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powerful moments in education

Maker Ed Saves the Arts!

maker ed arts (1)


Maker Ed will save is saving the Arts!

Even before the verb “make” was trendy (and I’m thankful it is) I was a fan of making things. Commonly, the theme of makerspaces veers toward the technological side of making – putting things together, taking them apart, building, coding, 3-D printers, robots and so on. I caught myself saying once, “I love the maker movement so much – but it honestly isn’t my thing.”




As a child, I made believe for hours, made music, made gymnastic routines, made recycled crafts, made my own world.

As a teenager, I made clothes, made mix tapes, made poetry, made dreams, and probably made some good stories by making some poor decisions.

As a young adult with a new classroom and career, I made grand plans to change the world,  made bulletin boards (ugh), made worksheets, (ugh) and made no sense of the reality of education in the dawn of NCLB.

After the life-changing Masters program through Lesley University with a specialization in Arts Integration I began ‘real’ making again: visual art, music, and life long friends. After that, I somehow caught the technology bug, digging into the world of web-based collaborative tools and digital interactives.

In my classroom, here is where I saw maker energy churning in a variety of settings:

  • at tables with old boardbooks, new poetry and lots of Mod Podge
  • at a desk, 2 students leaning over an iPad, proudly viewing their first screencast
  • on the floor with 12X18 paper, partnerships deciding the best way to design an interactive visual to show the rock cycle
  • in groups huddled in the corner, musical instruments in hand, creating accompaniment to a short reading on the land bridge migration of people into the Americas
  • with blocks, a student building his vision of a theme park to serve as a catalyst for a written piece
  • in a pair of young writers, sketchnoting their plan for character traits in their upcoming story

I suppose what I am trying to say is this: Movements in education come and go but if they shine light on what is best for kids and learning, the light spreads and becomes part of the culture and narrative. It spreads from living in separate rooms or corners of the library and permeates the space of the classroom. As techy as I am, I used to feel worried that arts integration would be smothered by technology – I no longer hold this fear, but it is up to us (you) to keep that light going. They go together. It’s not the tool, it’s the experience.

Challenge – Ask yourself: What dominates classroom time? Students interacting with content and using the new knowledge to create or teachers giving students information with the 1-way expectation of process and answer?

If you aren’t sure, here are few suggestions for you to consider as you initiate new lessons in a new year:

  • Take time (like a whole morning or long class period) to experience guided discovery with your students so they build a repertoire of materials available in the classroom, much like a combination of Responsive Classroom’s Guided Discovery and Elizabeth Peterson’s Studio Days.
  • Plan backwards. Understanding by Design gave me the freedom have flexible learning paths because end goals, vocabulary, resources – all the nuts and bolts – were in place.
  • Purge. You all need space to tinker. Extra bins and furniture in your classroom could go on a diet or disappear. It’s convenient to have everything at hand…but is there somewhere else it can sit and wait?
  • When you are planning lessons, notice how often you veer toward the worksheets you ALWAYS use from your filing cabinet. Are they outdated? Unnecessary? Can it be replaced with inquiry?

I believe that making is a mindset (sorry for TWO buzzwords in one phrase, but it is). Once the classroom embraces this approach, you move from, “Can I use the paints? Can I make a screencast?” to “I think I’ll set up some paints.” and “Which app should I use to screencast?”

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2016 by in Next to torture, ART persuades best., The World of TE(a)CH.


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