"Making" Our Community a Better Place: An 8th Grade Collaborative Maker Project

Recently, Open Window School provided a year-long professional development experience on 21st century learning for all faculty.  After the training was complete, our school offered Summer Innovation Grants to teachers who wanted to collaborate and develop a new projects incorporating 21st century skills.  We (Corey Paulson - 8th Grade Humanities Teacher & Adrienne Gifford - Innovation & Technology Lab Director) were awarded a grant which we used to develop this project.

Students started off in Humanities class by brainstorming and researching to identify a need or a problem in our school or wider community that could be addressed by a maker project.  They identified how their invention will be distinct from existing products and how it will improve the world.  Additionally, students completed a feasibility study, researching which governmental agency or business they would need to talk to to in order to make their idea successful and discovering the finances involved in constructing the product.  They researched mission statements from successful companies and then wrote their own mission statement, which detailed the qualities of the product and how it would benefit the world.

In Technology class, student teams filled out and submitted electronic project proposals outlining their plan, research, needed materials, required expertise, and breakdown of tasks among group members.  

We were so excited to receive incredibly creative project proposals from students, including (but not limited to):

  • Cancer Detecting Device: Implantable Arduino device that monitors white blood cell count

  • Herb-in Urban: Compact, low-cost, and easy way to garden in urban areas

  • SAGA Awareness Project: Interactive art project incorporating e-textiles to promote the Student Sexuality and Gender Alliance

  • eyePhone: Phone-camera interface to help people with vision impairments use GPS more easily

  • Audio/Video Earrings: Earrings that record and store high quality video and audio to allow people to more easily record memories

  • SmartBox: Arduino bank device that helps children save money by regulating how much money they are able to spend

  • Modular RC Plane: remote-control airplane with interchangeable wings, propellers, tails, and wheels so children can learn about aerodynamics with experimentation

  • Heat-and-Cool: Small, portable, low-cost food heater and and cooler

  • Ergonomic Reading Desk: adjustable hands-free structure for the library

After each project was approved, we had student teams fill out our official school order forms for any needed materials that we don’t already have available in the Innovation & Technology Lab.  Each group was asked to keep their total cost in the neighborhood of $150 or less.

After materials were ordered, students commenced building their product in the Innovation & Technology lab.  This was also a great opportunity for parent volunteers to come and help out!

After each weekly work session in the Innovation & Technology Lab, students groups complete a blog post with a summary of their project progress (successes, challenges, and next steps) along with photos.  Approximately halfway through the process, student teams will present their progress to the class for group feedback.

Running concurrently with project construction in technology classes, is a research project in Humanities.  Each individual student will write a research paper that demonstrates their understanding of citizenship, the government, and how the Maker Movement can help democratize the economic and political processes.  They have guiding questions for their research paper: to what extent is involvement in Makerspaces changing industrialism in America? To what extent does the Maker movement support American values? How does my design improve the community?

student teams will presented their maker project to the school through a 3.75 minute (15 slides x 15 seconds each) TED-style talk that discusses their design thinking process, challenges, successes, and benefits of their invention.

Due to the fact that we teach different subject areas and do not have common class times with our students, we developed a timeline of what we accomplish in each Humanities and Tech class each week.

Our ultimate goal for this project is that students understand that they have the power to use their knowledge of technology, maker education, and American government to improve the world!   

ISTE Standards for Students emphasized in this project include:

Creativity and innovation

  • Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes
  • Create original works as a means of personal or group expression

Communication and collaboration

  • Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
  • Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
  • Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems

Research and information fluency

  • Plan strategies to guide inquiry
  • Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
  • Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific task
  • Process data and report results

Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making

  • Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation
  • Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
  • Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions

Digital citizenship

  • Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
  • Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning

Technology operations and concepts

  • Understand and use technology systems
  • Select and use applications effectively and productively
  • Troubleshoot system and applications
  • Transfer current knowledge to learning new technologies

If you have any questions for Adrienne (Tech) or Corey (Humanities), please feel free to leave them in the comments below!