Power Tools in the Library

Hammers, screwdrivers, and nails. Oh my!

Yes, all of those and more are in my high school library. These items are just as important as books and computers in our library for they give us the ability to build and create on a larger scale.

My students are working hard to create an Exploratorium which will be featured at this year’s SLIME: Students of Long Island Maker Expo. (Disclaimer: I am co-director of this event and yes, I encourage my students to help out.) We are creating marble runs and wind tubes. To do this we’ve had to take over quite a bit of real estate in the library. Not to mention re-arranging the furniture (yet again!). It’ all good. It’s  wonderful to see the pride on my students’ faces when I explain that their hard work and creations will be enjoyed by hundreds of children. [#IslipPride #GoBucs ] Some, still children themselves, are excited to play with our creations. Since these items are physics based, I see it as a hands-on learning opportunity. Speaking of learning, we had to tinker quite a bit before each item ‘cooperated’. There was lots of measuring, adding/dividing, and assembly that looked simple on paper….

We discovered early on that hammering is loud. Really loud. Well that’s one way to clear out the library 😉 We’ve since moved on to power tools. Surprisingly, it’s much quieter, though one might say it’s all relative.  Teachers walk over to our makerspace to watch their students in action clearly impressed and amazed by the creativity. Others have ‘hinted’ that the library is loud. What do I think?

My school library – it’s messy, noisy, productive, and happy. I love it!


Let’s Talk About a 4-letter Word: PLAY

define play


P-L-A-Y. Nowadays, saying the word out loud in a school setting almost seems subversive. When did ‘PLAY’ become a 4-letter word? Ok, calm down word enthusiasts, I know how to count. I’m just saying in my travels I’ve encountered a negative attitude. When I say, my students like to play with fill in the blank – (SnapCircuits, LittleBits, Legos…), I see the frown. It seems you just can’t use the word play around everyone.  Sometimes I hear “my principal doesn’t want me to leave arts and crafts activities  out for students” or “I have to justify that learning is taking place.” My students are working to increase their knowledge of how things work, be it paints, glue or circuits.They are initiating and developing creative problem solving methods and overall are engaged with activities they deem fun. In short – they are having fun while learning. That is to say they are ‘engaged in an activity (learning) for enjoyment or recreation.

The etymology of the word play derives from the Old English ‘plegian’ – to exercise. I like to think my students are exercising their brains in unique ways. It doesn’t matter if they’re using a paper towel roll or a set of LittleBits (though a combination of both could be interesting!).

Ask yourself these questions: Can learning be for ‘enjoyment’ or ‘recreation’? Does the enjoyment of the activity negate knowledge acquisition? Does this type of play promote the desire for lifelong learning? I believe we need play to discover our passions whether tech related, crafting or some other desire. As educators, we all strive for engaged learners. Shouldn’t learning  be ‘amusing’, ‘entertaining’ and ‘fun’? Most of my makers come in during their lunch periods. Their time. So why not let them play. I know they’re learning because I believe making allows students to acquire knowledge through action discovery, imaginative thinking, and creative problem-solving. It also helps them to develop critical thinking skills through persistence.

play more seriously

I am fortunate to have the support of my school principal, Mike Mosca, who can be seen in the photo below ‘playing’ with our robots. PLAY is a 4-letter word we love to use at Islip High School Library!