Francis W. Parker School Wins Award for Collaborative Dot Day Program

Collaboration was the framework of Francis W. Parker’s award-winning Dot Day program. For their 2016 celebration, school librarians, educational technology specialists, and first-grade teachers combined technology and literature to support the messages in Peter H. Reynold’s book, The Dot.

The Chicago-based school received the 2017 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Collaborative School Library Award for their unique project, “Dot Day: How Do We Work Together as Collaborators to Make Our Mark?” This award recognizes the beneficial collaboration between school librarians and teachers to truly make the most out of the library resources in a school curriculum system.

The award-winning team includes first-grade teachers Sarah Weitz, Bev Greenberg, and Tisha Johnson, librarian Mary Catherine Coleman, and educational technology specialist Sarah Beebe. To kick off their project, the teachers read the book, The Dot, and encouraged their students to reflect on ways they make their mark in their individual lives, their community, and in their first-grade class. Then, at the library, the students went on and really made their mark with the awesome ArtBot creation.

FableVision Learning reached out to Mary Catherine Coleman to learn more about the project and plans for Dot Day 2017.

How did you learn about International Dot Day? When was the first celebration?

I heard about Dot Day a couple a years ago from School Library Journal, blogs, and library circles. At the library we have always celebrated Dot Day with reading the book and doing Dot-inspired art projects, but this is the first year we collaborated and planned an extensive project around the day.

What themes from the book The Dot did you use in your school’s celebration and how did you implement them into your program?

Students focused on the themes of art and creativity as well as growth mindset, risk taking and learning new skills. Students focused on the ideas of how we make and create art. We talked about different ways we “make our mark” and students shared different ways they create art. We also talked about being open to trying new things and continuing to to try a new skill even if we are not “good” at it to start. Students talked about how Vashti changed from the beginning of the story till the end. They brainstormed words to describe how Vashti was feeling at the beginning and words they would use to describe her feelings at the end of the story. Students focused on how important and rewarding it can be to try something new and to keep trying something even if you are not perfect at it to start.

We then combined those themes in a culminating project where students were tasked with designing and building a robot that created a unique piece of artwork.

Can you tell us a bit about ArtBot 2016 and how it connected to Dot Day?

The ArtBot 2016 project was a way to connect Dot Day with literacy, the first grade curriculum of community, design and maker building together. Students focused on the idea from the book of making your mark with art and also how we make our mark on other people’s hearts by how we treat others. This idea connected with the first grade curriculum of community and how are we a good and helpful member of our classroom, school, and larger community. We focused on how we work with others when we collaborate. Students brainstormed and thought about a time they created something with someone else and what made that an enjoyable experience. They shared their ideas and we sorted them into themes. Students realized there were four important qualities that contribute to being a good collaborator: listen, compromise, work together, and everyone is included.

Next, students were put into small groups and given the challenge to design and build a working robot that would create unique works of art. First students set the norms for their group, what would be the rules they would follow to make sure that they were being good collaborators based on the collaborator qualities. Some of the ideas included going around the group for everyone to share their design ideas first to ensure everyone was able to share, to prevent interrupting, students putting a thumb up when someone was speaking to illustrate they wanted to talk next, and making sure at least one idea from each team member was included in the robot design. Next, students designed their robots and starting building. During this process there were many connections with The Dot theme of continuing to try something even if you are not successful the first time. Many of the first designs students had for the robots did not work. They worked with their groups to talk about what went wrong and try new ideas to get the robot working. Finally, every groups produced a working ArtBot and created unique pieces of art that were displayed in our Dot Day art gallery in the school. This was inspired by The Dot art show that Vashti had at the end of the book.

The collaborator qualities that the first grade students came up with have been used throughout the school year in their classrooms and in the library in other collaborative projects and activities that we have done. Students use the protocol developed during the ArtBot project to help them be good collaborators.

*Click here to see some amazing videos of the ArtBots in action!

Francis W. Parker School recently received the 2017 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Collaborative School Library Award that recognizes and emphasizes school librarian and teacher collaboration while implementing library resources. What is the dynamic of this relationship in your school, and what sorts of activities do you collaborate on/with?

We make every effort to cultivate a culture of collaboration at Francis W. Parker. We combined the library and Tech Ed departments and created a collaborative project time so that we were able to do more projects like the ArtBot project. Our administration is very supportive and gives teachers time to plan and work together to design lessons and projects that combine the curriculum of the classroom and the library and Tech Ed department so that students have deeper learning opportunities.

We have collaborated with third grade classroom teachers and the science teacher on a zoo animal project. The unit combined the informative writing curriculum, scientific study of animals in the wild, zoos and conservation, technology skills including green screen video, research skills, and a design component that included designing a zoo habitat that was in the best interest of the animal based on research about the animal’s habitat, food source and behavior.

We did an in-depth fourth grade project around fairy tales from around the world and literature themes in the book The Tale of Despereaux. Students were challenged with reading and identifying themes in different fairy tales from cultures from around the world. Students then illustrated scenes from the fairy tale that best highlighted a theme and used LittleBits circuits to make their scenes interactive with motion, light and sound.

We also did a design project with kindergarten classes. They read the story of Little Red Riding Hood and focused on different elements of a story including beginning, middle, and end, characters, problem and setting. Students then designed a safer way to get Little Red from her house to her grandmother’s house. Kindergarteners worked with teachers to design their solutions in Tinkercad and 3D printed their ideas. Ideas included a hot air balloon, a fence to protect the path, and a taxi to drive her to grandma’s house.

Our goal is to continue to expand the projects and lessons we collaborate on with our classroom and subject teachers so that students in every grade are doing 2-3 in-depth collaborative projects a year.

What are your plans for Dot Day 2017?

We will be using The Dot book again in the 2017 school year. It is a great book to launch our first collaborative project of the year with first graders. We will definitely be using the collaborator qualities protocol so that next year’s first graders will have ownership in the qualities of a collaborator that we will be using throughout the year. We will most likely change the project that they work on. We will have a planning day this summer with our whole collaborative team, including first grade classroom teachers, technology and library, to plan for the 2017-18 school year. Next year’s project will definitely include design, building and maker elements. We would love to include new technologies and building materials. We are always learning about new things and being inspired by so many great educators that we follow on twitter and meet at conferences. Whatever we end up doing, The Dot and Dot Day is always such an inspiration and provides a great foundation for our project.

Curious about Dot Day? International Dot Day, celebrated on September 15th-ish, is a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration, and began when teacher Terry Shay introduced his classroom to Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot. Last year, over 7 million students in 166 countries joined the celebration. You can join too here!

Denver and Boston-based Nonprofits Announce Partnership and Grants to Accelerate STEM Learning in Schools Across U.S.

A consortium of organizations in Denver and Boston have announced a new partnership between mindSpark Learning and FableVision Learning to provide students with earlier access to quality STEM education. The two groups are offering a match grant program supported through the Morgridge Family Foundation (MFF) and the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning and Creativity (RCTLC).

Denver-based mindSpark Learning — a nonprofit providing innovative professional learning and development nationwide for educators, by educators — and FableVision Learning — a Boston-based K12 educational media and software provider offering creative learning tools, resources, and support — are excited to partner in the Fab@School Match Grant Program.

This grant provides a match of $1,750 per school, supplying each site with:

  • A year-long school site license for Fab@School Maker Studio web-based, digital fabrication software program — compatible with Mac, Windows, iPad, Chromebooks, and other mobile devices

  • Digital fabricators

  • Virtual professional development — overview of the software tools, as well as support for curriculum integration

  • Significantly discounted annual software license renewals

Interested schools and districts are encouraged to apply for the grant by reaching out to the Reynolds Center (

The Fab@School Match Grant program is designed to accelerate STEM education in schools and libraries across the country by combining professional development and teacher support with a research-based digital design and fabrication software platform.

This grant opportunity is helping provide solutions to the challenges around effective STEM learning, a dream envisioned almost a decade ago by another international coalition of research and education leaders, led by the University of Virginia. Launching the Fab@School initiative, the coalition quickly tapped RCTLC to research and develop a key tool for its research program. After five years of research, prototyping, and testing, RCTLC released the Fab@School Maker Studio early last year. The online-program, designed by Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns, is a digital design and fabrication software platform which uses affordable paper-based fabrication hardware.

Designed as a flexible onramp to meaningful STEM/STEAM learning, this online software introduces an engineering process specifically for use in K-8 classrooms. Easily adapted across grade levels, Fab@School Maker Studio tools allow for the creation of step-by-step and ready-made standards-based projects. Student can also recreate and modify sophisticated inventions from the Smithsonian, which was made possible through an Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Teachers are reporting the impact Fab@School has had in their classroom.

“Project-based learning with Fab@School Maker Studio is a great way to learn as it allows students to become fully invested in their work, so much so that they forget they are even doing ‘school work,’” Maryann Molishus, an educator at Goodnoe Elementary School, Council Rock School District, Newtown, PA said. “I can honestly say that the students are actively and happily engaged in mathematical conversations at a fifth grade level and more!”

By introducing STEM teaching and learning much earlier on in schools, Fab@School aims to spark critical interest in STEM studies, and prepare students for the careers of the future. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 jobs in the STEM field will have grown more than 18 percent over the previous decade; however, the current education system is struggling to produce enough qualified STEM graduates to fill those jobs.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) — an advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers — warned, “It is important to note that the problem is not just a lack of proficiency among American students; there is also a lack of interest in STEM fields among many students. Recent evidence suggests that many of the most proficient students, including minority students and women, have been gravitating away from science and engineering toward other professions. Even as the United States focuses on low-performing students, we must devote considerable attention and resources to all of our most high-achieving students from across all groups.” 

The good news is that Fab@School is already reporting measurable progress in meeting this challenge. Research pilots, funded by the Noyce Foundation, demonstrated Fab@School’s efficacy in shifting students’ attitudes about STEM education, including a 30 percent increase in interest in STEM learning after eight weeks of using the software program.

“It’s gratifying to be part of a national initiative that’s really moving the meter on STEM education,” Reynolds Center Founder Paul Reynolds notes, “Since Fab@School is committed to equity and access around STEM opportunities, it’s critical to have partners like mindSpark Learning and Morgridge Family Foundation who can help provide support and funding to give all schools a chance to use the Fab@School program, especially those who may be economically disadvantaged.”    

FABClassroom Spotlight: Arrowwood Elementary

From the library to the classroom, Arrowwood Elementary is a FABschool. Earlier this year the neighborhood school in Douglas County, CO added Fab@School Maker Studio, a digital design and fabrication program, to its STEAM curriculum. Recently, Dana Palmer shared a bit about how students are using the tool and the plans for the future.

As a STEM/STEAM teacher can you share a bit about the importance of introducing STEAM concepts in elementary school?

I was the "tech lab teacher" for the first 8 years of my career - straight tech lab activities devoid of creativity did not help students develop a deeper understanding of concepts. I found students cutting and pasting information from the internet directly into PowerPoint and calling it "technology integration.” They were unable to explain concepts in their own words; they were unable to relate concepts to their lives or other applications. With the hands-on creative approach of STEAM that I use, students are highly engaged and have a much deeper understanding of concepts.


How are the students at Arrowwood Elementary School using Fab@School Maker Studio?

We are at the starting stages - our older students are creating manipulatives for younger students. We reworked an old lesson that used straws and pipe cleaners to make 3D prisms with Fab@School Maker Studio prisms created by students.

For our older students, they are learning to be creative and do for others-creating something another student will use to learn has been really exciting for them, and the younger students are receiving top quality manipulatives made by school mates.

What has been the “aha” moment?

When I looked at last year’s "prisms" compared to this year’s it is evident that they are accurate- having accurate prisms allowed students to better understand planes, vertices, etc...

They got the "correct" answer quicker and were able to understand the correlation between sides, vertices, etc..


What is next?

Looking to create a fabrication center in our library - great software - easy to get started with and reasonable equipment prices will make this a reality much quicker than I thought possible.

Is your classroom a FabClassroom? We would love to feature your school! To be featured in an upcoming post, send an email to You can also tweet your photos with the hashtag #FabMakerStudio! For more posts featuring Fab@School Maker Studio, click here.

Peek Inside the Mind of Peter H. Reynolds with his Latest Book Happy Dreamer!

The following post was written by New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and FableVision founder, Peter H. Reynolds. His new book Happy Dreamer will be released on March 28, 2017. You can pre-order the book through the Blue Bunny bookstore, here. 

My book, Happy Dreamer was originally called Amazing, Delightful, Happy Dreamer. And yes, the initials do spell: ADHD.
The first spark of the book ideas were inspired while attending a learning difference conference at Harvard University where successful CEOs shared their challenging learning journeys in school, making it clear that their achievements were made because of their brains, not in spite of them. It was pointed out by the panel host that this group had all described attributes of ADHD as children. Those attributes sounded very familiar to me.
I thought for a moment, "I wish ADHD sounded like something you'd WANT to have!"

I took a pencil and wrote...


I went home and wrote a poem by the same name and that poem ultimately became this book.
I wrote Happy Dreamer for kids (and grown up kids) like me. This really is my story. A peek inside my mind to share how my brain works in its own wild and wonderful way.
It wasn't always easy having a brain like mine though. While I was never officially diagnosed with ADHD (it was a term that would not be used widely until a decade after I was in elementary school) I do believe that as a child I had experienced many of its symptoms.
I wanted to send out a hopeful message that kids who are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD that they have a gift, not a label. That their minds are very special. That they are "delightful dreamers." Their brains are capable of being flexible, generous, nimble, and inventive. Their kind of thinking is to be understood, nurtured, accommodated and CELEBRATED!
Growing up, I was dreamer. A day dreamer. Night dreamer. I had a super-charged imagination which kept my brain very, very busy. SO many ideas which was probably the impetus for me grabbing a pencil and starting to capture these thoughts and images on paper with words and art. Outside of school, it really wasn't a problem. I grew up in a big family. Seven people roaming the house doing chores, hobbies, but at night we would gather together at the dinner table to share stories. It was a busy, noisy house and I loved it that way. All the energy and buzz. In school, however, it was a different story. I found it a bit of a shock to stay put in one chair for most of the day. Learning to focus on the lessons were sometimes a big challenge for me. I was not encouraged to capture any of my racing thoughts on paper. I was in fact, discouraged from doing it.
"All eyes up front."
"Mr. Reynolds, do not draw in my class. You can do that after school."
"This is math class. Not art class. Put that away."
I was an agreeable, friendly kid eager to please, so I did my best to comply and control my buzzy-brain. It was not always easy. Every so often, I found a teacher or an activity that tapped into that special brain of mine and WHOAH! Like my 7th grade math teacher who asked me if I could teach math by using art, story and animation. It was magic. I was in my element. It was an AMAZING feeling. Happy. Delighted. My Dreamer brain was engaged—and I was ME.
I hope this book speaks to you, your family and friends. May it reassure you that good things are ahead for all us dreamers.
And in fact, I do believe that if we are to solve some of the planet's biggest problems—we can't keep trying the same solutions. We must invite inventive, flexible minds to the table. World problem solving aside—if this book encourages my readers to simply be happy with themselves, then I'll sleep—and dream— better at night.


In the Boston area? Join us for Happy Dreamer book release party at the Blue Bunny Books & Toys, on Saturday, April 1, 11-1 p.m, located at 577 High St, Dedham, MA 02026. For more information, click here.

For inspiration on how to bring Happy Dreamer into your classroom, check out the Happy Dreamer Classroom Kit.

Fab Lab Tulsa Pilots Early Elementary School Program Featuring Fab@School Maker Studio

The following blog post was written by the team at Fab Lab Tulsa about their Digital Fabrication pilot with early elementary school students. 

At Fab Lab Tulsa, we’re used to working with digital design and fabrication tools. In fact, we consider ourselves to be experts at it, with over five years of experience teaching youth programs that target 5th through 9th graders. We’ve had some experience with younger students but we’ve wanted to find some way to get early learners engaged in the design process. After a ton of research we were able to locate the Fab@School Maker Studio platformer. We were super excited to pilot Fab@School Maker Studio to see if it could be used to expand our existing programs to students in the 1st to 3rd grades.

In November 2016, we spent two weeks teaching 72 young students in the afterschool program at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School. In keeping with our existing education program philosophy, the curriculum included digital fabrication using Fab@School Maker Studio and Silhouette Portrait paper cutters. We focused on teaching elements of the design process as defined in the Next Generation Science Standards, and we encouraged students to apply the skills they learned in a project-based assignment. Our objective was to evaluate both the software and cutters, as well as test the feasibility and value of introducing digital fabrication concepts and skills at an earlier age.

Each student received approximately 4 hours of instruction over multiple sessions. The 1st grade students focused on 2D design. They were introduced to the topic of design and shapes by reading and discussing the book “The Wing of a Flea” by Ed Emberley. This led to instruction on how to design basic 2D shapes and combine those shapes into more complex structures. Students used the cutters to create their physical model.

The older students began with the 2D design but quickly moved to designing 3D shapes. They were able to use the cutter to render their 3D design and then glue it when necessary. Some older students tried their hand at more advance design concepts like pop-ups, a design principle that’s tough but easier to handle when using the friendly interface of Fab@School Maker Studio.

In short, we were very happy and excited about the results of the pilot. While there is still considerable room for improvement in the lesson plans and teacher instruction, designing with the Maker Studio software was a simple and straightforward concept to learn for all three grade levels. In addition, the cutters proved faster and more efficient than was expected.

In short, we were very happy and excited about the results of the pilot. While there is still considerable room for improvement in the lesson plans and teacher instruction, designing with the Maker Studio software was a simple and straightforward concept to learn for all three grade levels. In addition, the cutters proved faster and more efficient than was expected.

Best of all, student engagement was very high and we observed a high level of student interest and growing self-confidence. We’re excited about the implications this base of knowledge will have in future grades, when we ask them to use more complex CNC equipment for larger projects.

From Snow Forts to Bees, First Graders Design with Fab@School Maker Studio

Meet Karen Wolff's first grade class at the Boyden School in Walpole, Ma. This post first appeared on Mrs. Wolff's blog, The Wolff Den

What a fun week we had building a snow fort! The idea started by exploring with Fab@School Maker Studio software on our Chromebooks.  We experimented with different shapes and connected them. From there, we learned how to make 3-D solids. We were going to create a snow village with our solids, but instead decided to build a snow fort!  We started by creating cubes with the Fab@School Maker Studio, but found that they were too small to build with. We even tried gluing magnets in the cubes to make they stick together, but in the end decided on choosing another solid – rectangular prisms. We went back to the Chromebooks and figured out how to create them and then built our snow fort!

We also created snowflakes to use with the Bee-Bots.

Speaking of bees, we read a story about Honey Bees this week. We learned about the long “u” sound and the two sounds “y” can make at the end of a word. For example, in the word “sunny,” the “y” sound like an “e," but in the word, “fly,” the “y” sounds like an “i.” We also talked about the life cycle of honey bees. We diagramed the bee life cycle using Kid Pix and learned about the anatomy of a bee by creating them with the Fab@School Maker Studio.

In math, we are working with fact families. We learned that all fact families have  three numbers. We can make two addition sentences and two subtraction sentences with the same three numbers.

In social studies we’ve been learning about oceans and continents. We know there are different kinds of land, like plains and mountains and different types of water, like rivers and lakes. We also talked about natural resources like water and wood.

Young engineers at CU Science Discovery light up the holidays with Fab@School Maker Studio

We are so excited to hear how our creative classroom tools are being used. Stacey Forsyth, Ph.D., Director, CU Science Discovery, recently shared a bit about some young engineers who used Fab@School Maker Studio to design pop-up cards.

Over the holiday break, some creative young designers spent two days at CU Science Discovery in Boulder, Colorado, designing electrifying holiday cards.

First, the students used FableVision Learning’s Fab@School Maker Studio to design cards that could be cut and folded in specific ways.

Then by sending the designs to a Silhouette Cameo, a digital craft cutter, they were able to cut and perforate their designs.

After a few introductory activities to explore the basics of circuits, designers used copper tape and LEDs to light up their cards! For some tips on creating paper circuits, check out this tutorial from our friends at Spark Fun


After designing, cutting, folding, and lighting the lights, students had a chance to add on any final touches using an assortment of colorful craft materials.


Their finished products were simply illuminating!


FableVision Celebrates Universal Children's Day at Bridgewater State University

In a packed auditorium, Paul and Peter H. Reynolds inspired roughly 200 third-graders from Brockton’s Huntington School to make their mark during Bridgewater State University Universal Children’s Day celebration on Nov. 18, 2016. 

Following Peter and Paul's presentation and reading of "The Dot," the FableVision Learning crew joined students on the lawn to create a giant dot.

To round out the creative celebration, the team stuck a pose for the Universal Children's Day mannequin challenge. 

FableVision Learning's Vice President, Andrea Calvin, also joined the college's Universal Children’s Day celebration for a hands-on storytelling workshop featuring Get Published!

Learn more about Universal Children's Day here

Wrightsboro Elementary Students Make Their Mark with Dot Song!

Decked in dot-covered artist aprons and French berets, the paintbrush wielding students of Wrightsboro Elementary wowed the crowd at the 27th Annual Best Foot Forward showcase in New Hanover County with their rendition of Emily Arrow’s “The Dot Song” inspired by Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot. A multi-age group of nearly 40 students sang, danced, and acted out the story of The Dot while creating a dot of their own live on stage, which was revealed at the end of the performance. Lead by their music teacher, Shannon Flowers, their art teacher, Bron Guthrie, and teacher leader, Brandi Laney, the piece was a huge success and one of the most memorable performances of the night. Congratulations to the teachers and students of Wrightsboro Elementary for making their mark!

Want to bring Emily Arrow’s Creativity Road Show to your school? Click here.

All photography provided by Erin Whittle Photography.

FableVision Learning Teacher Spotlight: Maryann Molishus

Maryann Molishus

Maryann Molishus is not just any fifth-grade teacher, she is an advocate for hands-on, experiential learning and a champion for the importance of a positive classroom experience in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Many students learn to dislike these subjects in elementary school; Maryann is inspiring her students at Goodnoe Elementary School in Newtown, Pennsylvania to love them using Fab@School Maker Studio.

Maryann rallied a few colleagues and three amazing fifth-grade students to apply for a grant from their district’s Council Rock Education Fund to develop a makerspace-type program. With the grant in hand and the support of their principal they were able to get started.

“Our principal gave the OK to purchase a class set of accounts for Fab@School Maker Studio, and it is the perfect fit for elementary students,” she shared. “The last piece, the creativity and collaboration needed to design interesting products, comes from our fantastic students! Our intent is to spend at least this school year learning how the grant materials can best be used by our school population and then put together a program we can share with all our elementary schools.”

Maryann, a FabAwesome FableVision Learning Ambassador, was kind enough to share her and her students’ experiences using Fab@School in their classroom. Read on!

How did you hear about FableVision Learning and then become an ambassador?

In 2004 it seemed that wherever I went I was crossing paths with Peter and Paul Reynolds and the folks at FableVision. In quick succession I heard Peter speak during a virtual author visit with hundreds of students across Pennsylvania, then at a live meet-up in Philadelphia at what was then NECC (now the ISTE Conference), and we had a mutual connection to the Pennsylvania Keystone Technology Integrators Program that had just begun. Soon after I volunteered to be part of Paul Reynolds’s graduate research project, The North Star Virtual Community. I began using The North Star Classroom Program in my classroom and we even did a performance of The North Star Musical Journey with one of my second grade classes. It was some time later that I connected with the amazing Terry Shay and the ambassador program and began participating in fun events such as International Dot Day.

Tell us a bit about your classroom and what the students are working on.

Creating and collaborating! 

I am currently teaching fifth graders at Goodnoe Elementary School in Newtown, Pennsylvania. It’s my fifth year in fifth grade, after teaching second grade at the same school for eleven years. Additionally, I moderate a grades 5-6 STEM Club once a week during recess and lunch. The 5-6 STEM Club students are working on a variety of projects and are learning new skills such as computer programming and digital fabrication. Currently, our fifth graders are working on an interdisciplinary project. They are combining math, engineering, art, and some very much needed collaborative skills to create a “solid sculpture” that will be displayed on our hallway bulletin board.


How are you using Fab@School Maker Studio into your classroom?

There are a couple of ways we are using Fab@School Maker Studio. First, my homeroom is working on their  “solid sculptures.” Small groups have been given the challenge of collaborating to create an interesting sculpture that includes a cone, cube, two rectangular prisms, a cylinder, a square pyramid, and one other solid shape. The total volume of each sculpture needs to be between 60-250 cubic inches. The colors, patterns, and configuration of shapes is their creative choice. The small groups are working hard to learn how to use Fab@School, how to calculate volume, and how to design the various shapes.  We began the project by assigning student trainers that took on the role of ‘team leader’, introducing their group members to the new program and guiding them on how to use it. Team leaders are also responsible for keeping the group organized, maintaining the design notes, and making sure everyone in the group is participating.

Students are also using Fab@School in our new “STEM Special”.  This STEM Special has been put in place in lieu of our weekly computer lab block.  Students work on independent digital projects, some of which involve electronics and cardboard, and many that include designs students are creating using Fab@School.

Finally, we also offer a weekly STEM Club to all students in a more informal setting. The students are just beginning to learn Fab@School and are so excited to start planning their projects!

What are some of the challenges/lessons you are tackling with Maker Studio?

One of our primary challenges at the moment is setting up our hardware to work as effectively and efficiently as possible. As the class begins to learn and use Fab@School Maker Studio, we are working out how to get the printing and cutting process to work optimally using our current district hardware. We are learning what works best and what our major hurdles are so we can sort those out with our administration and tech support. We want to make the best choices in our setup so we can hopefully share the program with all of our students.

Can you share one wonderful aha teaching moment you’ve had this week?  

Yes, a wonderful aha moment occurred when I first introduced Fab@School to my class and they began their Solid Sculpture project. The small groups busily assigned jobs, got some training on the program, and began researching volume formulas they would need for their solid shapes. After a little over an hour, time was up. As I instructed the students to clean up their materials, one student called out, “What, time’s up? We didn’t even do any math today!” After spending an hour focused on geometry and measurement, it was quite surprising that the students didn’t realize that they were, in fact, doing math. I took the opportunity to explain once again just what they were doing and its connection to our math program. Project-based learning is a great way to learn as it allows students to become fully invested in their work, so much so that they forget they are even doing “school work.” I can honestly say that the students are actively and happily engaged in mathematical conversations at a fifth grade level and more!