Our Makerspace: Inquiry & Challenges in Coding, Music & Mathematics

Our Makerspace: Inquiry & Challenges in Coding, Music & Mathematics

Over the last few weeks we have been exploring new ways to incorporate the 6 C’s, Learning Skills & Work Habits, inquiry and challenges into our math and science classes. As such we have started to talk about makerspaces.

Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. In libraries they often have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and more.Mar 12, 2013
Our makerspaces are dynamic, fluid and flexible. Students cross groups all the time to collaborate, seek feedback and share new ideas. We share hardware like laptops, netbooks, Raspberry Pis and Makey Makeys.

MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything inbetween.



We discuss the 6 C’s often as they play a major role in our school board’s engagement model.




I’d like to showcase some of the projects we explored.

1) This student has begun to code a Scratch game to teach equivalent fractions. Her game can be played on the keyboard as well as with the Makey Makey. Players have to hit arrow keys specific to certain fractions as they translate across a Cartesian Plane on the screen. They begin to move faster and faster as you progress. I love how not only is she mastering fractions, she is indirectly hitting upon the Gemoetry and Algebra as well. Sprites move across a screen by manipulating X and Y variables. She now understands letters (x, y, m) as placeholders to store data. She also problem solved, struggled, failed and succeeded as she debugged her algorithms. Critical thinking at it’s finest!

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2) These groups explored different conductors. Some used pencil graphite, Play D’oh and some used fruit. In all three cases they inquired, explored and played a decent game of Mario and Pac Man.

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3) These students built a piano app, wired it to a Makey and composed music. I love how much curriculum this covered. Not just math application of coding the app, but the music composition as well. We discussed circuits, musical scales, ground wires and risk taking!

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Check out the video – we tried to recreate the mall scene from Tom Hanks’ movie Big:


4) This group coded a Dance Dance Revolution game. I saw geometry in the moving sprites, algebra in the creating and storing of variables, patterning in the translating arrows and number sense in the high score tallying! Plus we had some physical activity for the afternoon.

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Check out the two videos below. We even brought some inquiry and Science to this group when we discussed different outputs from manipulating different variables.



What I love most about this approach is the content creation. Far too often we consume information from that little ol’ interweb. I also love how active we are in our learning. Lastly, I especially love learning alongside.


Opportunity for Assessment:

With approaches like this it can be difficult to asses student understanding of curriculum expectations when students are all working on different tasks and projects. If teachers do not know the curriculum by memory it can be a challenge to assess it in the moment (math, science, LA, music – even a little phys ed in this case). I do my best to record audio, take pictures and have students write and document their experiences in blogs and on Google Drive and Classroom. On many occasions I have handed out curriculum documents and told students to justify expectations or the “why” they are doing something creative – and not just to create but to create with a purpose. Similar to coding – I want students to code for a purpose and not just to code – or to code for engagement. I think the word “engagement” has runs its course with respect to technology. Its not JUST about putting tablets in kids hands. WHY are we putting tablets in kids hands – if the answer is to engage, you just wasted a lot of cash. Sorry, got sidetracked there.

Usually I use tasks like these to make anecdotal notes based on the Learning Skills here in Ontario. I like to award mettles using Edmettle (www.edmettle.com) so I can export all feedback at report card time – and parents have access always. Edmettle is a digital space I have created for teachers and students to award positive feedback to each other based on soft skills. I want students to self-regulate. I want self-regulation to be a part of their vocabulary, as well as grit, resiliency etc. Check it out here: www.edmettle.com

Next Steps:

At this moment, our physical making and hacking is very technology driven. I do believe makerspaces don’t have to be about technology. I feel that technology is a small component of “making” and not necessarily a driving force. Making is about imagination and innovation. After all, it is about student voice and choice, right? For the time being, we are hooked on the new hardware we have so this post is about that. Maybe the best approach is using Makey Makeys to manipulate arts and crafts. Did I just invent “Blended Making” ? If you see that term down the road, it began here. Patented, stamped, trademarked – I’m writing the first book – “21 ways to incorporate Blended Making into Your Lessons”.

I like to poke fun at buzzwords, if you haven’t noticed.

On the hardware front I have ordered an Eveboard One (along with 40 more Makey Makeys). The Eveboard One will give us more opportunity to hack physical spaces using technology. Students can code apps to determine if plant soil is dry or moist in the physical world. We can code light sequences for patterning and actively engage in the math and coding we create. I met the gents behind this startup (from Guelph) at the Association of Computer Studies Educators conference a few Saturdays ago. I loved their work and dedication to this product. One of the many reasons behind it – they weren’t textbook learners in school. Come to think of it, neither was I…….

Check out the Eveboard here: http://eveboardone.com/

Earlier today I also posted “An Interview With @MrsKonecny – My Grade 1 Students Have Become Coding Experts” – She had a makerspace vibe going with math manipulatives when her students created LightBot levels to learn about sequential steps (algorithms & procedures in the CS world). Kids created terrain using linking cubes. Very rich stuff. I hope you check it out.

Lastly, what do you think about  “making” in the digital world only? Does it have to be concrete? Can it just be abstract?

For example, I have students who are building Rube Goldberg machines in Minecraft to demonstrate the transfer of energy which is our current science strand (Heat, Kinetic and Potential Energy). Does this count as “making” to you? Love to hear your ideas.


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8 Responses for this post

  1. Lisa Noble
    Lisa Noble
    | |

    Thanks so much for this. So many ideas here, and I really like the blended making idea (my fave example would be knitting a QR code, because knitting, after all, is binary). I really appreciate the way you’ve widened the lens here, both for readers and students. There are so many ways for students to make cross-curricular connections, and to me, that is a joy of making that sometimes gets missed. Hmmm…how does the quality of chocolate chips affect the melting in your chic chip cookies? – science, nutrition, global trade, budgeting. Blended making. 🙂

  2. Lisa Noble
    Lisa Noble
    | |

    I will put your patch on the to-do list! As for doing this in French, the Rube Goldberg machine would be hugely fun for talking through actions, directions, procedural writing. The challenge in a major hands-on activity in a Core French class is building the vocabulary to be able to do the task in the target language. Something I’m always working on.

  3. James Hewett
    James Hewett
    | |

    Great post, thanks for all the great ideas. We are slowly moving towards building and defining some spaces in our school for activities like these. You have provided another great resource. I really like the diversity of knowledge and curiosities that your students are pursuing. I had one thought on assessing, in particular with regard to math. I have (along with some others at BCPS) been exploring the idea of gearing math assessment more towards the math processes and less on the specific curric. This has been liberating in a way, helping to allow greater freedom with inquiry. Something to think about if you have not already. Anyways, look forward to reading “21 21st Century Blended Maker Ideas for the Virtually Flipped classroom” in the near future. Cheers.


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