What is one artifact or symbol that can literally make students feel “at home” in the classroom? An artifact that can ease stress, encourage conversations, build relationships, have no limitations of age or ability and be completely diverse in nature?
A KITCHEN TABLE!
In our home, The Kitchen Table is not just where we gather for meals but where we gather to talk about our day. It is the first stop when getting up in the morning, returning from a walk or coming home from work. Where we throw down our keys, where we pile up our books and add to the week’s worth of newspapers. It is where we charge our phones and open our computers and play our music. It is our card table, our game table, an art centre and a sewing station. It is where the mail gets read and sorted and where the bills get paid. The table is a space for food preparation, for sorting groceries and for sharing surprise snacks. Sometimes, the table is our refuge after a long day- a safe place to sit and gather, where we talk and plan and discuss and cry. Our best arguments happen around the table and our best apologies follow. Sometimes, it is a place to sit together in silence reading or writing.
Whatever it is and whatever time of day – it is always a safe place to be ourselves, to take risks, to be honest, to be vulnerable and to love one another.
And so, in effort to create an environment of trust, we brought the Kitchen table (literally) into the classroom and built a kitchen around it. We created a situation – a small space, a “feeling” where students could be vulnerable, tell stories, laugh, cry and be themselves. The following 2 minute video gives an excellent description of why we start and end our day at the Kitchen Table.
Our Kitchen Philosophy
We strive to connect MIND, BODY & SPIRIT by connecting what we study with HOME. FOOD is a NEED that connects Families and develops COMMUNITIES. The development of a COMMUNITY of learners allows students to take risks, be mentors, have leadership opportunities and push the boundaries of their learning.
We address the role of the family and the community in our daily living.
We value our connection to the land by creating and sharing healthy snacks and meals.
We offer experiential learning opportunities.
We discuss respect for the group process and the significance of balance in all aspects of our lives.
Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to co-create two Makerspaces (from Cafe Bar to Makerspace) within my school District – both very different and yet both fall under similar approaches and philosophies that were inspired by the town of Emilia Reggio which is “based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach
Our Makerspaces include a vast assortment of technology tools and robotics as well as hands-on building and craft material and textiles (sewing machines), arts and music , and content producing tools (camera, computers, tablets). But more important, the spaces are facilitated by trained (and interested) teachers who spend a good deal of time creating “situations” and “opportunities” to collaborate and innovate. This means, paying attention to the surrounding and how it “feels”.
“Third Teacher”. Educators and leaders who put value on the Reggio Emilia place a high value on the aesthetic and physical environment of the school, often referring to it as the “third teacher” (Gandini, 1998, p. 177).
Is the space inviting and inclusive?
This is not to say that Makerspaces cannot be created in a multitude of ways. There are pop-up makerspaces, shared spaces, Makerspaces in classrooms, libraries, community centres, coffee shops, shared Makerspace kits (portable).. and even in households (garages, basements). But, it is important to recognize the collaborative nature of Makers and the role that SPACE, SET-UP, ORGANIZATION play.
Just starting out??
I suggest that you tap into the skills of your colleagues and staff.
DO NOT necessarily start the space by ONLY bringing in complex robotics, programming or computers.
Scaffold. Differentiate. If it is just about one thing, you will miss the opportunity to engage a variety of minds and innovators.
RE ENGAGE teachers/parents/students that may feel alienated by technology and bring them on board but tapping into their interest!
Make Connections to all types of Making – There are many similarities between some programming languages and knitting or stitching, the arts, music and of course it can ALL connect to curriculum.
Ask: Who on staff can Sew? Crochet? Knit? Cook? Change a car tire? Change a bike tube? Who has any lego and loves to build? Who can draw? Who knows programming? Who owns a robot?
Interestingly, sometimes the best Learning and Professional Development happens around Making and Doing. The environment of collaboration is natural, organic and inspires community which then alleviates the pressure. People are laughing, sharing, helping each other and “formal” leadership disappears – letting everyone feel like they have a place – an important role to play. People are bringing in different perspectives, different skill sets. Once everyone is talking, sipping on tea, helping each other ‘make’ (that relationship building stuff), then a leader/facilitator can slip in the Professional Development. Bang! As an aside, in fact, this is often how we teach curriculum to students – by getting them engaged in play, making and a collaborative task. Have question prompts and assessment questions ready to go (we just index cards and place around the room)! Bang!
Finally – is there interest in creating an atmosphere of making? Does the room/area talk about pedagogy – what is the philosophy behind it?? Can a work table be brought in? Can a community group be put together to come in on a Saturday and set it up?? Can couch or two be brought in- with coffee table? Is there small plants for growing/eating? How about a whiteboard for designing, writing? Does the environment make kids and adults WANT to be there?
Let’s say you have $1000.00 to spend for your startup. What would you buy? Survey your staff – (Teachers, Education Assistants, Consultants, Coaches) to see what would be the tools/products that would bring in the community. Is anyone interested being the ‘resident’ expert? Through a shared document (OneNote or Google Drive), ask them to add to the list or just sign up. The space doesn’t need to be about one thing or one person.
Don’t forget about the Parents and Community! You might be surprised at how many people have things laying around the house and would LOVE to donate these to a COMMUNITY SPACE. Lego, puzzles, rubic cubes, small tools,
This might be something that could be sent to staff/community. This is only a very small example (but I did say that we only had about $1000.00 to spend). There are many many products and tools that could be added and would depend on school community and staff –>
Maker Tools or Activity
Skill, knowledge building
Electric Sewing Machine
Material and supplies
Math – Applied understanding
Measurement, Geometry, Patterning, Algebra
PROJECT BASED LEARNING
Does anyone have anything to donate?
Math – Patterning, Geometry, Spacial, Ratio, Symmetry
Does anyone have anything to donate?
Great for ages 5 – 99
Coding through colour or block programming
Lots of great challenges and an amazing website to help teachers
Circuits and manipulation of wires/circuits to control a computer
Great for exploration, play and making connections to “how things work” and electricity.
$50.00 (approx) (buy at least two)
An excellent kit that teaches students to code with a purpose and how they can combine coding with presentations!
I highly suggest this fun robot. Not only do students learn how to drive and manipulate the robot but they can also use blockly programming! This is one of our favourtes and learners of ALL love the Sphero.
Bean Art – Use Pulses (dried beans, chickpeas, lentils…etc.) and have students create beautiful tactile art
$100.00 (approx) for a few easels Sketch Pencils and notepads