Learn By Doing

This is part of a series in advance of the upcoming Maker Faire in New York City. You can view the whole Maker Faire series or look at the related Make Learning Happen, Museum-Education postScience EdTech Tools, or Making in New York posts.

After attending the World Maker Faire in New York and the Make: Education Forum with my sons I came across some valuable tools to bring Makerspaces and project-based learning (PBL) into the classroom. Here are some of the resources we’ve used in the District 75 MAD Lab and some new ones I plan to bring.

Voices of Making

makerspace tools
Dale Dougherty, the CEO & Founder of Maker Media, shared a lot of the excitement that should be inherent in any maker effort. He also allowed the events to remain open enough for people to find their own learning. That is one of the great benefits of learning through making is that it’s not heavy-handed direct instruction. It is instead the kind of learning through doing which is always more impactful. For more of what I gleaned you can look at the 15 Takeaways from the Make: Education.

In addition, here are some of what the voices of educational making shared.

RESEARCHKylie Pepler shared a great deal of research on the educational value of making which includes the improved communication, creativity, and critical thinking that comes from the construction of meaningful physical projects.

ARTISTIC CRAFTING – I have enjoyed watching and recreating the paper crafts of Jie Qi for several years, and I’ve modeled for students using her circuit sticker sketchbook. Now she is the head of Chibitronics, which provides paper electronics kits and example projects for educators. She also shared a printable Love to Code book to get young students started.

ELECTRONICSArduino is the most popular electronics board, but the learning curve can be a bit high. Other options include the BeagleBoard, an open-source Linux board, and the inexpensive and easy-to-use Micro:bit microcontroller. For younger students needing simpler connections, there are littleBits and SAM Labs.

SCHOOLS – The Urban Assembly Maker Academy and Quest 2 Learn are two schools in New York City that put project-based learning at the forefront of everything that they do. Students are engaged in quests to invent and discover both their learning and their personal identity. You can find other makerspace learning centers like Brains NYC or many of the other makerspaces  available for young and less-young makers.

Curriculum Direction

While open-ended problems should be the goal for a project-based learning classroom, it can still be connected to a more structured curriculum. In New York, we have the NYC Science Scope & Sequence and the STEM Framework that can provide a guide. Outside of the city, you can use any science or engineering curriculum like the FOSS Scope & Sequence to guide your efforts.

I personally like the curriculum guidance and resources provided by Discovery Education. In addition to all the content provided on the site, the Discovery Techbooks (digital textbooks) give detailed PBL lead-ins and lessons across the science curriculum. Each topic follows the 5E STEM instructional model.

  • Engage through curious questioning and videos
  • Explore with small projects
  • Explain through in-depth observation
  • Elaborate with a larger hands-on project
  • Evaluate and assess student learning

You can also use the rubric created below to measure progress on student projects.

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Maker Resources

IMG_7873.JPGThere are a number of places to find example projects from science pages to Pinterest, but here are a few curated resources to help you find the best options for students.

  • Makerspaces.com – This is the go to maker education site.
  • Makezine – This is the official magazine and resource for Maker Faire.
  • Instructables Teachers – This includes a curated list of PBL resources that range from simple cardboard creations to complex electronics.
  • Microsoft Hacking STEM – They have a series of lessons based around inexpensive classroom making.
  • Nerdy Derby – Help students find a creative way to travel from point A to point B by creating track car racing.
  • Rubber Band Race Car – Here is another way to examine transportation and propulsion through PBL.
  • Thimble – This is really a subscription mail-order PBL service that is geared more towards home learning.
  • Tekniko – They have packaged PBL kits to make it easy to get building.
  • Squishy Circuits – Create electronic sculptures with conductive play-dough or learn to make your own.
  • Pinbox 3000 – You can create functional cardboard pinball machines.

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