Category Archives: Maker Space

The Inaugural NAISAC Interactive Maker Space- Fun For All!


I have now been working in partnership with NAIS since 2008 and have worked on a variety of interesting projects. This year, working with Amy Ahart from NAIS, we wanted to try something new and landed on the idea of creating an Interactive MakerSpace. With a nice space carved out on the exhibit hall floor next to the NAIS Bookstore, we were able to design a space that would foster interactions between participants and docents in the area as well as with many of the items in the space. These items included sample student projects from The Meadowbrook School of Weston, MA, 3D printing, Laser cutting projects, robotics, computer programming, electronic prototyping, micro-controllers such as Arduino and Makey Makey as well as projects made onsite.

Additionally participants were able to explore posters made from the information schools submitted for the Online Gallery of Independent School Makerspaces. Space and time limited the number of posters to the first 10 that were submitted. However, there are over 25 amazing schools currently listed in the online gallery and more will be added shortly. Additionally, schools are still able to submit their information to be added to the gallery.

The objective of the space was to create an engaging and interactive space that would provide information for participants who want to explore how this new movement might fit within their school. We wanted a space that would demonstrate many different aspects of “making” while helping participants focus on the importance of pedagogical considerations. Lisa Palmieri of The Ellis School produced a wonderful poster on the Maker Mindset. This poster was placed centrally in the space and received a lot of attention and generated important conversations. Additionally, all the posters around the space were well photographed and many read in detail. There appeared to be considerable interest in what other schools were doing in the area of Making and MakerSpaces.

Working from Dallas, one challenge of putting together a MakerSpace at a conference over 1500 miles away is how to equip and staff the area. This is where The Meadowbrook School of Weston was invaluable. Jonathan Schmid from Meadowbrook offered up an amazing collection of equipment and student projects which helped bring the space to life. Additionally, many of his staff came to the conference and worked the space as docents. Without the incredible help of Jonathan Schmid, Chris Lindsay, Matt Molyneux, Nathan Tanaka, and Rachel Shuler, (All from Meadowbrook) this project would not have been possible. Many thanks to these incredible people for their help on this project.

As participants were exploring the space, there was one question that seemed to keep coming up: How do we get started? While there is much to consider as you start to explore this new learning space and approach, there is some help out there in the form of the MakerSpace Playbook- School Edition. You can download a free PDF of this resource posted on

Below are some images and videos of the NAIS Interactive MakerSpace captured throughout the conference.

Here I am demonstrating the Makey Makey Piano that was made on site.

Sarah Flowers who is the Head of Ring Mountain Day School plays the Makey Makey piano and throws out the challenge for other heads of schools: Can you top this?

We do all of this for our students. Here the Makey Makey piano gets the “Kids Seal of Approval”.

Participants playing the Makey Makey Human Drumset. Proves to be fun for all ages.

 Collection of images captured at the NAIS Interactive MakerSpace

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Creating the NAIS MakerSpace- A Transformation of Space

Wednesday Winding up to the Opening of NAISC Tomorrow!

This is my second day in Boston. The day started with a beautiful cloud free morning and a great meeting (always too short) with the 21st century curriculum and technology task force. We are working on the name but that is who we are at the moment. What a great group of passionate educators! I am honored to be a member of such a group.

This year my Wednesday of the conference was very different as I am also orchestrating the construction of the NAIS interactive makerspace. This means that the rest of Wednesday was spent setting up this makerspace. It also means that I was not able to make the rounds to all of the other cool workshops that took place today. So, if you attended any of these, have pictures or want to submit a blog or reflection, please do so and send me the text or the link to your post and I will make sure we get it posted here as well. Any pictures and video would also be awesome!

The NAIS MakerSpace project has been fun to think about and it is great to see it come to life. I must make a HUGE shout out to Jonathan Schmid and Chris Lindsey from the Meadowbrook School of Weston MA for their help today and for being so gracious to supply much of the 3D printing, robotics and cool student projects. Others from Meadowbook will also be working the space over the next two days. They will be joined by individuals from other schools who are amazing educators who are passionate about the world of “making” as a way of learning. The NAIS MakerSpace will be a place you will want to visit and experience multiple times over the next two days. There is much to see and do so make sure you swing by.

Here are a few images I was able to capture during the day.


For those who missed the “Brisk Walk Through” of the Exhibit Hall, here is your chance to see what the hall looked like about 24 hours from opening. What a transformation it will be!

The Interactive MakerSpace at #NAISAC and The Maker Mindset


Want to learn more about Making and the Maker movement? Come visit us at the Interactive Maker Space at the NAIS Annual Conference. We will be located in the exhibit hall just outside the NAIS Bookstore.

The Maker Movement is taking the education world by storm. In an effort to help school administrators and teachers better understand this movement, NAIS is pleased to offer the NAIS Makerspace, located in the Exhibit Hall. This space will provide hands-on demonstrations, information about the movement, and ways in which you can implement parts of this approach at your own school. Learn about the revolutionary 3D printer, one of the greatest new technologies you can share with your students. Imagine students at one school developing parts for a joint robotics project in another school as they simply send over files to “print.” Witness this fascinating machine in action in our demonstration area. Attendees will also have the chance to design simple circuits and learn about how to teach robotics across disciplines. You can find out more information here.
Highlights of the NAIS Makerspace include:
  • Knowledgeable independent school teachers who are already involved in maker spaces at their schools. You will be able to interact with them as they help guide you through a small sample of demonstrations of physical and electronic prototyping including 3D printing and scanning, microcontrollers and circuit boards.
  • Robots of all sizes and shapes to reach nearly any age student.
  • You can put your hands to work as you explore the basics of electronic circuitry and logic gates through some amazing tools such as Little Bits. Basics of electronics that can be used by students of all ages. This includes explorations with Little Bits, to Makey Makey to component wiring and prototyping with electronic components and breadboards.
  • Try your hand at writing code to control the actions of various robots and circuits controlled by microcontrollers.
  • “Walk through” the Gallery of Making in Independent Schools: The gallery provides tangible, visible evidence of what other schools are doing in the world of making. Many different approaches will be represented.
  • Leave with a wealth of information and resources that you can further explore long after the conference.

Making is more than “Stuff”. Come by and talk with us about the “Maker Miindset”.

Graphic by Lisa Abel-Palmieri from The Ellis School

maker mindset

Gallery of Independent School Maker Spaces

As you sit by the fire dreaming of warmer weather and waiting for your plane to take you to Boston for the 2015 NAIS Annual Conference, take some time and read through the 20 schools that have submitted entries for the Gallery of Independent School Makerspaces.

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All schools have been invited to submit materials to be included in this gallery. While the gallery will help feed conversation at this year’s Annual Conference and the new Interactive Makerspace outside the NAIS Bookstore in the conference exhibit hall, it has been designed to live on long past the conference. The site is full of wonderful information about how each school approaches the collaborative, multidisciplinary, problem-based learning approach that is taking the nation by storm- Making and Makerspaces. The site is rich with stories, examples, photos, tips and resources that will help other schools explore how the world of “making” can fit into their schools. If you are interested in learning more about the maker movement and bringing “making” to your school, make sure you visit the Interactive MakerSpace in the exhibit hall.

Schools currently in the gallery:

  1. Berkeley Preparatory School: Tampa, FL
  2. Bement School: Deerfield, MA
  3. Bullis School: Potomac, MD
  4. Carolina Friends School: Durham, NC
  5. Chadwick School: Palos Verdes, CA
  6. Friends School of Baltimore: Baltimore, MD
  7. ‘Iolani School: Honolulu, HI
  8. The Kinkaid School: Houston TX
  9. Louisville Collegiate School: Louisville, KY
  10. Marymount School of New York: New York, NY
  11. Poughkeepsie Day School: Poughkeepsie, NY
  12. Sacramento Country Day School: Sacramento, CA
  13. Sea Crest School: Half Moon Bay, CA
  14. St. James Academy: Monkton, MD
  15. St. Johnsbury Academy: St. Johnsbury, VT
  16. St. Margaret’s Episcopal School: San Juan Capistrano, CA
  17. St. Martin’s Episcopal School: Metairie, LA
  18. University Child Development School: Seattle, WA
  19. Wilmington Friends School: Wilmington, DE
  20. York School: Monterey, CA

Girls Can Make Stuff Too!

Maker education provides both boys and girls with the opportunity to learn dexterity, ideation, teamwork, and have fun while solving problems and building creative confidence.  As an independent school administrator and educator leading the Learning Innovation Institute at The Ellis School, I have worked with faculty and our innovation fellows to build a “maker culture” at our all-girls PK-12 school that is infused across all levels/disciplines.  Many of my peers that work at co-ed schools tell me they struggle with engaging girls in maker projects, computer science courses and engineering classes in upper school. What is important for all kids, but especially girls is to help them build creative confidence. Within a maker culture, girls can achieve creative confidence through maker empowerment: a heightened sensitivity to the made dimension of objects, ideas, and systems, along with a nudge toward tinkering with them and an increased capacity to do so. By ensuring girls have the opportunity to make and tinker we can ensure they build/practice their creative confidence today so they have the confidence and perseverance to pursue STEM majors in college and beyond.

Through using design thinking and maker education, girls at The Ellis School can define what problems and challenges in their community and life they want to work on, rather than having challenges defined for them. Maker Education at Ellis enriches the curricular program in a really hands-on way that builds critical thinking skills and fosters creativity. Laura Blankenship (@lblanken), one of the founders of the #MakerEd chat and CS Department Head at Baldwin School says: “Make your space as gender neutral as possible. Include things that are attractive to girls. Robots are great, but think about other things—or let your robot be a helper bot.” Andrew Carle(@tieandjeans), another founder of #MakerEd chat said: “Start early, when a child’s enthusiasm and aptitude can still drown out engrained gender expectations.”

Ellis Girl Liz from the Girls of Steel Robotics team with the robot they made named Watson.

Here are a few examples of how The Ellis School integrates Maker Education into our program across the school:

  • More than two years ago we launched “Innovation Stations,” located in all classrooms in the Lower School and in common areas in the Middle and Upper Schools with the goal of providing girls a place to explore and tinker in a non-threatening way. From building wind turbines, to using the Makey Makey to write music and program Hummingbird Robots, Ellis girls are having fun while making.  Right now our Middle School Innovation Station is featuring an activity where the girls build an origami character that has LEDs and Motors (using the Invent-abling kit) and then write a short creative writing piece about the character, take a picture of their character and post it to origami gallery. This activity incorporates literature, arts and STEM. Tinkering is a powerful form of “learning by doing,” an ethos shared by the rapidly expanding Maker Movement community and many educators. Real science and engineering is done through tinkering. We also run an after-school program for MS girls called Tinker Squads.
  • In our Upper School engineering design class the girls recently worked on an artificial limb lab. The three Ellis faculty who co-teach the class mentored small teams of 3 to 4 students as they defined problems people with disabilities face, gained empathy for people facing these disabilities through personal stories and research, and then designed multiple iterations of designs within Autodesk Inventor, the MakerBot Replicator 3D printer, and manual use of tools to make prototypes. The teams then printed final parts on the 3D printer and presented them to the class and an internal panel at Ellis. Projects included the “RecFin,” an assistive swimming device for people with a limb loss below the knee, the “Triple Threat,” an assistive hair-tying device, the “BAZAD,” a button and zipping assistive device and the “Hold Tight,” a device to help grip small objects.
  • In their roles as city planners, the Ellis second grade students made decisions about the placement of their newly constructed services in the Central Business District, city or suburban neighborhoods or outlying areas as a part of the Metropolitan Community Project. They took into consideration such issues as aesthetics, usage, space restraints, noise, and pollution. The girls also gave special attention to green building and planning. The girls worked in cooperative learning groups to design and construct streets, bridges, tram, tunnel, incline, parking facilities, signage, parks and recreational spaces. As neighborhoods and services sprang up, the girls positioned their single-family homes as well as the town houses, apartment houses and duplexes they made with a partner. Fourth grade girls also recently designed scenes from the book Poppy using the Hummingbird Robotics kit in groups of three to make scenes come alive.
  • The Active Classroom and the “CoLaboratory” was designed and launched with assistance from our students last school year. The Active Classroom and “CoLab” project combines innovative teaching methods such as the flipped classroom, design thinking and maker education into physics and engineering courses. We have created new curriculum where the lectures are predominantly online and class time is spent in groups where students collaborate to define and solve problems through hands-on experiments and making. We intentionally build in time for our girls to gain empathy for each other, others in our community and others across the globe all while developing risk-taking and perseverance to solve challenges. The Active Classroom model was so successful at our school, we have since shifted several more courses/classrooms to this model.

Maker education strengthens girls’ capacity for problem solving, collaboration and builds creative confidence.  Our research over three years has shown 25-30% gains in engagement of girls enrolled in STEM courses when the focus is on active learning that includes design and making. Additionally, enrollment in computer science and engineering courses increased by a factor of six. Making is a position on learning that puts girls in charge of their learning – in many cases this requires a cultural shift on how learning is approached in schools. Starting out doesn’t need to be expensive. While a Maker Space is great, it’s not required to incorporate more “making” and problem-solving into your curricular program.

Here are a few tips:

  • Read Invent to Learn and check out the website for some great resources to get started with Maker Education.
  •  To learn more about Maker Education join the weekly Twitter Chat that takes place on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST using #makered hashtag. 
  • Visit the MakerSpace at the 2015 NAIS conferences  near the Expo Hall to see demos, talk to educators within NAIS schools who have embraced the maker mindset and see posters that showcase maker spaces.

The Ellis School, Second Grade Maker Project

Join the Gallery of MakerSpaces

This year we will have an interactive makerspace in the exhibit hall just outside the NAIS Bookstore. Additionally, we are starting to assemble a gallery of independent school makerspaces. Some of these will be highlighted in posters at the annual conference in the interactive makerspace. However, they are also being placed online to create a resource for all schools as we celebrate the innovative spirit in each of our schools.

You can join Berkeley Preparatory School and University Child Development School in the Independent School MakerSpace Gallery.

How to Participate
If you would like to add your school to this gallery, simply follow the directions and complete the gallery submission form.

Gallery of Independent School Maker Spaces

This year we will have an interactive makerspace in the exhibit hall just outside the NAIS Bookstore. Additionally, we are starting to assemble a gallery of independent school makerspaces. Some of these will be highlighted in posters at the annual conference in the interactive makerspace. However, they are also being placed online to create a resource for all schools as we celebrate the innovative spirit in each of our schools.

Our Engineering and Design Garage
Our Engineering and Design Garage

You can view the first entry into the Gallery of Independent School Maker Spaces submitted by the University Child Development School in Seattle, Washington.

If you would like to add your school to this gallery, simply follow the directions and complete the gallery submission form.