Blog

Making in Middle School Science

Fellow

by Christa Flores -

In 2011, I became the 5th and 6th grade science teacher at the Hillbrook School (Los Gatos, Ca). That same year the school undertook an audit of the science program for areas of strength, as well as areas for improvement. Simultaneously, the Next Generation Science Standards, emphasizing problem solving and engineering, had just been released, and that spring (2012), I attended my first Bay Area Maker Faire. After reviewing the available research on teaching and learning, attending workshops such as FabLearn at Stanford, and the Innovative Learning conference at the Nueva School, I was inspired to bring more engineering and design into the science curriculum. To learn how to do this well, I consulted with experts, such as Ed Carryer of Stanford’s Smart Product Design Lab (learn more about SPDL in Tony Wagner’s book Creating Innovators), to learn more about the use of prompts for semester long engineering projects. By the 2012 school year, I felt ready to prototype the new 5/6th grade science curriculum, now renamed Problem based Science. Problem based science (PbS) encourages students to gain a love of scientific thinking, applied math, and the creative use of technology, while learning through the lens of invention, design thinking, fixing and tinkering. Now in its fourth year of researched-based development, this blog describes how problem based science differs from traditional middle school science classes (i.e., how I used to teach) and lists the four core units of the curriculum. While these units currently make up only the 5th grade science curriculum at Hillbrook, the units are designed to be open ended enough to be applied to any age/grade level with varying degrees of content detail, technology integration, and design challenge difficulty.

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Thoughts On Learning and Engagement and the Pluto New Horizons Mission

Fellow

by Tracy Rudzitis -

I am sitting next to one of my 6th graders, J., as he flips though one of his favorite books. This book accompanies him to MakerSpace every day and if he is in the lab after school he typically has the book so he can refer to it. The book is a large picture book of the planets and their moons. He is showing me some of his favorite parts, and reading passages to me. As he is doing this, he is holding a model of one of the moons described in the book.

 

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Advanced MaKey MaKey: Remapping Pins

Fellow

by Jaymes Dec -

The MaKey MaKey is a popular microcontroller that makes it easy to use any conductive object as an interface for a computer. When you plug a MaKey MaKey into a computer, the computer thinks you plugged in an external keyboard and mouse. So triggering the sensor inputs on the MaKey MaKey just sends keystrokes or mouse commands to your computer. The MaKey MaKey has 18 inputs that it can use to send those keystrokes and mouse commands

“Out-of-the-box,” the device comes pre-programmed to trigger:

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Launching Boats

Fellow

by Erin Riley -

I once heard teaching compared to the act of launching boats.  I love the visual evoked by that metaphor. Could we think of the work we do in our makerspaces a similar process to preparing for, and ultimately taking off on a self-guided journey? Students captain the ship and teachers watch from the shore.

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What do people learn from using digital fabrication tools?

Fellow

by Erin Riley -

In response to the question of what one actually learns from 3D printing, I thought more deeply about the work we do in our school. While I know conceiving an idea and shepherding it into a tangible form is significant, it is important to be able to articulate its value within an educational setting. It’s also important to reveal the many stages in digital fabrication, especially illuminating the often hidden design process where much of the learning takes place.

OpenSCAD in a classroom

Fellow

by Mario Parade -

In the last school year, I initiated the 3D print workshop at the Montessori School in Potsdam. One of the common problems is which method can be used in the classroom to create 3D objects. In the subsequent 3d-print there are several good open source programs in which the print can be prepared. We use some Ultimaker² 3D printers in combination with the control program Cura (It is available for all popular platforms and relatively simple to set up). That should not be a problem.

Making it real - constructionism comes to life

Institution

by Sylvia Martinez -

The 2014/2015 FabLearn Fellows are a diverse group of 18 educators and makers. They represent eight states and five countries, and work with a wide range of ages at schools, museums, universities and non-profits. Throughout the course of the year, they will develop curriculum and resources, as well as contribute to current research projects. Their blogs represent their diverse experience and interests in creating better educational oportunities for all.

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