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!

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