Christmas in the Making

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Building a maker mindset in schools motivates people to become makers, give it a try and take things apart to try to do things that even the manufacturer did not think of doing. While technology has been the spark of the Maker Movement, it has also become a social movement that includes all kinds of making and all kinds of makers, connecting to the past as well as changing how we look at the future. Teachers who embrace the movement witness how students learn from others, what zone of development is in practice, and how important it is to foster collaboration and creativity.

Read below about making in class from a teacher`s perspective.

SONY DSCHelena Galvão -It´s the end of the semester, and we begin to say good-bye to our groups. At Casa Thomas Jefferson, we have the opportunity of having our Kids groups for a whole year; we get to watch our students’ development closely, which makes us (teachers and students) eager to show their families how far we have come. For that reason, at CTJ, we throw an end-of-term party on the last day of class. We prepare for weeks, we practice songs, we make a portfolio, and we tidy our classroom to get ready to showcase our English skills. After singing songs and showing pictures, there is usually a lot of time left and, as a teacher, we like to enjoy that precious time to involve family members and students in a meaningful activity to wrap-up the semester.

Having that objective in mind, we came up with an idea for an arts and crafts activity: making a snow globe, but we didn’t want to simply give instructions to be followed. Having a maker mindset to guide us, we thought of giving family members and students a set of different materials (paper, popsicle sticks, sequins, glue, glitter-glue, cotton, ribbons, etc.) for them to decide how to make their own original Christmas tree. Of course we didn’t leave them in the dark, we gave them a whole sort of visual references to spice up their creativity. There was a catch though; they had to construct a tree that would fit inside a glass globe. At this point, we didn’t explain why the tree had to fit the globe, but they soon started to realize what they were about to make.

The kids approached the tables with the materials shyly, whereas their family members didn´t approach them at all. We had to invite family members to join the kids who were, at this point, sorting through the big amount of options they had. Some had an idea and followed through with it; some had to tweak their ideas in order to make them work; some had to start again, for their first idea hadn’t worked out; some had to make the tree smaller; but all of the teams were able to accomplish the task.

It came as no surprise that the teams managed to give up their reluctance and shyness and finish their trees; the biggest surprise was that the teams started blending and helping each other. It started because of two little kids who didn’t have any family members around, and it went on because a mother had a baby on her lap and someone needed to help her kid. Fact is, I turned around to close the first snow globe and when I turned back I saw about twenty people working together and sharing.

In order to accomplish what I had hoped for in this end-of-term party, I had to plan in advance carefully, but the best part of the party was definitely the unexpected outcome of challenging people: the community feeling that makes them share. Well, if that is not Christmas spirit, I don’t know what is.

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