On Aug 1st, the Hive NYC Learning Network had its Maker Party at the Bronx Public Library. There were a variety of activities involved and about 8-10 member sites were present including Exposure Camp, Urban Pedagogy, World Up, Coder Dojo, Ny Hall of Science, Museum of the Moving Image, and RMA.I took a different approach in engaging the kids than I had during the Reverse Field Trips. During one of the sales pitches, I shouted out to the kids, "How many of you like video games? How many of you like comic books?" I got a huge response from the kids. As soon as I got back to the table, we were swamped with kids I was surprised to learn that these kids grew up playing the same exact video games I did. One kid mentioned that his grandma had held onto the Super Nintendo and he basically grew up playing the same exact video games that I did. Another kid told me about playr.org. It was like one generation being able to connect with the next. The downside with this approach is that it only engages kids who like comic books and video games. Next time, I will take a different approach. Instead of having a make your own video game controller activity I would probably have a make your own musical instrument activity. Instead of video games, I would say apps or animation. Instead of comic books, I would say story telling.We went to the Google Geek Street Fair the day before and I noticed a big difference in our event and theirs. Our event had more arts and crafts activities whereas the G
oogle Geek Street Fair had more engineering/technically oriented activities.
They were trying to promote STEM and we were trying to promote STEAM.
Another interesting thing was the sharing of ideas. Tina from exposure camp.
Here are some of the makes from the eventhttps://hivemakerparty.makes.org/thimble/wolverine-vs-hulkhttps://hivemakerparty.makes.org/thimble/the-adventures-of-supernova
Our second reverse field trip site was Partnership with Children. The site's theme was different for each age group. Sixth graders would learn about Ancient Egypt, Seventh graders about the Civil War, and Eight graders about Immigration into the US and specifically the Bronx. As such, we created three different maps for each grade.
For the sixth graders, we had a simple parallel circuit on two sides of the Nile river. Gaps in the circuit would be filled by tin foil under the shapes to light up LEDs along important sites on the Nile.
Seventh graders were split into two groups, and they would each create shapes based on military themes from the Civil War and complete circuits for a map of the battle of Gettysburg. We incorporated a bit of friendly competition, as each group would only make shapes for either the North or the South and place them in the positions of units in the battle map.
Eight graders created shapes of buildings or something related to either the immigrant group they were studying or their own cultural heritage. For this group, we reused the city map in order to create "neighborhoods" of varied cultural backgrounds.
In this site, we set up in a cafeteria, so tables and talking to the entire group were not as much of a problem as in Oasis. This environment also allowed for more involvement with the kids and their making, so in some cases we got very creative results. Some sixth graders, for example, made very elaborate pyramids with egyptian glyphs on them, while an eight grader didn't use the shape templates and instead created his structure with popsicle sticks. This had been the first time we incorporated this alternative building material, and some kids definitely were more attached to using them over cutting and folding paper.
Once again, I appreciated the help and extra depth that the NSLA fellows added to our team, and I would imitate what I saw Marie or Gina do in order to bring out the kids' creativity or interest. For example, Marie was very good with working alongside the kids and giving them ideas and encouraging them to try new things. Gina was very good at working with kids that might be falling behind or needed some focus.
It was also interesting to hear about and visit Julia and her side of the program with the documentation station. Teaching kids on the computer was very different than in a hands-on activity, as more guidance and assistance was needed. An interesting source of friction here was the differing focus and attitude regarding the internet between our program and the standard Public School system. Often times, the kids' teachers and counselors seemed less cooperative than the kids themselves as they were constantly prohibiting and closely monitoring how the internet was used, while our focus was more centered on playing and learning through play.
Our first reverse field trip site was with Oasis summer school program. Kids in this program were from 11-14 years old and the theme of the summer was "building your dream". Kids learned about architecture and specifically on how to design and imagine ways to change their neighborhoods. Since this school's theme was what inspired our city grid idea in the first place, it was exciting to have our first reverse field trip here.
The day was split up into two sessions of around an hour and a half. The first session was around 70 girls while the second session was around 60 boys. Our setup was in a gym in the basement which got pretty stuffy with three long tables arranged around a central table with the city map. We had 3 Maker Corps members, two Hive representatives, and two NSLA Teaching Fellows who were also working with Hive over the summer.
The first session with the girls was pretty hectic, as we quickly found out bugs and issues with the program we had set up. The heat wave and stuffy gym didn't help but I probably learned more that first session that in the rest of the reverse field trips. Our first problem was introducing ourselves. It was difficult to talk to a group of 70 hyperactive and overheated middleschoolers in a large empty gym, but Julia was pretty good at engaging the whole group despite the conditions.
Once the kids got started decorating their templates though, things seemed to calm down a bit. That is, until the first kids finished building their shapes and came by the map table. We showed the kids how to wire and install the LED lights to their boxes, but we didn't anticipate everyone suddenly finishing and crowding the map table. The most stressful moment of the day was probably with these first boxes because lights wouldn't light on and we were quickly being overwhelmed by the number of kids.
Once we finally got one light to work, however, kids were immediately re-engaged and very excited. One of the first girls to finish, for example, stayed on the map station for the rest of the session playing around with the leds and tin foil and helping other girls get their lights to work. The NSLA fellows also proved invaluable here and throughout the rest of the reverse field trips as they were able to manage the large number of kids and lead us through moments when we struggled to explain concepts as well.
By the second session we were addressing most of the problems we had found by giving introductions at tables rather than at the whole group and by having kids wire and set up their LEDs at their stations rather than at the central map table. The second session of boys also seemed to pick up the circuit concepts quicker and again, some kids stuck around the map table the entire time and helped others who were struggling.
Because our circuit seemed to have some issues either with voltage or in the connections, we couldn't get all the boxes to light up at the same time so we resorted to aluminum foil on cell batteries to light individual shapes. It was interesting to see how after doing the battery being used this way once, the kids started making their own out of their own initiative (and with batteries they were not supposed to take). I would help one kid and turn around to help another one that had called out before, only to see him parading his lit LED.
Overall, this event was very fun as we were able to work with a large volume of kids and could observe some becoming really interested in the circuits and LEDs while others focused a lot more on the designing and building of their shapes. Towards the end of the activity, we also sent kids to a paper mural we had in the corner to write their thoughts and comments on the day, and it was interesting to read their reflections.
These past few weeks we've been working on preparing for our big events - the Reverse Field Trips. For these trips, we bring events to three different schools in the New York City area and work with kids in grades 6, 7, and 8. The number of students we'll work with is around 70 at a time, and we'll have about 5 different sessions. We've decided to create projects that are modular and can work for the various themes that these schools have. We wanted to be able to create a modular activity that could be adapted to different themes. Themes range from Ancient Egypt to Immigration to 2D/3D Design and Deconstruction.
Do working on the city map
Alex testing out the circuit
During one of our brainstorming meetings we came up with the idea to create city grid pages for participants to add paper shapes with circuits. the idea was to build a circuit that would represent the city and have students place buildings on this city. The students would cut out boxes, pyramids and shapes from templates, design them, color them, tape them together and then place them on the city maps.
Prototyping small versions of our grids
For older students, we will have them build circuits on the houses themselves, then place their building on the map to see if their LED lights up. In other cases, we will have the students build houses with aluminum foil on the bottom, and they'll place their houses on the grid to complete a circuit on the grid and light up an LED that is already in the circuit.
For example, one group's theme is the Civil War. For this group we have a map of the battlefield at Gettysburg. We're going to build small circuits with 1 LED for each of the different troops on the map. We'll have students build the troops and when the troops are completed and all of the different blocks are placed, the LED will light up (either red or blue depending on which side the troop is on!)
We'll have a table for hands on work (cutting, coloring, taping, connecting the LED's), and a table for the actual grid for the students to go up to and place their circuits to see if they work. The last part of our activities will be the Digital Lab, where students will work with Mozilla Thimble and Popcorn and document what they've done. We've made some templates for the kids to write about what they've learned and what they love to make.
We're so excited to be able to bring our projects to the students and see what they think. We'll post after the events with our thoughts and reflections about how they went, what we learned and what we would change.
Some of our supplies
Do finishing up the Urban Playscape grid
- Claudia D'Adamo
This Saturday, Coder Dojo had a Scratch workshop for children new to Scratch. I really liked the format of their event. It was very structured and they actually developed a curriculum for Scratch newcomers.
In the beginning, they did an icebreaker using a bingo game. I liked this idea as it made things more light and fun. It helped everyone just ease
They gave the Scratch learners an objective- tell a story. Storytelling is a very important part of the human experience and I liked how they used it to teach programming.
Logistics wise, they were on top of things. They showed a demo and gave out fliers explaining how students could set up an account on Scratch. They even handed out laminated cards explaining how to do basic functions in Scratch.
I tried to teach Scratch to one student by using pseudocode although I did not call it that. I told the student to use bullet points and draw blocks around them.
One area for improvement would be outreach. There was a one to one ratio between students and mentors. For this occasion, I think that ratio worked since Coder Dojo is still trying to refine their curriculum. As their organization grows, however, it might be better for them to get more boots on the ground to spread the word.
The other issue was the time period. It is hard for children to stay focused for 4 hours straight. I think it would have been good to have breaks in between or even let them play Scratch games
The Come Out and Play Jam was the first event we Maker Corps Members were a part of. Held at the Park Slope Armory YMCA's awesome facility, kids learned the basics of game design and created a field game that would be played during the official Come Out and Play 2013 Festival on July 15.
While we were mostly documenting this event, we were able to participate with the kids to create two awesome but completely different field games. One was a simple and elegant scalable family friendly field game much like tag, while the other was a complex and strategy based capture-the-flag... but with swords.
This being our first event, I was surprised with the ease with which the kids experimented and started working in designing their games. I won't lie, it was a bit intimidating for me to have the folks from dESIgn put us all in a conference room and explain their goals, expectations, and challenge for the day. Their 10 page game design packet didn't particularly lighten up the business-like atmosphere either. Once we moved over to the courts and got some game props, however, the kids immediately came up with a million ideas. The structured process and strong facilitation helped narrow down and focus on the ideas that worked and the event ended up with two successful and fun games.
The frequent pauses for reflection and commentary seemed to me to be the most effective in leading to developments in the games. If i learned something about game design through this event, it was the importance of testing,
This student was so excited about the Makey Makey project that he worked on so I gave it to him on the condition that he display it at the NYC Maker Faire
Young Rewired State had their first hackathon in the US at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens this past weekend. This was their first event so there were some challenges. Some of the students were from Coder Dojo and were basically full-fledged developers while others had no coding experience whatsoever. This was my fourth or fifth hackathon and my first as a mentor so the experience was a change of pace for me.
- Wifi Connection. We were having constant issues with wifi.
- Create teams of 3-4 students (1 with a lot of coding experience, 1 with a moderate amount, and 1 with none.) Peers can teach each other better than mentors can. When the organizers sent the more advanced kids to the other room, they basically created a digital divide and some kids were left behind.
- More structure. An open-ended free for all only benefits students with a lot of coding experience. Beginners need a template, a specific idea, or a standardized toolkit (ex: livecoding.io, Thimble, etc). Students with experience really don't need a lot of mentoring while students who are complete beginners need a lot more hands-on mentoring.
Some students felt very frustrated with the lack of structure at the event.
So we had our first major event at the Ny Sci Learning Lab pop-up in Queens. Here is a family from Queens having a special moment with squishy circuits. I was busy bouncing between activities and every time I stopped to check in on them they had created something totally new.
They just kept expanding upon their original squishy circuit design. It started off small but then it got really complex. What impressed me the most was their dad. He was this tough looking dude but even he got into it.
I tried to give them some privacy but every so often I would pop in to give them tips and ask the girls leading questions about how electricity and circuits worked.
They spent almost an hour just making and having fun. Afterwards, they asked me how they could get more involved and I gave them a flier for the NYC Maker Faire. I felt like we had really helped spread the Maker Movement.
We've been hard at work with many events in the past three weeks! We'll be posting documentation from all of them soon, as well as keeping up to date with future events. Our Flickr account is up and running with pictures on our side bar so you can see some of the events and projects we've been working on!