#LufkinLearns Invention Literacy Workshop – Wrap Up

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Last week I was stoked to lead an invention literacy workshop for educators in Lufkin, Tx. Thanks to Rafranz Davis, I was able to teach this group about some of my favorite things: Invention Literacy, Makey Makey, and the Maker Mindset.

Inventor’s Mindset

One of my favorite things about this workshop is Tom Heck’s icebreaker where we talk about an inventor’s mindset. Here are some aha moments from that morning:

  • Inventors are not risk takers, but rather inventors take calculated risks.
  • An inventor looks at the world as something they can change or make better. They constantly ask the question, “How does this work?” or “How can I make this better?”

Paper Circuits

Since most of these teachers had never used a Makey Makey, I wanted to refresh them on the concept of a simple circuit. ( I packed all of the materials needed in these handy photo storage boxes so resources were distributed easily to each table group.)

Table group resources in a handy photo storage box! #makered #hacks

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I loved that after getting a working circuit, learners begin to find other applications. Rafranz hacked her simple circuit into a parallel circuit, and most of the table groups begin to make holiday cards.

 

Fairy Tales

After circuits, we began to dabble in the Sketch it Play it activity. (Sketch something with a pencil, hook it up to Makey Makey and play a piano.) Normally I have my educators make blackout poetry, but since this was a room full of awesome elementary educators, I adapted this part of the workshop to creating illustrations for our favorite fairy tales.

Switches

A lot of educators never get #beyondthebanana with Makey Makey, so even though they only just started playing with this little invention kit, I had educators make a switch. For me, I didn’t know how to make a switch for Makey Makey for almost A YEAR after the first time I played with one. Making switches and finding ways to make everyday things into switches, is one of the most inventive and fun ways to create projects with Makey Makey.  (In fact, Aaron and I made a whole book of wacky projects based on this concept!)

Invention Literacy

I spent a lot of time during this workshop sharing how I incorporate invention literacy into my library programming. If you haven’t read these posts, you should check them out!

Design Challenge

The last part of the day is MY FAVORITE PART! The workshop participants are challenged to make something useful by going through the design thinking process. They have a limited amount of time. A design challenge is a great maker activity, but there are three important things that have to happen for a successful challenge.

  • Relationships- Since the group worked through so many things together on this day, they felt comfortable working on a more challenging project together. If you were to attempt a design challenge straight out of the gate, it might not be as successful.
  • Open Ended/open-middled/open beginning – A challenge should be open ended enough so that every group creates a different product at the end of the designated time. You can open any part of your directions. For more on the open middle and open beginning concept by Jay Silver, read the Challenge Based Learning Book.
  • Time Constraint– The time constraint is what helps makers focus and get finished (hopefully) with their project. If a full working prototype doesn’t happen, proof of concept is okay too!

Check out all the awesome ideas these educators had:

Group 1

Portable Christmas tree ! #lufkinlearns

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Group 2

A super simple solution to an alarm for a water leak. #lufkinlearns @makeymakey #scratch

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Group 3

1st grade alphabet sensory board ! #lufkinlearns #inventionliteracy design challenge

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Group 4

Group 5

If you’d like to bring me to your school district, conference, museum, or other informal learning space for this workshop, please use this contact form below.

I host other maker education workshops too! Browse my workshop menu, or contact me to develop a workshop based on your needs.

 

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3rd Grade Monster Paper Circuits with Chibitronics

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Last week Mrs. Merritt wanted to have her class create some monster paper circuit cards for Halloween. She shared a lesson and template with me that she found online. It was a great template, but instead of just assembling a template with a pre-done drawing, I suggested having the students create their own monster drawings to accompany the glowing monster eyes.

Since I always start with a template and then have students draw, my plan was to for students to use a parallel circuit template first. Then after having a successful circuit creation, they could draw monsters to go around the lights.  However, Mrs. Merritt was one step ahead of me! Her amazing students had already drawn monsters…and I’m so glad they did! It challenged my thinking and the way I normally attempt paper circuits with kids.

All of the students had very different drawings, so the placement of the battery and LEDs would have to be determined by each student on an individual basis (and in under an hour!)

I came to Mrs. Merritt’s room on Halloween and asked the students if they could define parallel lines. Serendipitously, they’d just learned that parallel lines are two lines that never intersect. (We repeated the mantra over and over throughout the session, that the two lines could not intersect or they would have a short circuit.)

I shared that we would be working together to create a parallel circuit to light up the monster drawings created the day before. To help guide them, I showed the students this great tutorial from Jie Qi. I also had a copy of the parallel circuit template available at each table group as a reference.

Students had to draw out where to place the battery and draw the positive and negative trace. Once they’d drawn the circuit, I gave them copper tape and a battery. (Mentioning over and over not to pull all the backing off the tape, but rather affix the tape slowly and press down on the tape with a thumbnail to make a smooth connection.) Once the two parallel lines looked manageable, I handed them chibi stickers.

About twenty minutes in, I got a little worried because the kids were having a lot of problems creating their own circuit and finding success. I looked at Mrs. Merritt and said, “Oh, I should’ve warned you that this might be frustrating at first, because a lot of kids are going to run into problems.”

And run into problems they did! But the motivation to get those monster eyes shining brightly pushed our kids to persevere! To help debug, I showed students how both “legs” or copper pads of the LED had to touch a circuit trace and how to add tape to try and fix or debug their faulty paper circuits. Sometimes, the students problem was only that the copper trace wasn’t touching one side of a battery. Once a student understood how to get a working circuit, they quickly turned to help a friend. It was amazing to see them struggle and then turn around and become the teacher. By the end of our short time, they all had at least one LED working. It was pretty phenomenal! Plus, by creating their own circuitry instead of following a template, they seemed to have a better grasp of how paper circuits work. One kid kept repeating, “I just want one LED, because I don’t want the second LED to steal the power.”

It was a fast and furious making session, and I’m so happy to see such young makers push through and problem solve to find success!

Here’s a Clips video I made throughout the one hour session. You can see how each circuit is different and how much debugging went into some of their work. Plus you can see almost every drawing in this quick under a minute video:

What are your favorite paper circuit activities to try with students? What other ways have you integrated paper circuits with your curriculum?