Cervantes in Don Quijote.

So with that idea in mind, I went thrifting for inspiration.


I saw Legos, which reminded me of the Lego architecture sets that are out there and how popular they are. I thought about how building the landmark will give my students a completely different experience than just looking at a picture or talking about it. I looked at all the small jewelry pieces and thought about giving my students all sorts of random mediums to accomplish their goal of replicating this landmark. Exploring the different mediums will also force them to understand the circuitry aspect of “Squishy Circuits” as well. Roaming the thrift stores, there are all sorts of objects that could be incorporated into the play dough of the squishy circuit. If it is a plastic object say Legos, they will have to understand that it is not conductive and therefore design their building accordingly. If it is a metal object, they will have to experiment to see if it is a conductive metal or not and if that effects the architecture of their building. In the case of this project, I was using the thrift store more as a starting point of inspiration of where to go with the design of my windmill. And it worked…

Less than twenty minutes later, out to lunch with my husband, I began to talk out with him the idea for my windmill design. The stars seemed to have aligned as we happened to be eating at a restaurant that gives you one of those paper tablecloths and crayons. We both began to illustrate what we were thinking and created prototypes of this windmill made with “Squishy Circuits”. Amazing how some of the best ideas come together and appear in the oddest places (7 Brilliant Ideas Scribbled on Cocktail Napkins).


Ok, so my drawing skills leave much to be desired but after talking it out with my husband, we sketched out a basic layout that would work in theory and determined the tools I would need to create it.

How to Create a Spanish Windmill using “Squishy Circuits”

I will do my very best here to explain step by step how you could go about creating a working La Mancha inspired windmill that should end up looking as majestic as the real ones in Spain. Or at the very least, a functioning windmill.

Supplies Needed:

  • 2 batches of conductive play dough NO FOOD COLORING ADDED SO DOUGH REMAINS WHITE (click here for recipe)     (HELPFUL HINT: make sure to label this dough in a plastic bag “conductive” so it does not get confused with the insulating dough)
  • 1 batch of insulating play dough NO FOOD COLORING ADDED SO DOUGH REMAINS WHITE (click here for recipe)                         (HELPFUL HINT: make sure to label this dough in a plastic bag “insulating” so it does not get confused with the conductive dough)
  • 1 batch of conductive play dough (equal portions of blue, yellow and red  to create black play dough) (click here for recipe)


1 metal spool with holes (no thread)

  • 1 medium sized rubber band
  • 1 wooden skewer
  • needle nose pliers
  • 12 inches by 1 inch of mesh (can be wire mesh or window screen mesh) cut into four separate 3 inch by 1 inch pieces
  • hot glue gun

What To Do First?

Create Your Windmill Shape


1. Begin by forming your white conductive dough into a vertical cylinder shape. This will represent the white bottom of the windmill. You may not use all the dough depending on the size of your desired windmill.

2. Now take your white insulating dough and create a cookie shape cylinder to insert on top of the white conductive dough vertical cylinder. This dough should be about an 1″ in height on top of the white conductive dough.

3. To finish your windmill shape, take the black conductive dough and create a cone shape proportionate to your white cylinder shape. Make sure that the black conductive cone shape is not touching the white conductive dough only the insulating dough underneath.

photo(11)Create Youphoto(12)r Windmill Blades

1. First, find your metal spool and four sections of three inch wire. In the tiny holes on the side of the metal spool, locate four holes that are diagonal from each other and will create an X shape for the blades of your windmill.

2. Use the needlenose pliers to bend each wire through one of the tiny holes on the spool and bend it back through to secure it to the spool. Do this with all four pieces of the metal wire to form the X shape blade.

3. Heat your hot glue gun. When the glue gun is ready, attach your four pieces of mesh or window screen to each wire vertically to imitate the blades on the windmill. Make sure to use small dots of hot glue so that you are not making the blades too heavy with glue. Let each dry.

4. Find one of your wooden skewers and your metal spool. Take your wooden skewer and thread it through the large hole in the metal spool. On one end of the wooden skewer add a small sphere of leftover dough to act as a stopper for the metal spool. Make sure the dough does not actually touch the metal spool.

5. Insert the wooden skewer near the bottom of the black conductive dough cone. Make sure to leave space of the metal spool to be able to spin freely. If there is extra wooden skewer stick out of the back of your windmill, feel free to cut it off with scissors.

Make It Move


1. On the side opposite your windmill blades, attach your positive (red) side of the the battery pack to the black conductive dough. Attach your negative (black) side of the battery pack to the white conductive dough. Your dough is now charged.

2. On the side with the windmill blades about 1-2 inches directly below your metal spool insert your motor into the white conductive dough. Insert the positive (red) side of the motor into the black conductive dough. attach your negative (black) side of the motor to the white conductive dough. Your motor should now be functioning.

3. While working on step 3, remove the negative side of the motor so it stops rotating. Take the rubber band and wrap it around the metal spool and around the spinning motor end. Reattach your negative side of the motor to the white conductive dough and now the rotation of the motor should translate to the spool and result in a spinning windmill!

Give it Some Character

You have successfully created a working windmill. Feel free now to give your windmill some character or just bask in the glory of your accomplishment. You can add windows, doors, cracks in the dough, ect. to give it that older and more authentic feel. Also each “La Mancha” windmill has name so feel free to add that above the door of your windmill in marker. Excelente!

Please comment below if you have any suggestions or ways to improve the design of the windmill. Do you have other architectural structures that lend themselves to recreation using “Squishy Circuits”?


Reading Presentation 6/25/13

Learning, MAET Year 1, Maker Movement

Reading Presentation

All resources can be accessed via the notes section of this HaikuDeck.

HaikuDeck Presentation

Has the Internet changed the way we see? Here’s what we think.

Does the Internet make us nicer? Here’s what we think.

Reflection on “Replacing Experience with Facsimile” and “I am Realizing How Nice People Can Be”

The essays Replacing Experience with Facsimile by Eric Fischl and April Gornik and I am Realizing How Nice People Can Be by Paul Bloom open up new perspectives on the power of the internet.  While also looking at the maker movement and remix culture we see that “false illusion of knowledge and experience” (Fischl and Gornik) has occurred while also a level of production, creativity, and emerging ideas not imaginable before.  Similar to professional athletes making their chosen sport look easy, the internet also often has the same effect.  Fortunately, somebody else on the internet has usually had the same problems as you and has posted a solution to the problem on the internet.  Paul Bloom claims that the internet has made people nicer.  I think this point is especially interesting because in schools we often focus on the issues of cyberbullying and the negative outcomes of the internet while disregarding the positive.  I was babysitting one night and the mom had bought an OtterBox for their iPad.  She and her son could not figure out how to put the OtterBox on the iPad and there were not any directions.  After about five minutes of failed attempts I got on my phone and Youtube’d “how to put an OtterBox on an Ipad.”  After about another five minutes of video watching, the eight year old and I had successfully ensured that the next time he dropped the iPad a shattered screen would (hopefully) not be the result.  People are becoming more and more willing to share their advice on the internet.  Through a Google search one can find most answers to any question or problem they pose.  Some of these solutions might be help forums, videos, blogs, or instructional manuals.  If you are looking for a recipe online the comments usually offer up great advice of tweaks to make that dish more enjoyable.

The maker movement and remix culture are essentially the internet come alive – they are innovative creators and helpers.  They share their experience and expertise.  They are excited to create new things and share with the world.  They are learners.  They are teachers.  They are a self-correcting and peer-editing culture.

Written collaboratively with Teaching with Miller