Saturday, April 12, 2014

What I tell parents considering

As a member of, kids - 
  • have their own portfolio in which to share what they make
  • receive feedback from staff and peers on their projects
  • explore their interests 
  • are inspired
  • learn authentically
  • share their passions
  • teach others
  • have choices 
  • check out what other kids have made 
  • put their own spin on a similar project
  • complete challenges toward earning a specific skill
  • create their own path
  • discover new materials or programs to work with
  • learn new skills 
  • discover projects to try
  • make global connections
  • learn about themselves
  • are surrounded by creative people
  • collaborate
  • receive suggestions to expand projects or ideas
  • learn digital citizenship in a safe moderated environment
  • help each other grow
  • rediscover learning is fun

Winter Maker Club

Hard to believe it's already been another season of Maker Club events. Ogel has now helped the librarian with 33 Maker Club events.

At the print maker event makers experimenting with using sticky foam sheets to make custom stamps.

Makers carved soap and made plaster castings at the sculptor event.

We used cardboard to make a scale model and then donated this geodesic dome to the children's section of the library.

We started exploring having open make and planning sessions, hoping for more makers to share their ideas and help plan events. 

The makers submitted an idea to's #NEXTLEVEL hoping to get their assistance in making a much larger geodesic dome and using an old projector to turn it into a planetarium.

It ended up being very cold for the Yeti event, so we brought the snow indoors and had pre froze colored water in balloons and cups to make snowmen and ice sculptures. 

The kids made pom pom, paper, and cardboard angry birds. 

Perler beads, paper crafts, and Legos were available for the Minecraft Lego event.

Here a custom template was designed in gimp and a 3D Perler bead Minecraft Steve was made.

Makers used wool roving to make felt using a wet felting technique.

Kids made contact paper stencils for custom T-shirts. 

At the vehicle event kid's experimented with making balloon cars, rubber band cars, and hovercrafts. 

The kids made 5 cent and lemon batteries at the battery event.

At the light event makers made pocket flashlights and light up straw swords.

You see previous Cicero DIY events here. We also collect future program ideas here. 

Inspire, but not Require

Since babyhood, I have always used open shelves as a way to invite exploration. We began using a wall of shoe racks when my oldest first learned to crawl. We now have a wall of tall bookcases. One way to approach things especially before they can communicate their interests is to observe what they love, offer more of it, and dovetail from it to expand their experiences. Another way is to be available when they want help, to do something together, show me something they’ve just done, or just to talk. Lastly, respond when they first signal a new interest. Provide time and resources, but do not micro-manage. 

Tempt them by having resources available that you think they’d like or that relate to a current interest. Invite them to do something with you. Learn about their interests enough to keep up to date on the topic and discuss it with them. 

Set up an environment that increase the likelihood of creativity. Support your child’s interest as it grows. Sometimes you need to help them reignite their passion too. Nurture those childhood interests, you never know where they will lead.

Looking back at my boys' childhood.

My boys are now ages 10, 12, and 14. They each have very different interests, but have shared similar creative phases.

Approximately the ages of 1-2 my kids enjoyed board books, role playing such as pretending to mow the lawn, cook, and deliver mail, building with those large cardboard bricks and of course playing with empty boxes.

Ages 3-4 is when they began exploring simple crafts and physics, they also enjoyed dressing up - TRU had an Imaginarium line that had a nice selection for boys, they began building with the old Imaginext sets that had walls and floors you actually built then played with and the Kid K’nex sets. 

Around ages 5-6 they showed interest in basic art kits and the Chicken Socks Activity books (a Jr. version of Klutz), digging in the dirt, collecting bugs and rocks, and exploring in the back yard.

It was about ages 7-11 when they became interested in Perler beads, Legos, challenges such as the blog “Kids Who Think”, project books from the library, and invention type materials. This was the perfect age to begin exploring

About age 11-12 is when their creativity has became more detailed with longer projects and including more technology. This is also the time that they really were into their sport of choice and volunteering.

Around age 13-14 is when my kids have becomes more specialized in specific areas of focus. This is the time where they seek mentors in their areas of passion.

Some of my boys favorite things to do during their childhood were: Nerf guns (with safety glasses), baking, games such as No Stress Chess, Spy Alley, Stratego, Minecraft, Civilization, Set, Sequence, Amazing Labyrnith, and Blokus, digging, Erector sets, Legos, paper airplanes, invention boxes, building with wood and real tools, PVC construction, cardboard construction, water guns, rocket balloons, obstacle courses, sand table, Safari toob sets, starter gardens, Ultimate Kid Concocations, Play Doh - especially the kitchen set, electronics - bread boards and LED’s, re-arranging their rooms, Quadrilla marble run, timing things with a large stop watch, Snap Circuits - the fan is their favorite project, Hex bugs, binoculars and field guides, taking things apart, sport card collecting, all types of puzzles such as Extreme Dot to Dots, Complete a Sketch, Geopuzzles, 2D, and 3D puzzles, science kits and projects, art kits and projects, foam swords, outdoor games such as Jarts, Boochie, and Bucket Blast, their wagon with removable sides, goal nets at each end of the yard, a set of bases, bat and balls, soccer ball, kick/dodge ball, foam water balls, slip n slide, projects form the old Family Fun magazines, r/c cars and planes, TV shows such as Zoom!, Cyberchase, Design Squad, How It’s Made, Mythbusters, Engineering an Empire, Prototype This, and Shark Tank, magazines such as Kid’s Discover and Sport’s Illustrated Kids, reading sports, adventure, and mystery books, The Magic Treehouse, The Boxcar Children, Hardy Boys, Matt Christopher, and Carole Marsh’s books, Lowes and Home Depot kid’s workshops, and family field trips. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Is making educational? I hear this debate often.

I've decided to share my son's project portfolio from last school year. During his 5th grade he completed traditional academic subjects in the morning and switched to interest driven projects in the afternoon. He was also on swim team and helped run a library based maker club that he began. His school portfolio contains a list of materials used for traditional academic work and standardized test scores. However, it is the field trips taken as a family and self-directed projects where the authentic learning has occurred and his individuality shines. 

Like most 10/11 year olds, he likes Minecraft. Here he made various Minecraft Perler bead creations, some from patterns, others from a picture. This led him to explore 3D Perler bead creations such as the Minecraft Steve and Creeper. He made a Lego Minecraft Pickaxe, which led him to creating an Instructable on making a foam Minecraft Pickaxe. He was MakerBot certified and then printed a Minecraft Creeper.

He had the opportunity to co-author the cardboarder skill for He then blogged about the process of writing a skill. He also experimented with sculpting his avatar and drawing it on sandpaper, then transferring it onto a custom T-shirt.He figured out he had to write and draw the image in reverse for it to iron on as he had intended it to look.

He designed a scene for his monster truck stop motion. The hot air balloon is paper mache, he explored various baskets before he found one he liked. The car on the bottom right is a paper craft which involves more fine motor and patience than I have. He spent a lot of time on the details of the boat.

Here you can see his favorite teams, but I love the way he's experimented with so many different materials. The Phillies shirt at the top was fabric markers. The hat is made from duct tape. He created a stencil and used fabric paint for the other T-shirt. The iTouch case has a felted "P" then was sewn, the duct tape Phillies wallet, Phillies carved in a pumpkin, and even his Minecraft skin is supporting his favorite team. The small helmet was a jello mold that he had poured plaster into, then custom painted. He then decided it would make a cool snow globe. The Miami dolphins decal is made from duct tape. 

These are items he has repurposed. The cover on the chair was torn, so he reupholstered it, something I've never even done. Then he custom stenciled it using the techniques he's learned from contact paper T-shirt stencil and duct tape work. He had left over fleece which became a diy pillow. The baseball bat hanger was made from the handles of a broken wheelbarrow. The dog toys were made from T-shirts that had been outgrown. The Pug silhouettes he made and picked up dollar store frames for. had a challenge to make your avatar. He had made it on a T-shirt above, but then also decided to make it using duct tape. He then made an avatar mask using felt and the same process he likes for duct tape stencils. Diy had shared a picture of a bear claw sign they had by a door, that gave him the idea to try something similar with layered cardboard. The portrait is a duct tape stencil of Isaiah Saxon, one of's co-founders. The real world moves much slower than kid's sense of time. He had really wanted patches of his favorite diy skills. At the time they were still being made, so ds made duct tape patches of his favorite skills. He also thought it would be fun to have diy duct tape, so he made that too. 

This is just a small sampling of his cooking experience that year. The pasta sauce and cakes were all made from scratch. 

Here he casted rabbit tracks in the snow. He experimented more with felt. The pet snail was really fun. The ant was a dollar store kit that he then spray painted. He experimented with the ant on a green screen adding it to different scenes. 

I've removed local swim team information and logos here, hence the white areas, but he made a display rack for his swimming ribbons. He's a sports fan. For the Super Bowl he transformed an old town rug into a Puppy Bowl field. We had some samples of flooring which he turned into a basketball court during March madness. This was his first exploration with a geodesic dome, which took on a baseball theme. The bicycle was made from Wikki Sticks and the hockey rink is made from styrofoam and soda bottle plastic. 

He met with the Children's librarian and suggested they start a local maker club. This page shows a bulletin board he put together for them, the diy flag he made, and the club logo he designed. He has since volunteered there 2.5-5 hours a week plus putting in another hour or two at home planning the events and gathering future event ideas.

He needs a punch card for duct tape. All of these were made from duct tape. Why does it stick to itself when I try to use it?

Here he's exploring with science, creating model cell, DNA, butterfly life cycle (in which he used actual photos from raising butterflies), bristle bots, circuits, rubber band cars, growing crystals, and testing bridges.

He made many launching apparatuses that year and was able to compare techniques.

The architecture were made from templates, the robot was from a kit found on clearance but his first experience with motionators, the diy bear paw was done freehand, and he designed the Oreo Perler bead. 

Yes, he actually did this and wouldn't you know it, someone came to the door - LOL. He had a marble run going down the stairs, around the foyer, then had a pulley bringing marbles back upstairs. 

Scultping, snow, and ice exploration. 

Just a few of his cardboard projects that year. The car is actually carved from layers of cardboard that he glued together. The wheels actually turn too. He used lollipop sticks for the strap attachment on the flip flops. I love how he customized them with his favorite things. 

More random explorations of materials and processes.

He explored Lego Mindstorms, made a Lego stop motion with the Ninjago set, built a Lego town with his brother and made a city stop motion. He also built a Lego replica of their karate studio.

More paper crafting, some with moving parts. 

DIY toys and games. 

This is a sampling of projects he decided to do one school year. He certainly had a blast doing these projects. I love how they show his personality and uniqueness. These are the actual picture collages from his portfolio, in which I've kept a summary for each academic year. These projects are as valid as his traditional academic work and standardized test scores. What if I hadn't preserved time in our schedule and space for him to make or valued his interest in making? 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Young Entrepreneur

My son, Ogel is a member of He had an idea for displaying the patches he earned. He hand cut a prototype, gathered feedback, redesigned it, researched supplies and various options to manufacture it, and pitched his product to a designer. In the end he decided to produce the Patch Displays himself at a local library's Fab Lab. He has taken his idea full circle and it has become an actual retail product available in's market.