Birch School : Maker Rings

Sharing the Story of "Students supporting Students to MAKE their best work"

Design Thinking with Students

Another snowday today, another missed Monday. Last Friday some districts had a three-hour delay (previously unheard of) and attendance was at half. But we are ready to go. Kids are ready to work in their newly-identified Maker Rings, and we keep getting these forced hesitations. At least the rest of the week looks okay weatherwise.

Our Maker Ring Groups have been identified and are beginning to form affinities. We have 5 groups of 4 students, and each group has a balance of male/female and are multi-grade.


One of the things we are interested in is how individuals learn to work together well. As part of entrance to The Birch School we ask students to complete a few Learning Styles Inventories. Some say there are seven learning styles, but we don’t like to limit our thinking that way. We know there are multitudes of learning styles and individual combinations manifest in each person. We use online tools such as this Multiple Intelligences Self Assessment from Edutopia,, and also this Learning Styles Quiz from Education Planner. Here is a link to a PDF file to take the quiz on paper and chart results (from Teachers Pay Teachers).StudentLearningStyleInventory

This site has many links to additional quizzes, descriptions, and resources for Learning Styles Inventories.
For the Maker Ring project we want to repeat this exercise in the small group context. We hope the smaller social circle will promote more thoughtful reflection and use of the self-assessment tools. We aim to help students see where their skills overlap and where they complement each other. We will ask questions like “What skill do YOU bring to the group? How can this help us work together? What issues can you think of that might come up?”

How can we do our best work together, taking advantage of the skills that each student brings to the group?

Our students who are working with Destination Imagination did an exercise much like this at the start of their project. We plan to use that resource and adapt it for use with the Maker Rings. We also plan to use colored sticky notes, and map out the predominant learning styles of individuals, Maker Rings, and the larger group. This visualization will hopefully help everyone “see” where the group has skill strengths, overlaps, and needs.


UPdated:  A reader sent this link where you will find a good description of different learning styles and also several links to other resources about using learning style inventories.



Whenever I begin to plan for a lesson I start by searching videos. I see myself as a facilitator, more than a teacher. I want them to utilize their own perspective, view the information through their own lens. As much as possible I want them to draw their own conclusions rather than be asked to accept my view.


As someone more experienced with finding information than my students I can choose visual resources that can concisely show them the essence of the topic. There are experts and people who are knowledgeable and experienced in their area of expertise, and they send the message of their work through video.


When we teach with a compelling visual tool students gain a depth of understanding that is not possible by solely reading text on a page.   Lectures and lesson are enhanced with video, and student engagement is heightened. Students can see pictures of the places, items, and people they are learning about. They can make connections to their own experience, and create a picture in their mind that is more vivid, more 3 dimensional than what they could get through hearing a voice or reading a document.


We also use Video to facilitate learning in ways like Thinking Moves.



So rather than a teacher I can see myself as YouTube –Vimeo –Amazon –Netflix facilitator sometimes. When students ask questions after a video ends, I will often quickly search another video that answers that questions. We go down these side streets, and my students and I often find these the most engaging and rewarding conversations.


This is especially true when we do the weekly KQED DoNow activity. Sponsored by KQED EdSpace this asks high school students a question relevant to the day. Each week they pose questions to high schoolers in the areas of Media and Culture, Science, Civics. We teach this to a mixed age group of middle and high schoolers. Frequently this group requires some background information to understand the question of the week. I usually search some basic introductory videos of 5-10 minutes to begin. From there we follow their questions, and watch and discuss for up to an hour. By the end of the session they have written out their 140 Character tweet. They take turns tweeting out from the school Twitter account, marking their tweets with their initials.


Without video our students would have a completely different experience of school. I like that they are engaged when we watch and listen together. I help them have a window on the world through video.
Makerspace Playbook

Makerspace Playbook School Edition

inspired by Maker Club Playbook

Learning By Making  Agency By Design and the Rise of Maker Centered Education

 Laura Fleming:Creating Spaces for Students to Make

Designing a School Makerspace– Edutopia

Stocking School Makerspaces – Make Magazine

Making a MakerSpace – from MakeCon

Books and Links relevant to MakerSpace in Education

Extensive list of MakerSpace Resources 

Links to resources about Library MakerSpaces

MakerCamp Playbook


KidMakers   Project ideas, medstore
description of  tools, buy cialis
workshops, recipe

School process for planning a new school.

School Design Toolbox

Edutopia Article on Redesigning Classroom Space

Educator Innovator “Remake Your Class”

The Third Teacher

Source of tool kits and sets

Hybrid Pedagogy – Situating Maker Spaces in Schools

Reaching All Learners

How the Makers Movement is transforming education

Learning By Making  – Agency By Design and the rise of Maker Centered Education  Harvard Graduate School of Education

Learning by Making by Dale Dougherty, clinic
founder of Make Magazine
Design Thinking Card Game

print out on card stock and use with students

Design Thinking Challenges and Projects  from d. School

KQED Blog posts on Design Thinking and Education

The City X Project toolkit  is the most educationally relevant introductory 3D printing and design thinking curriculum available for 8 to 12 year-olds.

45 Design Thinking Resources for Educators

Video Playlist : Design Thinking for Educators  Edutopia

AIGA – Design Ed K12 

“The AIGA members involved in DesignEd K12 aim to instill creative confidence and a design thinking mindset at a young age through hands-on experiences in creative problem solving. Design thinking is a methodology that helps children ask big questions, sickness explore diverse solutions and work together to shape new outcomes that change the world bit by bit.”

Design Thinking at TED – links to multiple talks on Design Thinking


Design Thinking for Educators  A creative process that helps you design meaningful solutions in the classroom, at your school, and in your community. The toolkit provides you with instructions to explore Design Thinking.


What is Design Thinking? Henry Ford Institute


Teaching Kids Design Thinking so they can solve the worlds biggest problems.   Fast Company


Design Thinking in Schools – An Emerging Movement –   Getting Smart

Design ThinkingEdutopiaFast CompanyMaking

Admin • November 11, 2015

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