Cardboard Furniture Design


I’ve been thinking recently about sustainable furniture design for classrooms. My colleagues and I have been speaking about different ways we can disrupt the classroom furniture market, making pieces that are fully customizable, affordable, and adjustable to fit the individual needs of each student. What we came up with was Cardboard Spark, a program that encourages teachers to allow their students to build their own classroom using simple templates and designs. The GIF above shows examples of the types of furniture students could create in this program, and some possible layouts.

Is your classroom meeting the needs of all of your students? How will you rethink your classroom design?


Structuring Feedback


Having students give feedback in a classroom setting can be tricky. It is extremely important to frame feedback sessions with reminders about respect and helpfulness, and it is often helpful to provide your students with a framework. In our afterschool program, we use “I like, I wish, what if,” a method developed by the Stanford dschool. What feedback methods do you use in your classroom? Have you found them to be effective?

Homopolar Motor Lesson Ideas

Have your students make homopolar motors!

A homopolar motor is a simple motor that can be built using only copper wire, neodymium magnets, and a AA battery!

Materials: 16 gauge copper wire, AA battery, Two 1/2 inch round by 1/8 inch tall neodymium magnets

How it works: The copper wire is a conductor. When a conductor with a current running through it is exposed to a magnetic field, the conductor feels a force upon it that causes it to spin. This force is called the Lorentz force. In order for these motors to work, the magnets must be attached to the negative side of the batteries and the copper wire must have one end loosely wrapped around the magnets without touching the floor or the battery and the other end balanced on the positive end of the magnet. Once you have that part set, you can make all kinds of different designs with the wire.

Have students explore making different kinds of homopolar motors.

Take the lesson one step further by making homopolar motor thaumatropes!

Thaumatropes were simple toys popular in the 1800s that consisted of discs with images on each side that could be spun to create the illusion of the two images blending into one.

Your students can create their own thaumatropes by attaching drawings to the top of their homopolar motors.

I made these templates out of some scrap wood and a few nails to help my students bend the wire.

Have students use a template or work freehand to bend their wires so that the middle touches the positive side of the battery and the two ends wrap loosely around the magnets.

Draw an image on either side of a small square of cardstock and gently tape that to the top of the wire in a way that doesn’t interfere with the motion.

Let your motor spin and watch your drawing become animated!


Creating a makerspace on a budget

Check out this article on creating a makerspace on a budget. This is a great resource for those of you entering schools that may not have easy access to funding.

How to stock your makerspace for 100 bucks or less

“The maker movement is about more than technology.” -Ryan Hunt

I especially love his warnings about kits. While they can be very convenient, it is almost always cheaper to buy the component parts individually. I also find that in the Thingspace, pieces get pilfered from kits for other projects, or lost, rendering the kit fairly useless. I went through all our kits this year and separated and sorted out the component pieces so they could be used for more creative projects. I did keep the idea books and instructions though, and they are always available to borrow if you need inspiration.