#LufkinLearns Invention Literacy Workshop – Wrap Up

Colleengraves.org (10)

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.)

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.


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

View this post on Instagram

Portable Christmas tree ! #lufkinlearns

A post shared by Colleen Graves (@makercolleengraves) on

Group 2

Group 3

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.



#FETC wrap-up! Design Challenges, Maker Ed Breakfast with Sylvia Martinez, and Other Takeaways

Design Challenge Workshop

Whew! FETC was a whirlwind of fun! Diana Rendina and I held a workshop based on our upcoming book: Challenge Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace. (We missed you Aaron Graves!) My favorite part was watching our participants create things based on our design challenges.

Along with active learning, I love how collaborative challenges like this get our learners to talk about their thinking. The think-aloud process is a great way to hear a glimpse into the way our students think especially when making and problem-solving. Check out these participants that wanted to build a bridge across tables and joked about making fire with tissue paper as something their LEGO minifigure had to avoid when crossing a bridge!

Another fun aspect of this workshop is that we asked our learners to find a way to share their work through video. So some of them made time-lapse videos while others created videos with the Boomerang app.

Our first challenge lasted longer than expected, but even though we ran out of time, some participants asked me to do a quick tutorial on how to create Makey Makey Poetry with Scratch.

I borrowed an idea from another favorite Maker Librarian of mine, David Saunders, and showed them how to make “black out poetry” interactive with Makey Makey. Here is the Scratch game where we collaboratively recorded voices to make the poem interactive.

Maker Librarian Breakfast with Sylvia Martinez

Another great offering at FETC, was the FAME breakfast where Sylvia Martinez (CMK Press, Invent to Learn author, and amazing maker ed speaker) spoke about the importance of making and libraries.

Key Points included:

  • Libraries provide equitable access to making FOR ALL STUDENTS.
  • Libraries are communal hubs. In other words, librarians are generally experts about their own school community! We are “community-based” spaces and “creation-focused” places.
  • Making is not a shopping list.
  • Makerspace myth (reiterated)-Makerspaces  DO NOT EQUAL 3D printing. In other words, you can’t buy a 3D printer and check “makerspace” off your to do list.
  • The best making has a low threshold with a high ceiling, and many, many avenues of possibilities and endless creations and iterations.
  • The best makerspaces are “staffed by people who can help.”

Other Cool Stuff

I attended a super quick and fast hip-hop session and then followed Magic Pants Jones to a BreakoutEDU session by Adam Bellow and was stoked to learn about these Breakout reflection cards !


I found out about some really cool timeline and story-mapping applications by Knightlab in a session called “Leftovers with Leslie.”

  • Timeline JS  -Check out the Women in Computing timeline. These would be great for instruction or student work!
  • Storymaps is super cool too! It allows you to tell stories with maps, so I think social studies’ teachers would find it particularly intriguing. It lets you tell stories based on where the events took place across a map.
  • Soundcite – another great tool from Knightlab. You can embed SOUNDS in your writing! (#mindblown)
  • Flippity.net uses Google Sheets and I’m pretty stoked to share the Mad Libs with my 7 YO.

All in all it was a great conference and I met and spoke with so many impassioned educators!