Today’s Contributor: Sara Tso
I am a third grade teacher at Barton Hills. I have taught in Austin ISD for 22 years. I am actually a product of AISD and graduated from Austin High in 1992. I have a 4th grade daughter and a 5th grade son who also attend Barton Hills.
On any given day you can walk into a classroom at Barton Hills Elementary and be met with the sounds of power saws, drills, hammers, and the smell of glue guns. You are probably asking yourself “Is this shop class?”. No these are elementary classrooms putting their maker skills to work.
Our school was fortunate to get 6 maker carts donated to our school last year. I can tell you that every teacher took pause and wondered how in the world to make this work. There was lots of apprehension and lots of training. As we enter year two the comfort level with the tools has increased tremendously.
“Maker Space” has become very popular in recent years in the elementary classroom, as was apparent when I attended TCEA a few weeks ago and the number of maker sessions that were available. Maker can be done with pretty much anything in your classroom, but our school was very fortunate to be able to bring in more tools to help support maker ideas.
My first year with the Maker Ready carts was a little nerve racking. I just knew a kid was going to cut their hands, or pierce their finger, or burn themselves. I must say I was pleasantly surprised that the worst injury we incurred was a burn from touching the metal part of the hot glue gun. We brought in parents to show them the carts and give them some insight on how they could come volunteer and help in the classroom.
The first project was very specific and not as open-ended as I would have liked, but I wanted to make sure the kids knew how to use these tools correctly and how to use them safely. Our next few projects were much more open ended and I was amazed at how creative my little group of second graders could be. We focused on bugs and had bees with moving wings, insect hotels, and flowers with bees that could sit attached using magnets. All from their own minds.
This year I was fortunate to get to loop with my kids and kept almost my same class. I loved being able to start with a maker project knowing that they knew how to use the tools and the expectations for safety. We spent time learning how to make hinges and how to connect cardboard with notches, so as not to have to use several sticks of glue to hold our projects together. The first project they were asked to make was a model of the dog from How To Steal A Dog. I never showed them the cover of the book and they had to make their dog from descriptions we read from the book. We ended up with dogs that had moving legs, wagging tails, and even one with a tongue hanging out of its mouth.
In the coming weeks the students are going to be asked to create a project that ties in with their animal research projects they have been working on. These will be displayed during a school-wide maker day event. I can’t wait to see where their creativity will take them.