Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Making Stuff

Like many of us, I am worried that students are no longer creating enough in schools. I think life is all about making stuff and it is one of the joys in life. And it is one of the most powerful ways to learn.

This year, we are hosting author Amy Krouse Rosenthal at the Dublin Literacy Conference. She is also our visiting author at Riverside Elementary.  We are so looking forward to her visit next week. The kids have fallen in love with her books and with her life's work.  We have spent lots of time with her books but we've also spent time with her videos.  Amy's work is the basis for our schoolwide Art Show and kids are making great things.

One of Amy's videos that inspired us was her video "17 Things I Made". All of the classes in our school have watched this video and have been invited to think about the things they make.

We invited our students and families to contribute to a school-wide wall called "THINGS WE MAKE" to celebrate all that we make.  One of the things I remember clearly from reading Shelley Harwayne's brilliant book, GOING PUBLIC years ago, was the way she used the walls of the Manhattan New School to start important conversations and to build relationships.  We decided that this video gave us the perfect opportunity to use the space in a similar way and to celebrate all the things we make.  We know that our students and families make wonderful things and that they are all so creative. So, our amazing art teacher created a wall in our school entrance and asked students to share the things they made.  Over the last few weeks, the wall has been filling up with "Things We Make". It is fun to see the things that everyone makes --from waffles to paper airplanes to music. But I think the true power is in the conversations that are beginning because of the wall. Our students are interested in what others make--in their talents and passions.  As the wall grows, the conversations grow.

Our "Things We Make" Celebration

I have always believed in the power of making stuff.  I think our wall is one step in letting our students know how much we, as a school community, value the things they make and the creative ways in which they think. But I think for it to be truly powerful, we need to make it more than that. It needs to be a part of the way our students learn every day.

 I was fortunate enough to listen to  Laura Deisley from the Lovett School speak at Educon on "Why Making Stuff Matters". She presented a Encienda, a 20 slide, 5 minute presentation on the topic.  She has graciously shared it on her blog with more of her thinking on the topic.  Below is the Laura Deisley's slideshare from Educon.

EduCon 2.3: Why Making Stuff Matters
View more presentations from lauradeisley.

I would also suggest that you read Laura's post on Masterful Learning to get a vision of what is possible when students are in an environment of questioning, problem solving and creating.

It seems like so many people are talking about the power of making  stuff these days. I am hoping that the conversations continue and that we continue to share the things our students make and the impact it has on their learning lives.


  1. Recently a parent challenged me on this topic. He wondered why students were copying images from the Internet more often than drawing or "making stuff." Since then we've started making more of our own images.

    This is a great post. One I want to read again and again as I think ahead to our future projects, learning endeavors and student goals. Thanks.

  2. Awesome post. Thanks! That's something I was thinking without realizing I was thinking it.

  3. I love making stuff! I try to share this with my kids at school. It's such an important part of learning. I also love all things AKR & can't wait to meet & hear her speak next week at the conference!!!

  4. Thank you for this, Franki! Loved AKR's videos, even if they have caused me to watch away my blog-reading time this mornign!

  5. My kids loves also making stuff. It develop their creativity and improve their hidden skills.
    great post!

  6. This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for putting it together. I think we in public schools could learn from the Waldorf schools too, where such an emphasis is placed on making things by hand.

  7. Franki,
    This somehow seems to fit perfectly with our conversation "Fires in the Mind".


  8. Franki,
    This is such a great post. I agree with your statement, "It needs to be a part of the way our students learn every day." Thanks so much.


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