This year I am teaching at an alternative high school. We have a population that despises traditional school work and for the most part, simply will not do it. During the course of the year I noticed that the makerspace movement was gaining steam. Conferences were featuring makerspaces, blogs were featuring them, and conference sessions were highlighting their importance. I could not help but notice the trend of moving the “making” out of the classroom and into a special space. As if “making” was some special academic program that classroom teachers could not handle.
I remembered back to my early years of teaching. We were always “making” things. We built a greenhouse and planted Thomas Jefferson’s garden. We were always building models of things we were learning about. And when we were not “making,” we were tearing things apart. Years later when it was no longer acceptable to spend time making things, fewer and fewer units contained a “making” component. That is when finally I separated the back of my class into a “making” space. There were drawers of things to explore, things to build with, stuff to take apart. and tech to play with.
I stumbled upon that old picture a couple months ago and it made me reflect on the fact that my kids do in fact “make” less nowadays, and we are giving up the “making” in schools to special teachers and special spaces. There was one thing to do, and that was to make something for the next unit.
We were studying World War 1 and after discussing this with the kids, they decided to make a trench warfare scene. Each kid specialized in one part, and all the parts together would add up to one final product. Some things the kids focused on were supplies and uniforms, first aid stations, tanks, and life in the actual trenches. Each kid researched their topic. They found primary source text and images, planned what they were going to make, and then scrounged around for available items.
One student wanted to focus on chemical warfare and make a gas mask. I think my response was #ummmm. How do you make the superstructure? The ventilation tube? The cartridge? He found some cardboard, duct tape, an orange juice bottle, coffee can, spray paint, old shirt, and old vacuum cleaner hose.
Go ahead, take out your phone and scan the above code. The soundtrack behind the narration was made from scratch by the student.
Another student needed to make sandbags. Can you tell what they are made from?
One of the most difficult things was actually how to get World War 1 soldiers. You can buy bags of cheap World War 2 soldiers, but only tiny bags of expensive World War 1 soldiers. The solution? One student simply took World War 2 soldiers and painted them to look like World War 1 soldiers.
In the end they all took their ideas and objects and added them to our trench warfare scene which you will see in the video at the end of the post. What is not in the video are the QR codes that are the board. If you scan a code you will listen to a soldier tell you a little about what it was like to be in the trenches. Some of those voices you will here in the video. They were written by the students.
When you see the final product you have to redefine what success looks like. This might not look as grand as what your class might produce, it might have more mistakes, and it might need more editing, but in the end what was completed was an amazing product for my kids. There is no way I would have thought this was possible when we started in September.
Here is the video we made with our objects. The sound effects in the background were make from scratch, and the German class from the high school helped us out with the shouting soldiers in the background 🙂
The opening shows the kids making, at 2:20ish the content kicks in.
More assessment ideas can be found here!