2nd Annual STEAM Celebration Reflection

2nd Annual STEAM Celebration Reflection

This is WAAAY overdue, but I know several of you were curious about how STEAM went this year.  The answer? Wonderful. It was a rainy day, so we had some no shows, but I think everyone had a great day. A special thank you to all the community members, teachers, and librarians who came to help or just explore!


STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Starting last year, we have a yearly three hour event that focuses on fun activities using those skills. This is a great way to get community and family involvement.  This year we decided to invite our four feeder elementary schools as well. Those kiddos made me miss my elementary teaching days. SO PRECIOUS. It was great to see our students step up as leaders.

Prep Work

  1. Plan the activities for each rooms
  2. Get LOTS of volunteers and community members
  3. Collect the supplies
  4. Promote the event
  5. Pass out flyers (I ran copies and sent to our feeder schools)
  6. Arrange transportation if needed
  7. Set up rooms
  8. Have fun!

Here is the map of the activities we used this year (inside and outside):

Basically, we do activities in almost every downstairs room.  I try to keep costs as low as possible by getting donations when I can. I won’t lie, this part takes a while. In the summer, I usually look on Pinterest , magazines, or books for ideas. Then I start deciding what I can reasonably do in a short time period.  Once I know what I can get donated, I make decisions about what needs modified. This year I had an amazing activity with balloons I wanted to do, but we had a student with a severe latex allergy, so I had to scrap that and come up with another plan. I set the date in the fall and get commitments early.


Here are the videos we showed in preparation:

Video 1 (shown week of 3/21): What is STEAM?


Video 2 (shown week of 3/28): About the Sh@ck Kn@ck Makerspace


Video 3 (shown week of 4/4):  STEAM Celebration Events


Video 4 (shown week of 4/11): FAQs for STEAM Celebration


This is the flyer we used:

STEAM Poster Shack

Set Up

I have a Google Doc that I keep directions, supply list, and links. Then I stage everything in boxes or bags with the room number on the bag so they can pass out quickly. Make sure to give directions to teachers early so they can practice before that day if needed. I set up as much as I can the night before. This is the craziness that is my office a few weeks before:

What I Learned

It was MUCH easier this year because I had so many volunteers. Over 30 of my staff members donated their time to help. That allowed us to have some floaters who could fill in as needed. Unfortunately, I also learned that duct tape does NOT peel off the floor easily. Caption this photo “When ideas go wrong…” even my principal was cleaning stuff off of the floor.

Photo Apr 30, 12 18 24 PM

We got such high praise from the other schools that my principal is actually going to budget some money for this next year (I’m not complaining, he gave me money this year too, but next year it will be OFFICIAL).

Pics and Videos

I posted a ton of pics and video on Twitter/Instagram @shacklibrary. The district Flickr page has some links here as well:


Questions or Comments?

Add a comment if you have any questions or comments! I’ll share anything I can that will help.



STEAM Celebration Reflection

STEAM Celebration Reflection

In May our school did our first ever STEAM Celebration. If you aren’t familiar with STEAM, it stands fro science, technology, engineering, art, and math. It was a full day of anything cool I could think of, focusing largely on things that we did in the makerspace during the year. Students arrived a 9 AM and got a bag with a snack, map, and a few goodies like pencils. Students didn’t have to have an adult to attend, but an adult got them an extra entry in the door prize contest at the end of the day.

Here is our basic floor plan (we used almost the whole bottom floor of our school):

STEAM Floor PlanWhat worked:

  • RollerCoastersKids who came had a blast! We had about 30-40 families, so around 85-100 people. Several kids came up to me the next day just to thank me.
  • Best quote of the day was a dad telling me he “had no idea the world was this big” and that we had “opened his eyes to the future his son could have.” WOW!
  • I work with amazing people, and this just reminded me how awesome they are. Everyone jumped right in and helped.
  • I had everything organized in bags. That made passing it out easy. I should have had more done the night before though. Leaving myself 1.5 hours that am wasn’t quite enough time to put out all the fires.
  • Budget was about $500 and that came out of my student activity fund. I spent some out of my own pocket, but some things we can repeat so I won’t need to buy next year. Now that I know what we need, I’ll start working on donations earlier.
  • Most popular room by far was the Shrinky Dinks…who would have guessed?
  • We gave kids who attended a free jeans day and they loved that.
  • UTA’s FabLab came for the day as did our public library’s robotics program. They were a huge hit.
  • The maker mentality was alive and well. Collaboration abounded and kids were creating awesomeness all over!

What needs a few changes:


  • I think I collected boxes for about 3 months. I had too many big boxes, but the weird stuff was a hit. Next time I need more weird shaped cardboard packaging. Check out this awesome creation one of our students made on the left.
  • Need to have more floaters next time. We had to medical emergencies, so two teachers couldn’t show up and then we had one emergency that day so a teacher had to leave. That wouldn’t have been an issue if I’d just had a few more adults.
  • I loved the May date, but my admin would like to move earlier in the year. I’m worried we still won’t have a maker culture yet if we do this too early, so we are trying to find the perfect timing for next year.
  • Needed someone just to take photos.
  • I did PR like CRAZY…I thought. But some people weren’t showing the video as asked. Next year I plan on showing videos at lunch too and adding a walking marquee. you can see some videos here (one I can’t show because it has students):

What went wrong and needs changed/go away:

  • The gaming room only had about 5 kids. I was SHOCKED because this is a huge draw in the makerspace, but kids were so busy making (insert choir of angelic voices here) that they didn’t want to game!
  • The zombie room had a sub (teacher got hurt the morning of) so I had a gracious volunteer who stepped in. Unfortunately we were half way though the day before I realized she was missing some of her stuff. That room wasn’t a huge hit either, so we will probably leave off next year.
  • Would like more kids. Next year I think we might open up to other schools that feed into us. I’m still fleshing this out with my principal.
  • QR Code scavenger hunt had zero participation.

Can’t wait to see what next year brings!

Library Activity: Biography Research

Research….I know what you are thinking. Been there done that! This time we took Black History Month projects and added a little pizazz.

Step 1: Book Research (yes, we still think this is valuable)-done in the library (one day)

Step 2: Database Research-done in the library (one day)

Step 3: Write a first person narrative with facts the student learned while researching. The great thing about switching this to first person is that it makes plagiarism so much harder. -done in the classroom

Step 4: Use the app Chatterpix to record the narratives like the student actually was that person (Chatterpix allows you to slice a picture where a mouth should be and add the student’s voice).  It was AMAZING how creative the kids were! This was done in the library and we only allowed one day, but some students had to come back a seond day. Next time, we will allow two days for step 4. We would like to splice the clips into imovie so that they show in one continuous film. Chatterpix limits you to 30 seconds so we ended up doing several.

Epic Fail: Twitter Scavenger Hunt

So…for Teen Tech Week I thought I’d have a Twitter scavenger hunt.I planned out all these great (in my mind) tweets that students could respond to on Twitter. I took time and loaded them into TweetDeck so that I could still oversea my makerspace and have the scavenger hunt going on at the same time.

That morning I logged into Twitter and waited…and waited…and waited. Finally, kids came up to me showing pics of what I’d asked them to do on Twitter and still participated, but I had one issue I’d never really considered.  You see, my students always know what I’m posting on Twitter so I mistakingly assumed that meant they used Twitter; that they would be able to post a reply. The problem? They know about my Twitter feed because they look at the library website. None of them are even on Twitter.


Live and learn. Next time I do a Twitter scavenger hunt, it will be clues to locations not tasks. That way it will be fun and a non issue.

Some of you will ask why I still use Twitter if they don’t. The answer is complicated. They are reading the summary and get the data off my website, so it is still valuable. Plus, I use Twitter for my PLN. Ultimately, Twitter is also an advocacy tool because the adults that support the library also use Twitter. It’s a great tool with a little restructuring on my end.

Library Activity: Speedbooking

Last week was one of my favorite weeks because we did Speedbooking. It is really the only time of the year that I do a stand alone library activity. That said, it directly connects to literacy appreciation, and students all leave excited about books, so I don’t feel like it is wasted time. This is the time of year when my 8th graders get bored with reading. Time to light a little fire under them.

Basically, the students rotate between seven different stations where they “meet” a book a different way at each table.

  • Audiobook
  • Lone Star Reading List
  • Author Website
  • Book Format
  • Choose Your Own Adventure Books
  • Digital Book Talk
  • Read A Like Lists

As a side note, I pull enough books for every class (whew) so that kids can check out books that period if they want to rather than waiting until the day is over.  Circulation is always much higher after this activity. The big winner of the week though was the choose your own adventure books. I think part of it was they loved hearing the “old folks” talk about how cool they were and how to fix things when you accidentally chose the wrong ending. AKA made a choice that got you killed.


Makerspace Activity: Old School Collages

I’m going to try this year to be better about blogging about some of the things we’ve been doing in the makerspace or my school library. No promises, but I’ll try!

Make a Collage Day: Old School Style


So, the whole idea for this theme came from the fact that I had this embosser laying around and kids kept asking me what it was, so I decided to use up some of the magazines that were taking over the tub and kill two birds with one stone.

Set Up:

  • One table with scrapbook paper and an explanation about how we were making a paper version of Instagram. 🙂
  • One table with magazines, glue, scissors, markers, etc.
  • One table with embossing supplies and stamps.

What Worked:

  • Kids jumped right in and got started. The boys were just as excited about this as the girls.
  • Lids on the embossing powder…if they put them back on…which didn’t always happen. AND it wasn’t always their fault.

What Needed a Little Adjustment:

  • Apparently, some of my kids had never made a collage before…not quite sure how that happened, but some didn’t even know how to cut apart a magazine. Next time I might have both digital and non-digital option.
  • Most of my kids had never used an embosser. It was a colossal mess, but it was a fun mess. Next time I will need to have an extra set of hands or more embossers.
  • Some of my students had never used a stamp pad before, they had only seen self-stamping stamps. I went through two stamp pads (they literally shredded them) before I figured out what the issue was.

Overall Reflection

  • Kids had a blast, but we needed a little more time to finish (really a two day project) and I need more supplies before I try again. Thinking about doing something decorative before the end of the year as a thank you to their teachers maybe.

Adventures in Makerspacing

Yes, the title is slightly plagiarized. Did anyone see the movie Adventures in Babysitting? This girl is babysitting kids and everything keeps going awry. That is kind of how I feel about my first year with an “official” makerspace. That and the children’s poem, because:

When it was good it was very very good.

When it was bad it was horrid.

The good news? The bad was usually comical and a learning experience. The great news? No one even cared but me. So here goes…my reflections on year one for what they are worth.

  1. I had a makerspace but just didn’t know it was a makerspace. As a group we are too hung up on this name makerspace. Do you have a makerspace already? Ready for the test?

o   Do your students make things?

o   Do you have an area to explore new ideas or equipment?

o   Do you do individual or group projects just for fun?

If you answered yes, the odds are YOU have a makerspace. Don’t worry about the label. They key is the creation. What are you DOING in your library?

  1. Junior High parents don’t come to my activities. Sniff, sniff. My parent events were colossal failures. Am I worried? A little. Do the kids care? No. In fact, they told me they didn’t want their parents there because they didn’t want to share.
  2. You have to cook edible slime…trust me on this one.
  3. The number doesn’t matter. If you make it accessible, eventually they will come. My numbers varied dramatically (rain being the biggest issue). While I’m going to keep reaching for more, I have stopped taking it personal if attendance is low. They are busy too, and some days it is just a scheduling issue.
  4. Food trumps all. My food activities were huge. Duct tape not so much. I know…I was shocked too!
  5. It doesn’t have to just be technology, and when you do, it doesn’t have to be a lot. I only have two arduinos and two Raspberry Pis. Since we all know nothing about them yet, that is enough. We kind of sit in groups and learn together.
  6. I’m in love with MAKE: Magazine. I’ve literally clapped when it came in the mail (yes, I’m a nerd)
  7. Teachers are pack rats-and they share. Ask for what you need, they will help if they can!
  8. You can’t have too much stuff! Don’t get hung up on what you don’t have (cough-3D printer-cough). Focus on what you DO have. Origami is just as popular as learning coding on iPads. Boys like slap bracelets as well as battleship. Sometimes the makerspace voyage is more about the relationship than the product.

So, have I solved all the issues? Hardly! But I know where we are going and know what I still need to pull into my backpack to take with us.

My wish list for next year: (what I know I can do both with time and financially)

  • 20% increase in participation
  • Weekly events
  • Monthly events
  • 2 Parent/student events (I refuse to give up on this)
  • Doodler Pen-would love more than one but this is a budget thing
  • Robotic legos
  • More board games
  • Barbies (we are going to make zombies thanks to a great idea I heard from Justin Hoenke at TLA)
  • eTextiles supplies (sewing machine, LED lights, etc)

My dream list for next year: (what I probably won’t get, but would in a heartbeat if money was no object)

  • LittleBits
  • LiliPad Kits
  • 3D Printer
  • New Furniture-I really want the makerspace area to be visually appealing and more functional, but this is a huge expense and not sure how to make it happen.
  • One day a week dedicated to making in the library so kids could come anytime during the day (don’t see this happening due to testing, but I’m working some angles)

So that’s it. Nothing new or overly profound. Here is the advise I gave to librarians recently in a training. I believe as 21st century librarians we now fall into two categories

  1. Those who say I can’t
  2. Those who say you can’t stop me.

I choose to be the latter. How about you? I dare you. I double dog dare you to MAKE this year. Doesn’t matter where you start…but try this if you need more info: