Monday, July 24, 2017

Maps and Mazes at Chavez

Hello once again from the Maker Corps blog! This week Caide and Kai went to a whole new series of places to have fun with the kits. They ventured to Play Haven Day Care, Northport Apartments, Chavez Elementary School, Lapham Elementary, and some library visits too, at Lakeview and Goodman.


As the summer has progressed, we have enjoyed making things with each of the Bubbler kits, but the Maps and Mazes kit has emerged as a favorite for both of us. For this post we wanted to dig into that kit and how the kids at Chavez Elementary school engaged with it.



For me, Caide, the specific prompt of making a map or maze combined with the wide variety of possible materials makes the kit really exciting. However, the cherry on top is the way the kids get to modify a familiar space. How often, as a kid or adult, do you get to go to a public place and transform something about it?

As a kid, I loved doing crafting activities that changed the space I was in, and with the Maps and Mazes kit, it’s still exciting to create things with tape right on the floor, or turn a section of the room into a laser obstacle course.

At Chavez Elementary school, the kids had the same reactions as me: “We get to put tape on the floor!?” Yes. Yes you can.


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Each group of kids usually comes up with something new to do with the materials.

I spent some one-on-one time with a girl who was pretty shy. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, and I could tell that the high energy of the room wasn’t matching her mood. So we sat down further away from the group and started putting tape on the floor.

After asking her several prompting questions she began adding her own thoughts. We decided our road needed many different colors, a pool alongside it, and a food store. We made a pizza sign and a giant ice cream cone for the store so that people knew what it was! By the end of our time together, she had opened up a little more and was happy when others commented on her work.

I was really glad she found a way to engage with the materials and impressed by her creativity as many kids don’t add roadside attractions to their mazes.


This kit has become my favorite, because the activities for it are both structured and open-ended. We offer a few ideas to start: make a map or maze using blocks, tape, or crayons and paper; test your creation using the ping pong balls or cars. From these few, simple guidelines we have seen kids make so many different things. Of course, we see typical maps with houses, zoos, pools, and parks, or trees, rivers, and boulders.



But sometimes a kid will make a map of the zombie apocalypse, complete with zombie fish, zombie snakes, and a safe house hidden behind the trees. This maker also cut pieces out of the map edges to make it look worn.

We often see race tracks or roads made out of tape.


These boys were making a road map by taping multiple sheets of paper together. They decided this was a map of Madison, and the tower made of Keva planks represented Camp Randall Stadium.


Then there are always the kids who want to use the materials available for something totally different. Someone made a lake with a heart in the middle. Others wrote their name of the floor of the cafeteria using tape. Others still tried to make extremely tall towers using the blocks.


And the best part of all is that we, as maker corps members, can allow all of that to happen. As long as kids aren’t hurting themselves or each other, we get to say, “Yes, go for it!”


Maps and Mazes also lends itself to a lot of options for individual or group work. Specifically, the laser maze prompt has proven to be an excellent opportunity for collaboration as it requires at least two people to construct. Often, we see 3-5 kids working together to tape crepe paper between tables, bookshelves, or walls. Usually, this group project goes off without a hitch, but occasionally, we find ourselves mediating conflicts.

In one particular instance, an older girl was taking the lead on a laser maze. She had a hand in designing and constructing it. For a while, she had the perfect number of kids helping her, and following her instructions. The problem was that she made it so inviting, other kids wanted to try it. Because she made it extremely difficult to crawl through, the maze was easily broken with the sudden influx of maze runners. She became pretty upset.

Somewhat of a perfectionist myself, I empathized with her. I tried to explain to the kids that before they charged someone else’s creation, they should have asked permission. At the same time, I tried to tell the frustrated maker that tearing the crepe paper is expected, especially when one makes it so challenging. She was not satisfied with this, but was able to find some consolation after complaining about the situation to a friend.

We maker corps members are often helping kids navigate difficult situations like this, whether the conflict is between two makers, or stemming from the internal frustration of one maker. Whenever I find myself mediating, I'm reminded that learning is a social act. It's not always easy or fun, but what matters more is how we cope with these challenges and persist.


All in all, it has been great to explore, make things, and reflect with the Maps and Mazes kit. We look forward to seeing what you makers invent next and how you transform a space with your creations!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Construction and Demolition of Rainbow Kingdom

Welcome back to the Maker Corps blog!
Our fourth week of making was a lot shorter with the holiday preceding it. We went to Nuestro Mundo, Goodman South, Lakeview, and Thoreau Elementary. We tinkered with some familiar kits like Comics & Superheroes, Keva Planks, Things that Fly, and Maps & Mazes. But rather than give a brief summary of what we made and discovered, we would like to try something new. We want to share a story of a single making session which exploded into an enormous multi-layered project!
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It all began on June 30th. Kai and Caide were setting up for their usual two hour pop-up session from 2-4 at Central Library. There were not a lot of kids in the library, and they wondered if anyone would show up. That day they had the Building Kit, which includes a bunch of materials: Keva planks, plastic cups, popsicle sticks, binder clips, clothes pins, and rubber bands.
Usually, kids spend time making tall towers out of plastic cups, or designing and crafting rubber band shooters. We had no idea that the kids would make something so imaginative that day! Kai and Caide pulled out all the materials. After a few minutes, our friend A arrived. We met him the previous week when making buttons. He was really excited to see what we had in store that day, which made us happy. He and Kai started working on building a structure with the Keva planks. A bit later, Caide returned with a new friend, V. She went straight for the cups. They each played individually for a while, but then everyone decided to work together. What happened after that was nothing short of amazing!
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We started with one wall of cups, and soon followed several towers. Because our creation was starting to look like a castle, A’s mom suggested we make a moat- a water barrier to protect our fortress! We decided to use the blue popsicle sticks to represent the water, and the green were alligators. Then, A thought we should have an active volcano! We used red, orange, and yellow popsicle sticks as lava and fire.
From there, our kingdom expanded. We made a little village next to the castle, complete with clothes pin-villagers, and a ranch for cattle, sheep, and pigs, which were each symbolized by different binder clips. The blue clips were cats and dogs, and the green ones were dragons. A made a home for the dragons which included water and lava, because they like to live near both.
V thought we should have a road into the castle for good people since it was so impenetrable. She also thought to add a hot tub to one of the towers, which she made by flipping the top cup upside down! She placed the Princess in there. On the tallest tower, we set the wizard. Of course, we made a portal for him to teleport through so he could get down from the top of the tower quickly.


When the creation was complete, we had an enormous castle and city that A and V decided to call “Rainbow Kingdom.”IMG_0519.JPG
It was magnificent! Even the kids’ parents were impressed by what we could make in a short amount of time with just a few people. When it was finally time to go, we pretended to be bad guys attacking the kingdom. We shot rubber bands at the walls, and then used a rubber band ball (made by A’s mom) like a cannonball to knock a wall down. Next, A and V marched through the rest of the kingdom like giants until everything had fallen down into a heap. It was a big, fun mess to make, and we all worked together to clean it up after. What an amazing day of making and imagination!

Thank you, A and V, for all your hard work and ideas.


And thank you to all our other friends we've made at the various libraries so far! Maker Corps is mostly visiting elementary schools in the month of July, but we have a few more pop-up sessions left at Goodman South, Lakeview, Hawthorne, and Monroe Street. Check out our full schedule of locations and times at

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Another Week of Building, Coding, Creating, and Inventing


In the last week of June, Caide and Kai had their first school visits to Allied Learning Center and Nuestro Mundo where kids became superheroes making masks, capes, and arm bands, or drew their own superheroes on comic strips at coloring stations. Suddenly we were surrounded by kids who could shoot lasers, kids flying through the stratosphere, and kids freezing the room in icy blasts.


At Pinney Library Caide and Kai came with the Building kit. The kids came right at the start of the hour to try out Keva Planks, Popsicle sticks with binder clips and rubber bands, and the most popular of all- plastic cups.

There were plastic cup towers, plastic cup fortresses, plastic cup pyramids and many more creations. Sometimes it was hard when kids knocked over each other's towers without asking and the kids had to figure out ways to collaborate and communicate with each other.



At Hawthorne Caide once again had a blast with the Maps and Mazes kit. After a truly remarkable performance from the Truly Remarkable Loon, lots of kids streamed out into the children’s section to add to the growing obstacle course of tape- I mean lasers- winding its way through the bookshelves.
Soon the course was so busy that we had to commandeer another section of the room to continue. Kids also drew their own maps and mazes, some with treacherous mountains and others with blue portals that transported you to other parts of the maze.


This week the Ozobots made an appearance at Alicia Ashman. This is one of Kai’s favorite kits, because it introduces basic coding in a fun and artistic way. Kids draw different color sequences, which the bots read by traveling over them. These sequences tell the bots to move quickly or slowly, or even spin around. It's so much fun!

At the start, a few younger boys showed up. They enjoyed watching the robots move and catching them before they fell off the table, but didn’t want to draw sequences for them. Once some older kids arrived, we tried bunch of different things. We had the Ozobots trace a star, race each other, and even used the bots to go bowling!


On Thursday Caide went to Goodman South Library to make Paper Puppets in the children’s section.

Caide was happy to visit this library because she grew up only a mile away and had been to this branch many times! Over the course of two hours kids filtered through, making many eyed monsters, feather frenzied puppets, and puppets with long, twisted tongues. After many struggles with different type of glue, we decided that pom poms simply don’t stay stuck to the paper.

Caide also got to go back to Lakeview with the Things that Fly kit to make paper airplanes and catapults galore. After working with the initial plane diagrams the kids got creative with their own folds and flight improvements. Caide was especially impressed by one girl’s origami pinwheel got to learn how to make her own with the girl’s careful instructions.  

All in all, it was another great week. We hope you all had as much fun as our Maker Corps members. In July, Caide and Kai will begin spending more time at schools, but will still make it out to a few of the libraries.

Check out our full schedule of locations and times at