Got Plarn?

MakerCare: Service Projects

As part of our MakerCare program, we use our school makerspace to create items to be donated to a variety of community agencies. In the Fall we made plarn sleep mats for the homeless. It’s a great project, but for some this may be too time consuming. We had to cut up over 500 plastic bags, then all the crocheting in order to make just one mat.

Well, here’s another option for those who want to upcycle plastic bags but have limited time working with youth – plarn jump ropes. Each jump rope requires only 21-27 plastic bags and a small amount of duct tape. Additionally, you only need to cut off the handles and the bottom seams of the bags instead of the additional step of cutting the middle of the bag into strips. Really simple.

Here are instructions:

1. Have a collection drive asking for plastic bags*

2. Lay plastic bag flat on a table (you can do several at a time)

3. Cut off the handles of the bag and cut off the bottom seam

4. Link the bag circles to attach 7-9 bags** (see image)

5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you have 3 strands of plarn

6. Now, braid the 3 strands

7. Wrap the ends in a bit of duct tape to form the jump rope handles

*Any plastic bag can be upcycled. I also use the delivery newspaper sleeves. I do recommend cutting the sleeve in half before linking the circles, otherwise it’s very thick! However, you can experiment and see what works for you. I’ve even upcycled the dry cleaning clothes covers to make plarn.

**Adjust length based on the age range of your designated youth. Longer ropes can be made as well.

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This is an easy project in any location. I helped make a jump rope at an on-site service opportunity at The 28th Annual Service Learning Conference. And I plan to make these and other toys at the Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire in June. (If you’re in NY or on Long Island, join me!)

 

To Learn, To Serve

At Islip High School Library, we use our makerspace for service learning opportunities. Several science classes, AP Environmental and Marine Biology, are studying the effects of plastic in the ocean and on the environment in general. Here’s a great way to learn and to serve. You see, after our students make the plarn jump ropes, they will be donated to one of our elementary schools for PE class. Just think – our students learn about the environment, upcycle, and have an impact on the health and wellness of other students in their community.

 

STEAM + C: Adding Compassion to the Makerspace ‘Because Nice Matters’

I attended a maker workshop hosted by DK this weekend at the American Library Association MidWinter conference in Atlanta. DK was promoting a soon to be published title Out of the Box, highlighting quick activities using recyclable cardboard.  In a quick poll of the room participants, we were asked if our makerspaces were STEM or STEAM. There were a few show of hands for STEM, but the majority of hands raised went for STEAM designation. This was heartening because we shouldn’t be just tech based in our educational pursuits. Children are entitled and deserve a well-rounded educational experience and the Arts provide a crucial and unique layer to the development of our next generation.

 

 

The librarian sitting next to me half raised her hand in response to STEAM and then stated her makerspace was STEAM plus ‘C’. My heart stopped. I had found a kindred spirit.

You see, a part of our makerspace at Islip High School Library is dedicated to compassionate making. Our MakerCare program provides opportunities for our students to make a difference in the community through making. Each maker project benefits a person or community agency. For example here are a few of our projects: dog and cat toys were made for the town animal shelter, a sleep mat for the homeless, and postcards were decorated and given to sick children in the hospital. You see kindness, compassion and empathy are staple items in our makerspace. And just as, if not more, important as the other staples – glue, scissors and Legos.

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With a smile on my face I asked, “C, your program includes C?”

“Yes” she responded “C for computers or computer science.” She wasn’t quite sure which. We all stared at her for a moment until one person pointed out that computers and computer science were already a part of STEM. She knew this, but she hadn’t control of the name of the makerspace. That distinction belonged to someone else. I was disappointed a bit so I told her my mistake and shared details of our MakerCare program. I confessed I thought (and hoped) her ‘C’ stood for compassion. I announced I was “stealing” the name STEAM + C and she responded (as all librarians do) – you’re borrowing the name. That’s right, STEAM + C is officially on interlibrary loan. You see, librarians like to share and we do it well.

Over the holiday break I spotted a beautiful sign and instantly thought it would make a lovely addition to our maker area. I guess we could have made our own sign, but sometimes you just find the perfect item, so why bother DIY. If it’s any consolation to my diehard makers, we did hot glue magnets to the back of the sign in order to hang it. And in true maker fashion, we failed to secure the needed size magnet and had to visit the local hardware store for thicker ones. And then a second trip to the store again as we discovered our magnetic surface wasn’t as strong as we hoped and we needed more magnets to cover the surface. Failure and grit as evidenced from one small sign – a true maker experience.

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 Just as the Arts help complete a well rounded education, so does service to one’s community as this enables the development of civically engaged compassionate citizenry. And because nice matters.

Hispanic Heritage Month Meet your #Maker 

Last year we celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month in our high school makerspace. Our ELLs (English Language Learners) made paper flowers practicing following directions, new vocabulary including names of colors all with beautiful results. We also made piñatas with foreign language classes where students had to keep in mind they were engineering to fail as the purpose of piñatas are to break. We’ve all been there when a piñatas refuses to break even though beaten unmercifully. Too light on the tape and they fall apart before you hang them up. Too much tape, well forget about getting at the candy.

Piñatas:The original piñata was shaped like a star with seven points. The points represented the seven deadly sins, and the bright colors of the piñata symbolize temptation. The blindfold represents faith and the stick is virtue or the will to overcome sin. The candies and other goodies inside the piñata are the riches of the kingdom of heaven. Thus teaching that with faith and virtue one could overcome sin and receive all the rewards of heaven.” We’ve come a long way in piñata design.

We not only made piñatas again this year but also expanded the celebration and learning to other cultural items such as worry dolls, typical of Guatemala and Peru and calaveras (skulls) a prominent feature in Day of the Dead celebrations.

Worry Dolls: According to the Mayan legend, when worrying keeps a person awake, he or she tells a worry to as many dolls as necessary. Then the worrier places the dolls under his or her pillow. The dolls take over the worrying for the person who then sleeps peacefully through the night. When morning breaks, the person awakens without the worries that the dolls took away during the night.”  Perfect for our stressed out teens!

 

Calavera:  “Calaveras are whimsical caricatures-most commonly drawings- of skulls or skeletons.” Look at the individuality and creativity!

 

Our celebration included building an ofrenda (an altar in honor of the dead. RIP Selena.) I learned that November 1st is a day honoring children and November 2nd is the day honoring adult spirits. I mistakenly thought the spirits were all honored on one day only.

 

Cultural literacy is important and as such is part of the Foreign Language curriculum. The activities were available to anyone, students and staff, regardless of scheduled class participation. Anyone could stop by the makerspace during the day and participate as we all benefit from a global cultural education. I also believe one successful program leads to another…

So now the Italian teachers approached me stating, “You know Italian Heritage Month is also celebrated in October, Gina.” There’s an emphasis on ‘Gina’ as they know I’m of Italian descent my father having emigrated to NY in his twenties. It’s amazing, I didn’t have to seek out the department to work on a project together; they contacted me! It’s wonderful to collaborate with enthusiastic teachers and I’m looking forward to using and highlighting maker activities to celebrate Italian heritage. So stay tuned, blog post on the events coming soon.

For instructions on how to create the items listed above, check out my HHM Libguide at http://hslibguides.islipufsd.org/HHM

Maker Expo Librarian Style!

Number of activities: 70
Number of towns represented: 65
Number of participants: 600
Price of admission: $0
An exhausting, fun filled day of inquiry and making – Priceless!

I’ve been to several Maker Faires® – New York City, Washington (DC), Rochester (NY), and even the Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire held in stores nationwide (Bay Shore, Long Island) where I ran a table of activities. Last year, my colleague, Kristina Holzweiss, and I traveled to the inaugural National Maker Faire in DC where we ran a booth for two days working with children to create lasting memories with recyclable materials. Exhausting but rewarding. We even got to meet Dale Dougherty, CEO and Founder of Maker Faire & Make Media. Well actually, we kind of jumped him at the end of the two-day event when everyone was packing up to go home. Tired as he no doubt was, he graciously spoke with us and took photos. Did I mention it was 95⁰ and humid all weekend? Thank you, Dale for humoring two insane librarians from NY.

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Last Saturday, May 7, 2016 we hosted our 2nd Annual Maker Expo, SLIME. Students of Long Island Maker Expo (SLIME) is an interactive Day of Making where participants experienced hands-on activities that promoted imagination and creativity. From recyclable crafts to robotic technology, together families had fun learning new skills and making new friends. SLIME celebrates the creativity and innovation of Long Island students k – 12. Students made items to take home, items to donate, participated in hands-on learning activities, and watched demonstrations.

So why is this maker event different from all others? (Sorry, as I write this I’m still finishing off the last of the Passover matzah.  Some of you got this reference, some of you will have to google it 🙂 )

Well, first off – we’re librarians!!!

  • Librarians like to share and like everything in a library, we give it away for FREE. Kristina spends all year writing grants and together we track down sponsors. Some sponsors give cash, some swag. There’s another librarian trait…we’re always scrounging for funds! We’ve never charged admission or for any of the maker activities offered.
  • We focus on providing enriching opportunities for our community, in this case Long Island (NY). Kris and I are from two separate school districts and we invited all on Long Islanders to participate. We even had a librarian from Connecticut drive down! The more the merrier 🙂 What can I say? Librarians –we’re all inclusive!
  • As school librarians we embrace STEM/STEAM/STREAM learning; never forgetting the Arts or, our bread & butter, Research.

I’m happy to be part of something so amazing. Please view some of the day’s events at www.slimemakerexpo.com and at Twitter @SLIMEexpo (#SLIMEexpo).

 

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