Sad the Dog Mobile Makerspace Workshop
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now or you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that our Junior School Library has a very cool MakerSpace Zone. What is a ‘makerspace’ you ask? See my blog posts here and here, but more importantly, see my teaching partner’s blog here – Jackie Child is THE teacher librarian in Australia who is leading the makerspace charge. She blows my mind daily – I just keep hiding behind books – peeking out occasionally to pretend that I know what I’m talking about! I love the ideas behind the makerspace movement – but she’s the high-tech coding, robotics, engineer part of the operation and I’m the crafting, gardening, letter writing part of the operation! I have a feeling Sandy Fussell and Jackie Child would talk each other under the table if they were to meet – a meeting of makerspace minds! And Sandy – you feel free to come play with our 3D printer!
I asked if Sandy Fussell, one of my long-time author loves, might like to write me a little bit about how we could use her latest book, ‘Sad, the Dog’, which I’ve reviewed here, in a makerspace zone. I absolutely love her idea of the ‘Possibility Box’ and am totally making one up to share ‘Sad, the Dog’ with my students.
I’ve always loved exploring the relationship between a book and its craft. I’m not talking about the craft of writing. I’m talking about the add-on stuff I did to extend my kids’ reading experience – with glue, paper, scissors, wood and sometimes a hammer, a bit of circuitry and Lego.
When I discovered the makerspace movement with all of the above plus computer coding (I’m a programmer!) and 3D printing (I want one of those) – hands-on Science and Technology and Engineering and Art and Mathematics (STEAM) – all happening in libraries – right next to bookshelves…. I was hooked.
Makerspace is tinkering, exploring and learning through making stuff. It’s brainstorming and mind mapping, DIY and collaboration. What’s not to love? Makerspace activities are natural companions for books. Authors and librarians have been pioneering makerspaces ever since the first author wrote a book and the first librarian created an activity about it with her students.
As the publication of my first picture book grew closer, I looked for a way to interact with my new younger readers and listeners. I decided to create a makerspace based around Sad the Dog. But I didn’t have a classroom or a library so I knew it had to be mobile and that Pinterest would be its virtual doorway.
So what to put in these mobile dog-themed plastic low-tech tinkering tubs on wheels? The age group from 4 – 8 years provided certain constraints and simplified the technology level. No glue guns or power tools. No tricky robotics. And because I don’t have one (although now I really do NEED one) no portable 3D printer.
I’ve started to fill two containers with “things” – things for designing (rulers and geometry shapes, paper and pencils), things for constructing (paddle pop sticks, felt, paper plates and Lego bricks), things for connecting (wood glue, electrical tape, pipe cleaners, ribbon and sticky tape) and things for decorating (stickers, paints, crayons, sequins and jewels).
If wishes were iPads I’d add a pile of those. Scratch Jnr is a wonderful app to start kindergarteners programming and while Scratch is a cat, some of the sprite (avatar) choices are dogs.
In my Sad the Dog Mobile Makerspace Workshop we’re going to build a kennel for Sad. A great opportunity to introduce simple geometry and mathematical instruments like set squares. We’ll brainstorm castles, caves and backyard dog houses. We’ll build with boxes, blocks and paddle pop sticks. And paint and decorate. Maybe it will look something like this. Anything’s possible.
I like to think of my containers as Possibility Boxes, after I read an article about a library makerspace with a Possibility Wall with shelves and shelves of boxes of things.
My own initial Sad the Dog tinkering was more traditional and no-tech. I decided to make a Sad knitted toy – to design my own pattern – something I’d never done before. If you want to see how that turned out you can download the pattern here.