November 19, 2017

Holiday Gifts for Young Makers

Every year colleagues and parents ask me for gift ideas for their little makers at home.  Here’s a list of the most popular items in my school library’s makerspace.  These make perfect gifts for the young maker in your life.  Happy holiday making!


FOR LITTLE ENGINEERS



LEGOS - Nothing beats the creative projects kids build with Legos.  Whether building from a kit or making original creations, there are endless possibilities.  Download the Lego Movie Maker app to animate a lego movie, or purchase the WeDo 2.0 to code projects to move like a robot.



KEVA PLANKS - These are modern day Lincoln Logs.  Shaped in a rectangular cube, these planks can be place one after the other to build stunning creations like free-standing buildings, artistic mosaics, and complex obstacle courses to make a marble roll, bounce, and slide.  These are perfect for budding architects, artists, and engineers.



KNEX’S - These are like Legos on steroids.  They are more complex to build with, however their ability to bend (unlike Legos) is a game changer.  Kids can free build with Knex’s or purchase a kit.  My family built a moving roller coaster one year with a Knex kit - it was awesome!



FOR ROBOTS FANS




DASH - This is the most loved robot at my library.  He’s adorable and easy to use for children of all ages.  There are multiple apps that can make Dash move and talk, with a few involving coding. Purchase Dash accessories like a xylophone and ball launcher for even more fun!



OZOBOT - This tiny robot can be coded to move with red, blue, green, and black markers on white paper.  The smallest of kids enjoy drawing with Ozobots and older children like the challenge of drawing paths that make it move faster, slower, and spin.  Download a variety of apps to move Ozobot on the iPad screen or use code skills to make it do fun tricks.



SPHERO - This spherical robot has many possibilities.  There are multiple apps that can make Sphere move free style or coded to do tricks.  There are endless possibilities for Sphero fun!  A few ideas are: build a chariot from Knex or pipe cleaners to be pulled by Sphero, program Sphere to draw shapes or outline letters, build an obstacle course for Sphere to maneuver, or creating a painting of boat with Sphero because it’s safe to get wet!


BEE-BOT or ROBOT MOUSE - These little robots are perfect for introducing young kids to coding.  Children can press arrow buttons in a series to make the bee or mouse move to the intended destination.  It’s coding in it’s simplest form served in a fun and engaging robot toy. 



FOR VIDEO GAMERS



BLOXELS - Kids can create their own video games with Bloxels!  Using pixel-like cubes, children can design their own video game characters and backgrounds.  Using the app they can upload their creations and then play with the characters and worlds they created!  It truly takes kids from video game player to video game creator!  


MAKEY MAKEY - This simple dashboard allows users to connect everyday objects to computer programs.  In my library, kids have played a piano and video games using tin foil, play-doh, and food like potatoes, oranges, and bananas.  Just a heads up, the Makey Makey needs to connect to a computer or laptop to work.  



FOR CRAFT CREATORS



PERLER BEADS - Kids can make fun creations by arranging these tiny beads into unique designs.  Whether free designing or making with a kit/stencil, children enjoy building and seeing their project come together in the end.  Warning: an iron (and an adult’s help) is needed to finalize creations!  Check out their website and app for fun ideas and tools.



DUCT TAPE - Duct tape creations are a big hit in my school’s makerspace!  Using duct tape, students make a variety of items like bookmarks, flowers, wallets, jewelry, accessories, and even clothing.  Look for fun duct tape prints and find inspirational ideas online and in books.




ORIGAMI - My students enjoy turning paper into interesting objects.  In particular, they like making items that do stuff like a fortune cookie, a cube that inflates by blowing in air, and frogs that jump.  The most popular item is a paper airplane!  For ideas and folding steps, look online and in books.


October 8, 2017

Bloxels for a Makerspace


Like many teacher librarians, I run the makerspace at my school.  I have a lot of fun materials that students love like dash robots, makey makey, doodle-bots, legos, spheros, and ozobots.  A new addition to our makerspace are Bloxels.  

Bloxels allow students to build their own video games.  Students use tiny blocks (which mimic a computer's pixel) to design a game board and character.  These images are uploaded to the Bloxels Builder app (a free downloadable app) and their creation comes to life as a playable game!  Here's a video showing what Bloxels can do:  https://vimeo.com/159851845 

My students are like most kids, they love video games!  So they really enjoy designing and creating their own games with Bloxels.  It makes programming a video game easy for young students.  Kids don’t need to know fancy coding to create a video game.  Students can recreate the characters and game board suggestions provided by Bloxels, but most choose to create their own.  I recommend using Bloxels with students in grades second to fifth.  There are great lesson plan ideas on Bloxels’ website to connect to curriculum like build your own fractured fairy tale video game.  Check out more ideas here: http://edu.bloxelsbuilder.com  

There are a few aspects about Bloxels that I find challenging.  Creating with Bloxels sometimes takes students longer than I’d like, when my time for makerspace activities is limited.  The pixel pieces are tiny and can be easily lost.  Playing the game that’s created is a little confusing and somewhat limiting and I wish it were more user friendly.  The games are not high-tech looking and appear very pixelated like the original Mario Bros, Minecraft, and even Atari. 

In the end, Bloxels have been a fun addition to our makerspace.  Students love designing and playing their own video games.  I love that they encourage creativity and teach computer science skills, and easily take young students from video game player to video game designer! 

September 7, 2017

#mustreadin2017


A new #mustreadin2017 update is here and I have so much to share!  Thank you Carrie Gelson of There’s a Book for That for hosting this reading event.  In January, I did a blog post motivating myself to read over the 2017 year.  In April, I did another blog post update and posted books that I’d been reading.  Today’s post highlights the new books I read over the summer.  So far, making these lists motivates me to read and I've done pretty well achieving my reading goals this year.  

Here are the new books I read since my last #mustreadin2017 blog post:











































Here are some upcoming new titles that I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing for my next #mustreadin2017 blog post: