Students take creativity to Makers Faire

Avalon Elementary students, from left, Will Grinage, Chris Neal, Grace Baldhauff, Felicity Dicken and Mia Rajakovick meet up for evening sessions to collaborate on projects of their own designs. They will be demonstrating some of those projects at the Pittsburgh Makers Faire at the Children’s Museum this Saturday. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

Community-based and independently-produced Maker Faires are happening all over the globe -- from India to Egypt to Greece -- and this weekend, in Pittsburgh, where students from both Northgate and Avonworth school districts will have the opportunity to display some of their recently-learned skills by demonstrating products of their own making.

Maker Faires were created by the publisher of "Make Magazine." They are gatherings of artists, inventors, designer, tinkerers, and do-it-yourselfers, all who exhibit, share and "make" or create things.

Students in fifth and sixth grades at Avalon Elementary are working under the direction of their teacher, Karen Klicker, as they create a watering system for plants as well as a model for an amusement park ride. They also are working on a "recycled music" project, using metal objects, and with water providing rhythm and tones.

All of their work requires their commitment to a two-hour extension of their school day.
Klicker said that the students keep a design notebook and that the work incorporates language arts, math, science and…"Everything! It's real. It's authentic. They are very dedicated and for the past 15 years, Northgate has been fully committed to hands-on science in the elementary grades.

Her maker teams agree.

"It's fun and it's creative. It's better than sitting around after school and playing computer games," Will Grimage said.

"We work well together when we are in a group. We get things done," Grace Baldhauff said.

Avonworth assistant superintendent Kenneth Lockette said that there have been mini-maker faires in Pittsburgh over the last few years, but this one will be full blown, with organizers expecting more than 10,000 people over the two days.

"For the Pittsburgh Maker Faire, Avonworth Elementary will have an active exhibit called 'Drawing Bots.' Teachers Maureen Frew and Scott Miller will lead parent and student volunteers in having faire-goers draw with refurbished devices that are battery powered," Lockette said.

Two of Frew's makers demonstrated their creation that combines colored markers, old CDs, and old battery-powered toothbrushes to create geometric art designs.

While the end product may appear to be simple, the creation process is multi-leveled.

"Collaboration, cooperation and communication are emphasized through project-based learning," Frew said. "This is authentic learning in action, and these skills are necessary to prepare an agile and competitive workforce. In this particular project, I am able to cover math, science and language arts while using the 3Cs."

Avonworth Middle School will have an exhibit of their seventh grade Idea & Design Lab course, where students create products. Middle school principal Mike Hall will be working with teachers Bill White and Gabrielle Swaney. Finally, Avonworth High School will have an exhibit of the Pittsburgh Galleries Project, with teachers Swaney, Kerri Villani, Jen Faingnaert and Lockette presenting.

Klicker spoke to the educational value of the maker process, no matter at which grade level.
"Working on projects the students themselves created, designed and collaborated to produce is as important as the final products themselves."

Activities will be centered at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct.10.