The Maker Mindset at Quaker Ridge

The Scarsdale School district has embarked on a Center for Innovation effort, the purpose of which is to re-imagine teaching and learning to better meet the needs of the 21st century. This encompasses efforts to develop new models of instruction, to explore the role of technology in transforming instruction and to learn how other organizations foster innovative practices and possibly replicate their techniques and structures in Scarsdale.

One of the topics explored by the Center has been the re-design of school spaces to facilitate teaching and learning, based on models such as the MIT Media Lab and the Stanford Included in this is the concept of a makerspace or design lab. A makerspace is a space where students can design and build things. It is usually a technology-rich space equipped with tools such as a 3-D printer, computers/laptops, laser cutters and circuit boards, along with traditional tools like screwdrivers.  
All of Scarsdale’s elementary schools are developing, or have developed, makerspaces. Quaker Ridge Elementary School has created its very own makerspace in pick-up room 41/2B. It is called the QRS Idea Lab.

Such “hands-on” learning has nearly disappeared over the years, but educators are now rediscovering the power of the “making” experience to foster in students critical 21st century skills like confident creativity, true collaboration, empathy, observation, listening, flexibility, resilience, problem-solving and self-motivation. Innovation Education (as it is sometimes called) is geared toward this idea and uses a collaborative multi-disciplinary problem-solving method called Design Thinking to inspire innovation and to teach these skills.  You will find some Quaker Ridge projects below that embrace these principles.

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Prototyping Designs for a Better Art Bot

Art Bots are autonomous robots that can create abstract expressionist paintings inspired by Jackson Pollock. Our students have been brainstorming ways to make these 'Bots even more expressive! In this project, students started at the "T" walls - planning their designs together on the giant whiteboard space. Then, students went “shopping” at the material wall to get what they needed to build their prototypes. The material wall was revisited throughout the project as designs were modified. The results speak for themselves!

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Electricity and Squishy Circuits

Students experiment with a power supply (a 9 volt battery,) LED lights, and conductive dough to make a variety of circuits. The activity is divided into three challenges: create a simple working circuit, create a novel circuit (perhaps with an improvised switch or an unusual shape,) and finally integrate components in addition to the LEDs, such as a physical switch or a fan.

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Caine's Arcade

This article was cross-posted on the Quaker Paper

Written by Sam B. and Max T.
"Look how many tickets I got from this game. This is awesome!” squealed a student that just played Brendan’s arcade game. This is the second year that the 5th grade at Quaker Ridge replicated the arcade that Caine, a ten year old and future inventor, made in his father’s auto parts store. Let us tell you the process the QR 5th grade used to create Caine’s Arcade how the lessons we learned connected to our Models and Design unit.

First, we watched a video, “Caine’s Arcade” by Nirvan Mullick. Do not be mistaken, this arcade is not what comes to mind when you think of an arcade. This arcade is made of only natural materials such as cardboard, tape, plastic, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, cups, coffee holders and other natural materials.

In class, we took Caine’s idea and made it a part of our Models and Designs unit. The big idea of this unit is to teach the 5th graders in Scarsdale Schools what physical and conceptual models are, the engineering design steps including how to make a detailed sketch, revising the concept after a trial, and to work cooperatively for the common good. We used a comic book to teach us how to draw engineering designs in a detailed way. In class we collected cardboard boxes for about a week. It clogged up our classroom for two months, but on the other hand, it was worth it.

This project brought our class and school together as a community. We commented on each other’s games and designs. We noticed that the building was harder then the drawing. A few people had to restart because their plan did not work and other kids helped them build their new designs.

Something special that our class created was a prize booth. We brought in old toys to give to the kindergarten, first and second grade classes that visited our arcade. The class brought in prizes like baseball cards, matchbox cars, princess rubber toys, Silly bandz, stickers and rubber ducks.

The day of the arcade wasn’t just a great day for us, the fifth graders, but for the kids that played our games. This activity was a great opportunity for us because we got to be role models for the younger kids. We read the students our rules that we wrote. We made sure that they understood what they were going to do and we escorted the younger kids to a game that didn’t have a player. We also brought the kids to the prize booth if we thought they had enough tickets. The fifth grade had a great time building and showing this arcade off, but the one thing that mattered the most is that we came together as a community. 

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Build a Better Bird House

After Mrs. Cheung’s second grade students had spent several days brainstorming their redesigned bird habitats, it was time to start making. They needed to realize a three dimensional birdhouse from 2 sheets of 18 inch square cardboard. Students were eased into three-dimensional thinking by creating three dimensional minecraft blocks.

Three-dimensional thinking
Building in three dimensions from two dimensional sheet material isn’t intuitive. We modeled cutting and folding the paper and had a sample cube available (without adhesive) so that students could see how it turns out. It took a cognitive leap for the class to turn the paper into a cube, and I’m glad we started that way.

Cube building was an important step to prime our students for three dimensional thinking. Once primed, students reconvened into teams to plan how to change their cardboard sheets into 3-D bird houses. The children used small whiteboards and dry erase markers to sketch out where they should cut and fold the cardboard. Whiteboards have a playful, impermanent feel and the teams planned with enthusiasm. Teams needed to take turns planning on the small whiteboard and negotiate the direction for the birdhouse.

It became clear that inter-group communication was valuable once students started building. Students used scissors, safety cutters, and duct tape to construct their houses. Glue guns and the drill press (for bird house doors!) were available with teacher support. We regularly stopped the work to discuss what was going well and what wasn’t. Students were more self-assured after each discussion. Where teams needed to practice working together during the planning phase, now they needed to work together as a class. Each team created a unique birdhouse from their own perspective.