Reactions to My First Maker Fest, Part 3: Diary of a Pillow Project
This blog post is the third of a 4-part blog series on the experiences of a 3rd-grade teacher's first Maker Fest with her elementary school.
All year, my students loved taking breaks, as a class, during the daily schedule, to play Zoombinis. This reboot of the classic late ’90s computer game invites players to complete a series of logic puzzles to help the Zoombinis (small blue creatures with distinctive appearances) escape from their evil captors. Each Zoombini has unique hair, eyes, nose, and shoes (625 combinations in total). The pillow project would challenge each third grader to create his or her own unique Zoombini pillow, just like in the game.
Pillow Creations. Students designed their Zoombinis by choosing stencils to create eyes, hair, and feet. They had a choice of nose color from various fabrics. Then family volunteers brought in sewing machines and helped as the students took turns sewing together two 10-inch squares to make a pillow. They left a 3-inch opening to turn the pillowcase right-side out. They then used an iron to attach iron-on fabric cut into the shapes they had chosen for facial features. After stuffing the pillow, they sewed shut the 3-inch opening, and the pillow was complete!
With just two days left before the school-wide Maker Fest Gallery Walk, I was feeling a little stressed. Then I overheard students talking. As they read the day’s agenda, their eyes lit up. One exclaimed, “Look! ALL afternoon is Maker Time! Great!” Another replied, “I still have to figure out one more thing on my project. I think I have a way to make it work, and I want to try it today.” This conversation reminded me why I was doing this! Through choice, play, and lots of trial and error, we would take the little bit of time we had left to think, make, and solve problems. I breathed in and out and once again embraced the Maker Fest spirit.
As I took a group photo of the students holding up their Zoombini-inspired pillows, I was reminded that makers are all ages. I am so grateful for the moms and grandmoms who came, sewing machines in hand, to make with us. Somehow, I never learned how to use a sewing machine well, but a student’s mom, my 82-year-old mom, and my mom’s friend from church guided us in this aspect of making.
I am proud to teach at a school that requires us to spend time making. I am sure that the children will remember the process and the products fondly. Why? I think it is the combination of ideas. Primarily, kids got to work on projects that excited them. Additionally, they were given large amounts of time, so they could try and try again, then mess up and still try again! With all of the projects, there was not a single right way to make. The students had the freedom and time to explore, experiment, think, and collaborate. Despite lacking multiple-choice tests to assess their learning, I am certain, from my anecdotal notes, that 100 percent of the community learned during the Discovery Maker Fest!
Sally Donnelly is a third-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary School, in Arlington, Virginia