This year the 7th grade science teacher and I collaborated together on the culminating climate research projects. As the students were researching various topics, they worked with me to design and conceptualize visual models using Tinkercad, Illustrator or Adobe Animate. It was exciting to see them take their research to the next level by communicating information visually. We had worked up to using Illustrator and visual communication on previous projects and this gave them the chance to take their skills to the next level. Part of me wished I had them all use Animate for their models but I think it is important to give students choice when it comes to creative projects, especially for differentiation.
Design Thinking using Tinkercad
This year I’ve engaged with Tinkercad in a new light which has been fun for both myself and my students. 5th graders are so good at being flexible in their thinking so we delved into Design Thinking to help them develop empathy as designers.
To get them started I adapted the 5 Chair Challenge from the Stanford Design School. I’ve tried to do this activity on using physical materials in years past but found it to be much more successful using Tinkercad, especially since I’m teaching students on Zoom. I would drop the design prompt into the chat and then give them 10 minutes to make a design. Once the time was up, they would go around the Zoom room and share. They LOVE sharing their designs and it is a highlight of the experience.
For example, here’s one of the prompts:
Grandpa is an old man who is achy and sometimes a bit grouchy. He
has trouble getting around, so he walks with a cane. He also has difficulty
getting into and out of his chair, though he sits in his chair most of the day.
I always end the activity with highlighting how they all had the same prompt but all problem solve and use their imaginations uniquely from each other. When I come into class and tell them we’re doing a design challenge together, they get quite excited. The classrooms also get very quiet because they’re focusing so deeply!
Iterating with Illustration
To shake up my curriculum this year with all of the Covid constraints and not having a makerspace to utilize, I’ve been leaning pretty heavily on using Illustrator for my 6th – 8th grade classes. I’ve always struggled with getting my students to get playful with the iterative process and using Google Slides as a digital workbook has been a real boon to the process.
To kick off my Illustration Unit with my 7th graders, we watched the Netflix Abstract episode featuring Christoph Niemann. Since my students are all native New Yorkers it was fun experience their reactions to the sections on his love of the city and how he’s used it as inspiration for his work. I rarely watch hour long pieces with students but as I stopped the episode throughout to ask questions, it was amazing to see how engaged they were on how he played with his illustrations and was constantly experimenting.
At the beginning of the episode, he shows a little book that uses a flat iron image as a creative exercise. I then turned that exercise into a Google Workbook where my students had to drop in each iteration for all the images I was asking them to make a variety of iterations with.
It’s been so much fun checking their workbooks after class to see how they’ve transformed the flat iron, really quite delightful. Seeing their Illustrator skills progress and their ability to be fluid with their creativity and not as fixed on being finished is also a real win. They’ve transformed the flat iron into things like a blender, panini press, shoe and sewing machine all on their own.
After they utilized the flat iron image, I also gave them a lightening bolt, a bullseye and plus sign to experiment with. The lightening bolt was definitely the hardest. The Google Illustration Workbook is below for you to take a look!
If you want to take a look at the workbook, you can take a look here.
Construct3D 2020 & Empowering Girls in the Digital Fabrication Process
Over President’s Day weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Construct3D Conference at the Rice University campus. I must say all the sessions I attended truly enlightened me and ignited my passion for 3D design and printing in the classroom. Hearing how 3D printing is involved in the films created by Laika Studios, medical schools, prosthetics and K12 classrooms illuminated how far this practice has come and how much is still possible in the future. I also loved how Gary Stager talked about using prompts in the classroom with project-based learning. Definitely going to be keeping that in mind as I introduce different projects!
While I was at the conference, I gave a 10 minute talk on Empowering Girls in the Digital Fabrication Process. It was fun to share my experience in the classroom with other educators, especially problem solving how to create a bridge between crafting and technology. The presentation I shared can be viewed below!
TurtleStitch & Embroidery
One my first efforts this school year to increase the desire of my girl students to use technology while in the makerspace was to get a embroidery machine. I’ve been spending time with TurtleStitch to plan how to use it in my classes. It’s such a fun program to experiment with and the possibilities seem to be endless.
As I’ve experimented with TurtleStitch more and more, one warning that kept coming up was “DENSITY WARNING!”. I decided to embroider one design with that warning just to see what would happen. The design version on the right has a running stitch and the design on the left be a satin stitch to better understand the warning. The running stitch was fine but the satin stitch was not a success. It didn’t upset the machine but the back of the design was pinched downwards where the density was pretty intense.
Going forward I will definitely take that warning to heart. It’s so nice to visualize what a warning on a application turns into. Sadly it seems like most of my TurtleStitch designs have that warning and I’ll just have to spread out the designs more to overcome the issue.
The Brother PE800 Embroidery Machine is a dream. Seeing student’s eyes light up when I have it running is amazing. Since my school is an Apple school, bringing TurtleStitch designs into software to add elements to the designs hasn’t been as easy as I hoped. I turned to Embrilliance Stitch Artist and it’s worked nicely but it won’t be possible to get it onto student computers which is a bummer since it requires a license. I’m still searching for alternatives and will keep you posted!
This year for Halloween I made a goal that I would work on a electronics project to complete my look. I have this stellar skeleton dress that I was looking to reuse and I decided a crown that lights up would be a great pairing.
Initially I thought I could use a Micro:bit to program the crown but they’re just a bit too big to stay hidden in my hair. Of course Adafruit had the solution. Their project used a Gemma Arduino board which is just a bit bigger than the size of a quarter. My favorite part of this project was soldering together the Flora Neopixels. I’m still a novice when it comes to coding Arduino and it was fun experimenting with the code Adafruit provided to get the right colors and flash sequence. I wanted to use white lights but it made the crown a bit too much like a strobe light.
In addition to Halloween, I see myself using this crown in the classroom as a way to show students that accessories we make ourselves can truly empower us. I’m already thinking of ways I can make this into a project for my students but focusing on makes elements like soldering around a 3D printed component. I’ also eager to use the Flora Neopixels in new and different ways to create accessories. A light up necklace could also be beautiful,
Stay tuned for more!
Vinyl Name Logos in Illustrator
This school year I’ve opened up my 7th and 8th grade classes with learning the basics of Illustrator to increase the skill level of my students. Last year we primarily used Tinkercad with the laser cutter because I didn’t have the time to focus on how to teach to students. Over the summer I made sure I strengthened by connection to Illustrator so it could be tool students could rely on.
I’m continually inspired by Erin E. Riley’s new book, The Art of Digital Fabrication, and decided students first Illustrator experiment will be designing their initials using as few shapes as possible to be cut out of vinyl on the Silhouette Cameo. I showed my students first how to manipulate shapes using shapes and the Direct Selection Tool. I also modeled how to add anchor points so they could truly sculpt shapes easily. The Pen Tool was also introduced to see how they can create different shapes depending on they movie their cursor. In the lesson, I used my own initials, as seen below to provide them a foundation.
Last year my students used the Silhouette Cameo a good amount, but they mainly used the trace tool to recreate royalty-free images they found on the internet. This year they are only allowed to use it on original designs since they all know Illustrator. It will be interesting to see if this new distinction will increase their creativity. Also now that the project is complete, the 7th and 8th graders all have their new initial stickers decorating the front of their MacBooks Airs, making for great PR! I decided to my design on my coffee mug because if it gets lost, I will be quite upset.
Pencil Holder Design Challenge
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.
Makey Makey Instruments
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.
Thanks to the new Creation Lab I’m working with elementary students for the first time in awhile. I’ve found twitter to be an amazing resource to find ideas for STEAM based projects.
For second grader’s first project I used a twitter inspired idea where students engineer their dream playgrounds using a variety of materials. I didn’t know what to expect with this project, but they definitely blew me away with their creativity and ability to execute their ideas like zip lines, slides and swings. They really took the idea of adding a moving piece into their designs which was awesome to see. Some projects were bigger in size that I expected so this time around they can only use a specific size piece of cardboard so it’s easier to store the projects. Storing of projects has been one of my main challenges since my makerspace opened. An extra layer of shelving will have to be added soon so there’s a designated area of works in progress.