After taking a year to adjust to living in San Francisco, I’m back with a focus on coding. I was lucky to be student at Gray Area this past fall semester for their Creative Code Immersive. It’s one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in the past decade and urge anyone who wants to find a stronger connection to coding, physical computing, and using code to make interactive work to take the class. I’ll be posting more about my journey in the weeks to come and as I complete my final project.
After having the week focusing on learning p5.js at Gray Area, I was able to create a 5-week unit with my 7th grade students. I would’ve been nice to have a few more weeks to have them create a proper project but it was amazing to see how they were able to grow within that short period as coders. It was also the first time they wrote their own code instead of using drop-down coding platforms.
The first week had a lot of students deleting essential aspects of the coding platform like the setup loop as well as the draw loop and so many curly brackets disappearing. By the end our time together, they barely had any of those issues and they were even able to use the reference guide as a way to experiment with their ideas. As a class, they managed to learn functions but we never had the time to get to loops. Here’s a file to the presentation I used to get us setup. Event the first week of playing with RGB colors was a blast!
Previously to learning p5 at Gray Area I had found inspiration in Angi Chau’s work with the Processing Foundation as a way to structure my classes. Nikki Selken, a teacher and educational consultant at Gray Area also did a wonderful job of framing p5 in our week together too. As a female educator, it’s amazing to have two female educators acting as inspiration for myself while embarking on a new coding journey!
During distance learning, I reached into my bag of tricks to come up with a new unit on Branding for my 7th and 8th graders. I used this unit to also introduce students to the gradient tool, text on a path as well as how to create a scatter brush. After giving them a presentation where we looked at the evolution of logos for iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, and Apple, students were tasked to create their logos for a business I assigned them. Because I’m such a deep believer in iteration, I asked each student to create three versions of their logo to help with their experimentation and to mimic the work graphic designers do.
I gave students businesses such as a fast casual Italian restaurant, coffee shop, travel story and garden store. It’s been fun to see how they’ve used the power of Illustrator to their advantage. I do think my students are getting sick me saying that sometimes our first idea helps to clear our brains out for the next idea which is generally stronger and more interesting. I also shared the font website, dafont.com with them to get them excited about fonts. I’ve definitely spent way too much searching for the perfect font and it was interesting to see which students also saw how important a font design can be while designing a logo.
Next to sustainability, empowering girls in the Makerspace has been my focus for this school year. This initiative came after seeing how girls were using the makerspace during the first year of operation. They were building interesting creations but they generally chose to experiment with more traditional crafting materials. I’m totally for this but I wanted to find a way to create a bridge between crafting and digital fabrication.
To get this initiative off the ground, a Feminist Maker club was created. Using the term ‘feminist’ was landed upon because it’s inclusive and I wanted anyone who was interested to join. The first task for this club was to create logos for our identity. They first sketched out the designs and then I showed them how to use Illustrator so the designs could get transferred to various digital fabrication software. Each member designed their own and in the end we organically ended up with two design options. Currently we’re using the vinyl cutter and the embroidery machine to show off the logos. The next step to start thinking about how we want to utilize them i.e. keychains, t-shirts, totes or even jewelry!
Since Tinkercad Codeblocks have shown up in the past year, I’ve been awaiting for the right inspiration to use it in the classroom. Of course while I was blissed out in a yoga class, I saw a ceiling hanging that would make a fun project. My idea was for my 5th grade students to use Codeblocks to create simple shapes that could be strung together to make a fun mobile of sorts. My space has a power grid setup for my drop down power and I could see these bringing my makerspace to life. And it meant using brightly colored acrylic in the Glowforge!
I will be having each 5th grader come up with at least four shapes where they will be required to add areas for the fishing line to connect to the shapes, as well as cutouts to add dimension to the designs. Once they build the shapes, the first step is prototyping with cardboard to make sure the shapes were appropriately built.
I also love this project because the cutting time on the Glowforge doesn’t take very long. I look forward to seeing which colors the students chose!
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.
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!
I’m teaching 5th grade Digital Art classes for the first time to take advantage of the beautiful Creation Lab which was built over the summer. Our students learn about birds in 5th grade science so it seemed like a perfect connection to that curriculum. I had my students first use makercase.com to build the base of their birdhouses. They then brought that file into Illustrator to add cut out and engraved elements. I learned engraving using our Glowforge was a bit cumbersome and will be changing this up requirement next trimester so I don’t spend 40 mins watching these projects be cut out.
My favorite part of this project was watching students use the drill for the first time to add their perches. They did a wonderful job of practicing on a piece of balsa wood beforehand.
With the Makercase finger joints I learned there is really only 1 way to put the boxes together – think of it as a puzzle. There were a few students who glued their birdhouses together the wrong way and I had to recut them on the laser cutter to make the projects functional.
I’ve taken a hiatus on using this blog but now that I’ve designed and planned a makerspace from the ground up it’s time to share what I’ve learned and made for myself and with the students so far.
The first thing I had time to put together was a faux neon sign using Electroluminescent Wire from SparkFun. I used this tutorial to guide me. It was really fun to make and get students excited because I was blending sewing together with a more technical component. It looks great on the walls of the Creation Lab – the name students chose for the the makerspace. I would definitely recommend this project. If I initiated it with students I would do it with older students at the high school level because a lot of patience is required.