If you build it, they will come.
We all obviously know that line from a famous baseball movie, but I feel like that idea could apply to my student’s and maker spaces as well. Too often I find myself concerned that students will fall short in creativity and willingness to create, but if I build it [a maker space] they will come [to create].
After meeting with a few of my colleagues, I now have a very clear direction for what I want to do with my maker project. Overall, my group gave me some good feedback, their only concerns were with the parameters of the assignment. My colleagues suggested that I offer students a list of the main character to focus on and that I break the design and engineering processes down into small manageable chunks that are easily checked and assessed along the way. The group thinks that this project will be well suited for my Honors 9th grade English class as those students generally thrive with more freedom and challenge.
Now that I have an idea, the question is – How do I build it?
This will be an interesting question for students as each of their problems, solutions and prototypes will require different mediums and materials. My prototype, however, will be a children’s book. Here is what I am thinking:
Throughout the novel, Scout Finch has trouble with acting “like a lady.” I know that this is the problem I would like to help her with. I also know that Scout gets in trouble at school for already knowing how to read. Because Scout knows how to read, I wanted to make her a book that would illustrate what it means to act like a lady. I also know that Scout is very young and probably cannot comprehend complex texts, so I decided to make a children’s book for her that would illustrate what it means to be a lady according to the social gender conventions of the novel’s time period (in this case, the 1960s).
Below is a planning document I used to convey my ideas to my peers, which also includes some of the question they had and feedback they offered.
Based on their advice, I have developed the following plan for this project as it pertains to classroom implementation.
Throughout the novel, students will keep a chart that lists the main characters of the text (in this case, To Kill A Mockingbird) and the problems they face. Example below:
Scout Finch Does not know how to act like a lady
Jem Finch Gets his pants caught on Boo Radley’s fence
Boo Radley Social anxiety, does not come outside
Atticus Finch Trying to raise his children to be racially tolerant
Upon conclusion of the text, students will chose one character and one problem they would like to try to solve (regardless of whether or not it solves itself in the text). Students will write a journal about their thoughts and include what problem they would like to solve and why – perhaps considering the implications for the outcome of the novel if their solution were implemented.
Next, students will brainstorm possible solutions they can design and create for their problem they have identified. Students will again journal why they think this is a viable solution for their character’s problem, and begin considering how they will develop their prototype.
The last phase of the project is the building stage. At this point, students need to actually gather materials to build a prototype of their solution. Once the prototypes are built, students can reflect on whether or not their solution worked for the character and what implications it had (positive & negative; failure or success).
I feel very passionately about this project because I feel like it combines a lot of skills and thought process into one assignment. Students need to be able to discern from the text what problems the characters are having; they need to understand the cultural and historical context of the novel to design a solution to the aforementioned problem; they need to be able to articulate their ideas verbally and in writing, as well as reflect on those ideas; they need to justify their choices in materials and implementation which works on persuasive techniques; and they need to think critically as they physically construct their prototypes. I believe this project offers something for all students – there is no limit or restriction on what they can design or build. If they can imagine it, they can pursue it. This project can incorporate English, Music, Art, Design, History, Math, Physics, or just about any other content area.
I now have my plan designed, now it is time for me to create.