Educators Can Make Engaging Learning If You Just Let Them!

A reflection of Maker Yourself PD

WOW! That is about all I can say after an amazing and powerful two days of learning and making with 15 passionate educators, coaches, and administrators for the Make Yourself Into A Maker: Builds 1-3 Workshop.

This was my first official two day workshop on making that I put together as part of my new job at the Mississippi Bend AEA 9 as STEM Lead. I was excited. I was nervous. I doubted my ideas. I worked tirelessly and stressed on every single detail more than I ever care to admit, but in the end of two days my heart was full, my passion fueled, and I am ready to continue to journey of helping to bring making into all classrooms and to continue to work to empower educators to tap into their inner superpowers, combine forces like Captain Planet, and make learning engaging and exciting for all.

As I posted online yesterday

This was my biggest takeaway. Educators are critiqued, analyzed, talked down to, and judged every single second of their professional careers.

They are often told to do more work

for more children

at deeper levels

with less support, PD, and resources every single year.

After spending two days with educators where they were given space, time, and materials to grow and learn I was reminded once again that people need to get out of their way and watch them work their magic.

While two days seems like a lot of time it really is not. We learned how quickly time flies when we are in our learning zones making our art come alive.

The goal of these two days was very simple. I wanted to empower educators to believe and trust in themselves that they are indeed Makers. They can make. They can create. They can bring their ideas to life.

I avoided templates. I avoided worksheets, packets, theory, data, research, etc. Everything that is usually thrown at them from the land of education theory I avoided. I wanted them to experience making. I wanted them to experience learning. I wanted their senses to be invigorated in their learning. I wanted them to be in the middle of it and not on the outside reading about it.

We had three different build cycles that we attempted to work through over the course of two days. These three builds were designed to have them work through the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten Learning Spiral. As they worked through their ideas, prototypes, and final products I wanted to build their own self awareness of their skills and thinking. I wanted them to feel empowered that this type of learning is not only possible, but essential for helping to ensure that the learning sticks.

I could not believe how AMAZING these teachers were with their ideas and creation. We allowed them the freedom to work at their own pace, collaborate with others as needed, to work on their own when they needed a minute. We were able to experience the learning and not just read about it. We took the feedback and adapted accordingly. We ebbed and flowed with the needs of the space and the learning.

We spent time during the morning of day 1 thinking about some longer term planning around the space itself. We worked through the book The Space by Dr. Dillon and Rebecca Hare. We were super lucky to Skype with Dr. Dillon and dropped some serious knowledge on us as we grapple with our spaces and what we can do with the spaces we have.

Besides the great questions and making that developed, many questions were brought to the forefront that we just did not have enough time to cover. This is why this PD is just the start. I have the framework for at least four more workshops where we will begin to dive into their questions in greater detail. The framework is built around the 4 P’s of Lifelong Kindergarten so that we can begin to help them infuse making and hands on into their current practices. This work cannot be one more thing or it will never take hold. It has to be part of a cultural shift where support is provided to help educators see how this type of learning and wonder can address standards and help with all the paperwork teachers face.

This is the real work and we will get there. However, this first workshop was all about mindset and empowerment. And we achieved this goal.

For example, check out the builds from the two days. We had everything from a marshmallow gun to a leaf bag holder to a baby toy to a cardboard city for preschool to a LED Coded tree to a trebuchet to a dog bed. The list goes on and on.

Teachers walked away with their creations. They walked away with some simple material projects ideas they can drop into their spaces this week. They were given a container of $100 of materials for them to use in their space. More importantly starting the first week of December we will be posting weekly creative challenges using the materials. You can join us by signing up for the newsletter.

These challenges will be used to empower teachers as well as for them to use in their spaces with students.

If you want to learn more about the two days you can access our website here. This is an organic site that will grow and develop over time. It will continue to be developed as more materials and ideas are created and shared by the group. If you have something to add, then simply reach out.

We have another cohort in December and then in January we will launch Builds 4-6.

In the end all I can say is THANK YOU! Thank you educators for inspiring me to continue to work in a profession that I believe with all my heart has the biggest impact on the world. Thank you for taking this journey with me. Thank you for stretching yourself like a rubber band to explore new areas of your own self discovery. Thank you for going back to your schools to lead the change for more engaging learning. Thank you for being you. Thank you as someone who believe in education. Thank you as a parent of three children who need you every single day to lead them to greatness. Thank you as a spouse to a teacher who reminds me of how hard the job can be some days.

Thank you.

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