"Making" It Happen at Lichen K-8

by Teresa Burke | 7/05/2017

A teacher at Lichen K-8 in San Juan Unified School District, Teresa Burke helped her students during the 2016-17 school year create a Makerspace at the school, optimizing a $10,000 Infy Maker Award grant won by 8th graders Rajveer Singh and Anthony Martinez. Below is how the teacher and students went about setting up “Making” at Lichen K-8.

After hearing the buzz for sometime, I enrolled in a STEM camp for teachers at UC Davis through the Sacramento County Office of Education. This drove me to seek out STEM and Maker professional development wherever I could find it. Eventually, I found myself fully captivated by the Bay Area Maker Faire easily imagining what my seventh graders would do with the experience. I determined then and there to do what I could to bring the Maker experience to them.

The first year of "Maker Time" in our classroom was more than a little chaotic! I struggled to be a step ahead of the kids and to bring purpose and direction to their learning. I developed a text set for robots and a text set for the Maker Movement. They loved it! During "Maker Time," they connected their learning from history to make medieval shields, bows and arrows and catapults. At the same time, students were almost shy in tiptoeing into the ideas of agency and choice. Shifting from consumer thinking to Do-It-Yourself was really quite a leap.

Our efforts were fast forwarded with the receipt of the Infy Maker Award grant. The Maker Ed training in August 2016 solidified our purpose and desire at Lichen to engage students in the design process, to have them embrace failure as a more direct means to learning, and develop a culture of reusing, remixing and recycling with purpose. We first bought two large rolling racks that held 24 bins for materials. We received donations of materials and tools from families, teachers and the community. Our idea was to create a "space" that was flexible in terms of location. Teachers could come to the Makerspace with their students or choose to bring the "space" to their classrooms.

We examined other Makerspaces and researched varying supply lists for the ideal Makerspace. Ultimately, we wanted worktables that students could use with glue guns and soldering irons without worrying about the surface. We also wanted a place to hold tools for our middle school students that would be safe, but readily available. We already had a 3D printer and a donated sewing machine, but we were eager to get a laser cutter.

Though the laser cutter will not arrive until summer 2017, we held the Grand Opening of Lichen K-8's Makerspace on May 19, 2017 for all kindergarten through eighth grade students. Seventh grade hosted walkthroughs of the space, as teachers brought their classes in one-by-one. Students saw Maker projects examples, watched demos of computer-based projects and interacted with three different types of smart robots. They got to explore the mobile carts and supplies and witness the worktables and toolboxes. The goal was to generate excitement among the students who might then act to drive use of the Makerspace.

Since then, the cart has traveled to several classrooms, and other classes have used the space and been visited by groups of seventh graders with robots and 3D printed carts - and all of this took place in the final weeks of the school year.

Look out 2017-2018 school year - here comes Maker Time!