My starter project when teaching Photoshop tends to be this Mondrian Project because it teaches students the basic tools while allowing them to be creative. I have them focus on the Brush tool, Paint bucket and Color Picker to keep it simple. The first tool I show them is the SHIFT/Click combo that allows Photoshop to create a straight line. It goes, click on area you want the line to begin and then hit SHIFT and CLICK together where you would like the line to end. This always wows them! I also keep the project so they can only use primary colors with a focus on right angles.
My first passion in life was experimenting with the moving image. I even majored in film at the University of Michigan to learn as much as possible about the medium. I got my start in the classroom teaching animation and I truly became enraptured with all the different ways to use materials and techniques to make the impossible, possible.
Below are some of my favorite pieces of student work from when I used to teach at the Brooklyn Heights Montessori School where I worked with 4-6 graders as part of the Arts Selective Program.
I always ask students to think of conflict as they construct their narratives o help guide them in the process. Experimenting with materials is also key, which is what I love so much about the Starry Night piece. The entire process was filled with trial error and her hard work really paid off.
Having tripods is key to completing strong stop-motion projects! I also find the iPad app iStopmotion is a great resource due to the onion skilling option. This really helps younger students visualize the stop-motion process. I have my students move their animations from iStopmotion into iMovie to add sounds effects and titles so they can have more control.
This summer I was lucky to get the chance to take a workshop at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, CO. This arts retreat in the Rocky Mountains was a wonderful way to focus on making new connections with creating mechanisms. It was also thrilling to be back in a studio environment filled with great tools. My love of a band saw has yet to diminish!
Each participant in the workshop was given a Stepper Motor to use as a source of movement. This is such a wonderfully slow moving motor which I think will be a great tool for class projects. I definitely felt outside my comfort zone at the start of this class and I quickly remembered to just experiment. I initially tried to make an inverse parallelogram mechanism but my brain couldn’t handle it so I decided to just play instead. Below is the video from that experiment.
Once I gained confidence with that mechanism I decided to move onto playing with gears. A main source throughout my time in this workshop is mechanisms.co as well as http://geargenerator.com. I used Gear Generator to create my gears to then laser cut them. I luckily placed them correctly into the wood and they were able to seamlessly move!
As the end of the workshop loomed I decided I needed to try again at mastering the Inverse Parallelogram Mechanism. I pretty much nailed it but one of the legs is a little too short and doesn’t move as seamlessly as I would’ve liked. But I did it!
I’ve been teaching 3D design and modeling for the past 5 years. I’ve changed my curriculum up throughout the years but this project has always been a mainstay. It allows for the perfect amount of creativity and problem solving from students. The variety of ideas I’ve experienced over the years is incredible! Students can express themselves through abstract design, use their imagination to conjure up new animals or even design a battlefield where the cannons hold the pencils. I did this project with 5th grade for the first time this year and their creativity has blown me away.
For this project, students have to design something that can contain at least 1 pencil. It can’t be larger than 5inches by 5 inches. I also restrict students from using copy-written material and using their names. They will complain about this but in the end their projects shine as a result. I always tell students who want to put the name of their favorite sports team on something to show me that sport visually instead. Classic show versus tell mindset.
One of my favorite projects for the year was with the 4th graders building robots with the Hummingbird Kits using Micro:bits. It gave students a lot of freedom to infuse their projects with their personalities while exploring how to code in new and fun ways.
I first had them build the robots before we added the servo motors and LED’s. For my first group, I didn’t limit them enough which led to some additional problem solving on how to get the feet on. Some of the materials like a kleenex box were too heavy to let the servo motors acting as feet to move. Paper towel and toilet paper innards were the best. I did have two students hack open a stuffed animal which was a great experiment. We didn’t have time to get to the sensors in the kits and will be using those in the fall.
I love how easily the Hummingbird kit is to use, especially in how it easily allows circuit connections to be made. Like most of the projects I created in the Elementary Program, students spent too much time on the construction time, limiting the time left to code. A goal going forward is to find ways to give more constraints without limiting their creativity.
The final 1st grade project of the year was building marble runs on the walls of the makerspace. This project is perfect for teaching problem solving because they are continuously needing to iterate and make changes. Each group gravitated towards different materials and foil was the real winner for many of them. Materials like paper towel and toilet paper innards, used ice cream pints were also fun additions. Packing tape worked the best but of course the colored duct tape was the use most. But some of the paint did come off the walls as a result so next time I will be changing it to being all packing take.
For my second project with the second graders, I knew I wanted to incorporate circuity because they had studied the concept in Science earlier in the school year. Makey Makey’s were a fun way to integrating this. I first made a giant floor piano using HVAC tape to help them understand the process after I read them Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey. I found this project through the Makey Makey portal and was created by Colleen Graves.
They first constructed their robot dolls using the materials in our Makerspace. It was fun to see how deeply they thought about their creations and some of them could have spent all 4 sessions just on designing phase. They were instructed to add 3 areas with conductive materials (screws, washers, pipe cleaners, copper tape). Once they were finished with the building phase, I showed them how alligator clips worked with the Makey Makey’s. Next, we moved to Scratch. This worked nicely as an intro to Scratch project because the code was quite simplistic. This project is definitely a keeper and I’m grateful the Makey Makey website has so many strong resources.
My first big Makey Makey project was to build instruments with my 3rd graders. I first had them build the instrument of their choice. I did get some a keyguitar which was quite exciting. They had to keep in mind to add the conductive components either using copper tape or HVAC aluminum tape which worked better than foil.
Once they completed the instrument, it was time to connect the alligator clips and the Makey Makey. Once Scratch was opened, I showed the students how to make original sounds or use the instrumental choices. Several of the students who were more familiar with Scratch also worked on their avatar to it also responded to the controller inherently on the instrument.
Students loved worked on this project. Some struggled with leaving enough time to program on Scratch because they were swept up in the designing phase.
As my confidence with using the Glowforge laser cutter grew, I desired to create a mixed media project for my 7th graders. The result was a light up shadow box project where students designed the elements on Tinkercad and coding a Neopixel Strip using a Microbit. The goal was for each students shadow box to tell a simple story based on the scene featured. I showed them the work of Hari and Deepti to get them inspired and to start the brainstorming process.
The Tinkercad component taught all of us a lot on how to successfully export a .svg file the Glowforge App would read. The lesson they all learned quickly is that each object needs to be the same height as each other and nothing can have rounded edges.
Each student’s project did a wonderful job being unique and expressive of their personalities. It was also nice to see them carefully work on each aspect of this project. Sometimes I see students rushing through a project and that did not happen with this project.
We used the Neopixel extension through Makecode to program the Microbit component of the project. The code I used specifically is in the image below.
One of the projects I’ve been wanting to make with my students are automatas. They’ve been all over my Twitter feed from other maker educators. I decided to start the project with my 6th graders and they have really been engaged in each aspect of the design process. I had them design the moving pieces in Tinkercad so they could have experience using the Glowforge laser cutter. It was difficult at first to have them change their thinking from being 3D to 2D while designing on Tinkercad. But once they started keeping each element flat on the Workplane it definitely helped. Showing how I laid out my prototype in Tinkercad also gave them further insight on design process. The Scribble feature was used heavily by my students and myself to execute some of the elements. Video of the automata in action is below!