Category Archives: Make

Computer Camp Wrap Up

What a week for Build Your Own Computer Camp! We learned that working with computers can be challenging, but that the maneuvers we can make with our own machines can be utterly rewarding, as well. Our campers had such an array of experience with programming and computing, and by the end of the week, we all advanced our understanding and abilities.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we accomplished during BYOC.

Monday: Assembling the Pi-Top & Introduction to the Using the Terminal

Tuesday: Modding Minecraft with Python & Rigging LEDs & Buttons to the Raspberry Pi

Wednesday: Snapping Photos & Videos with the PiCamera

Thursday: Individualized Projects for Scratch, Python, & Sonic Pi

Friday: Can You Hack It? Experimenting with Accessories for the Raspberry Pi

The most exciting day was Friday, when each camper chose from an array of Raspberry Pi accessories rated at three levels of difficulty. I was impressed that each camper was able to attach, program, and run at least one accessory on Friday.

On Friday, we also showcased an array of resources we could use to continue our learning of Python and Raspberry Pi. Below you’ll find a list resources we recommend as next steps.

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A screenshot of the Resources page at RaspberryPi.org

*The Raspberry Pi Foundation is the nonprofit organization that sells the Raspberry Pi, using the proceeds to further teaching and learning of computer science in the UK and throughout the world. Their website features a variety of tutorials and projects young learners can undertake with the Pi. We used parts of their tutorials on the PiCamera and Physical Computing during the camp. Some campers even rigged up a Parent Detector!

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*Adventures in Raspbery Pi, by Carrie Anne Philbin. Each camp participant received the companion kit to Philbin’s book, and we completed one full adventure and parts of several others during the course. One camper also made serious headway into the final adventure, the creation of a Raspberry Pi Jukebox. Since campers already have the supplies necessary to complete each of these adventures, and since the book itself is so user-friendly, it’s one that I would highly recommend.

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*Python for Kids, by Jason R. Briggs. For further learning in Python, this text is great for a variety of ages, and we’ve even found it perfect for adult learning, as well.

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*Adventures in Minecraft, by David Whale. Many of our campers loved tinkering around with MineCraft and code. Whale’s new book on programming for Minecraft is a great resource. Pimoroni also sells a kit that supplies all the parts needed to complete these adventures, although our campers already have many of the parts necessary for the book’s projects, and several of the projects need no parts at all.

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*MagPi Magazine is the official publication of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and each month’s issues provides project examples and tutorials for Rasberry Pi users of all levels. MagPi also produces MagPi Essentials, which are short chapterbooks focused on particular Raspberry Pi features, such as Code Music with Sonic Pi or Learn to Code with Scratch. Their website also features a variety of tutorials.

*PythonRoom, CodeAcademy, and Treehouse are all great digital resources for learning to program in Python and other language. Our preferred resource is Treehouse, although PythonRoom and CodeAcademy are free, and they are even more supportive for younger learners.

Any questions about Raspberry Pi, Build Your Own Computer Camp, or resources to extend your learning in Computer Science? Drop the library team a line and we will be more than happy to support where we can.

 

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Build Your Own Computer!

For some time, the AWS Library Team has been smitten with physical computing, a mode of computer science that looks to leverage computers to change our tangible world. We love computer aided gardens that only water when the weather forecast doesn’t show rain. Or embedded devices that send text messages of images when wildlife appears. We also love these ideas have never been easier (and less expensive) to create. In the past, the world of computer science can seem oblique, unwelcoming, or inaccessible, but our ability to access and express our voices in this world is rapidly increasing.

This summer, the AWS Library Team is sharing our love for physical computing by offering a specialty course through Annie Wright’s Camp Wright during the second week of August in our Build Your Own Computer Camp. Any student entering grades 4 through 8 are welcome to enroll.

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During the course, we’ll provide our day by day curriculum. In the meantime, check out the supply list that forms the foundation for what’ll be a great foray into physical computing for the 11 campers we have enrolled.

Pi-Top CEED (with Raspberry Pi & Pi-Top Proto)

A Wireless Keyboard & Trackpad

Companion Parts Pack for Adventures in Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Camera

PIR (motion) Sensor

Pi Cobbler

 

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Picademy & Raspberry Jam! A Journey into Connected Learning

Over the past few months, you might have stopped by the library and seen me fiddling with the following:

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A sound sensitive bulletin board. When finished, each letter should light up at 3 second intervals, so long as there’s little to no noise in the vicinity. If there’s noise? The lights will cut out, and the timer will begin again.

And for the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not *yet* finished with my sound sensitive library sign. For someone who has no experience with electrical engineering, programming or, frankly, making bulletin boards, this stuff is tough!

But it’s also a blast, and throughout the process of researching and developing this sign, I’ve discovered entire communities who create, make, hack, develop, and share knowledge around microprocessors, tiny computers that can control electronics.

While I’ve written about Connected Learning here before, the impact of diving into such communities has never felt more visceral, especially given my relative ignorance at the start of this process.

Again and again, I’m reminded: learning has never been easier. There are communities and collaborators both locally and globally willing to help us learn in one way or another.

So, my sign is controlled by an Arduino, but my learning journey with these internet communities led to me to a device that I feel has even more potential: Raspberry Pi.

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Plug in a power source, keyboard, mouse, television, and SD card, and you have yourself a fully capable home computer.

A UK Charitable Foundation, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission is to accelerate learning in computer science in the UK and throughout the world. They fund their educational efforts by selling a $35 computer called, well, a Raspberry Pi. The Foundation then turns around and creates learning resources and educational experiences for students.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation also puts on Picademy, a free professional development opportunity for teachers. While there have been numerous Picademys based in the UK, last March featured the first ever Picademy USA, hosted by the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

I applied, and I was grateful to be awarded a coveted spot. I was also lucky enough to receive travel support from AWS to be able to attend the event.

And what an event it was.

My journey with Arduino taught me the power and possibility of ‘physical computing,’ where we use the tools of the digital world to impact the physical world. An example of this might be my READ sign, but there are many, more sophisticated uses of physical computing. These range from equipping clothes with lights, speakers and sensors that respond to a wearer’s movements, to, well, self-driving cars.

But Picademy? It showed me even greater potential for such work. Not only will Raspberry Pi operate as a computer, but its price and features has accelerated my ability to think about turning anything into a computer. My garden? Let’s get a moisture sensor and automate its watering cycle. My bicycle? Let’s have it send me text messages if anyone nudges it (or, at worst, steals it!). My library? Let’s take something I gleaned from our visit to MKThink and use motion sensors and digital trip wires to see how displays, furniture rearrangements, and other changes might cause patrons to increase or behave differently (This is also why WeWork’s presence is skyrocketing!).

Most importantly, Picademy taught me just how amazing forays into physical computing can be for kids. After all, the software in a $35 computer can be easily changed, hacked, and even broken, but since the operating system lives in a micro-SD card (just like you put into your digital camera), the Raspberry Pi can easily be fixed. Plus, there are so many cool projects for young learners to undertake, like this Parent Detector!

While attending Picademy, I learned how to program my Pi so that an accelerator to change an image on an LED screen:

And how to connect the Pi to switches and lights:

And, I learned a variety of different teaching and instructional strategies to get others interested and engaged in physical computing. I left the weekend officially titled a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator:

And I also met so many incredible, experienced, and thoughtful educators dedicated to helping kids learn computer science, so much so that I left the weekend emboldened to learn more. Thank you, Matt, Phillip, Carrie Anne, Ben, Marc, David, and Courtney, and James for the experience.

Next up?

Raspberry Pi is best controlled through the programming language, Python, so I’m taking on the modules served up by Treehouse, which I highly recommend.

I’m diving into the Pibrary Project, an incredible resource around how libraries are using Raspberry Pi with their patrons and in their own operations.

And, I’m planning to teach kids physical computing and how to use Raspberry Pi during my Build Your Own Computer Club this summer at Camp Wright.

Even more immediately, I’m unearthing a great local community of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts. On April 10, Tacoma’s FabLab has graciously agreed to host an informal gathering of Pi users called a Raspberry Jam:

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In the process of reaching out to potential sponsors for the event, the folks at the Pi Foundation pointed me towards C4Labs, a Tacoma based (!) group at the forefront of manufacturing cases for the Raspberry Pi:

 

Dustin, their owner, has agreed to sponsor, and he seems as equally passionate about sharing his work with younger learners, as well.

All this so exciting, not just for unlocking the potential for physical computing and Raspberry Pi in my life or for kids at AWS, but even more so for the energy and zeal involved in discovering new communities and learning the ropes.

Coding and computer science is hot, for sure, but I’m even more so struck by the impact of connected learning. Several months ago, I had met with Cynthia Tee, Executive Director of Seattle’s Ada Developer’s Academy,  and she echoed this sentiment, telling me that the most promising employees aren’t the ones who know x, y, or z, but the most exciting employees are the ones who are willing to learn how to navigate any system, or, the ones who are willing to open to learn how to learn new tools or use new knowledge

And the Raspberry Pi, among many other options, provides such and wonderful computing playground and a vast, supportive community to do just that.

On that note, check out one more of the Pi’s incredibly capabilities, in this TEDxNewcastle presentation by Sam Aaron:

So cool.

 

 

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Low-Definition, High-Definition, & Re-Definition: Constellating Stars Along I-280

Among the many hobbies we here in the Library & Learning Commons share, tracking shifts and evolutions in the landscape of education is one of our favorites, and Twitter serves as our central hub to peer into these developments throughout the world. Given the medium’s frenetic pace, we often feel situated in a camera obscura, catching emerging shapes and moving figures without much chance for the fullest clarity, so any opportunity to get on the ground in one of the most exciting environments for education is an opportunity for a high-fidelity view.

This past week marked the second occasion we have sent a team of educators down to The Nueva School’s Innovative Learning Conference. We’re incredibly fortunate that Annie Wright commits to immerse its educators in the zeitgeist shared by so many in the Bay Area. Worldwide, there is no higher concentration of people and organizations committed to transformation outside of the I-280 corridor. Even as whispers of another tech bubble continue their crescendo, it’s almost impossible to imagine that area becoming unseated from its dominant position. That place, like no other, has built itself on learning, and such learning will ignite rapid resurrection. Excess capital might take a sabbatical, but it will always return to this environment’s infrastructure of fervent thought.

We see this learning in major Silicon Valley tech firms, start-up incubators, world-class universities, and, for our purposes, the many schools committed to honing best practice in progressive education.

Aside from the conference itself, our trip featured visits to The Hillbrook School, Stanford’s d.school, and MKThink. The learning spaces of these places are so easily alluring.

Hillbrook has its I-Lab.

The d.school is the gold standard for formal education’s move to make space for critical collaboration and creative thought.

MKThink holds incredible expertise in shaping such spaces, and their own headquarters features a makerspace and small collaborative hot seats within a historic roundhouse that sits along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

Round out our Thursday visits to these three organizations with a Friday dedicated to orbiting around the Nueva School’s triple threat of i-Labs, and we received a front seat to education’s most interesting furnishings and technology features.

We can easily depart SFO with airline napkins and hotel stationery filled with scribbled blueprints and quite a set of shopping lists. But to do so would be to miss the Bay Area’s most important lesson: transformation occurs by examining the ecosystem of evolution, not its tools. Not the makerspaces. Or the sticky notes. Or the furniture. Or iPads. LCD screens. Dream Director position descriptions. Centers for Teaching Excellence. Service learning projects. Internal start-ups. Online classes. Global education. Coding. STEM/STEAM/STEAMS/SHTEAM. Makerspaces. Group process toolkits. Meditation techniques. Assessment practices. Pedagogical approaches. Even delicious salads served at school lunch. Design Thinking as a proper noun. All and all and all: the tools and deliverables so easily seen from the camera obscura. It’s wonderful to realize the expanse of tools at our disposal, but what might we put them in the service of?

What constellates Hillbrook, the d.school, MKThink, and Nueva among the many, many stars along I-280 are their commitments to modes of thought that shape their learning ecosystems, ecosystems that are poised to evolve exponentially and infinitely.

Hillbrook was an early adopter of 1:1 iPads. This enabled the school to transform their computer lab into the iLab. The school performed in-house research on how the iLab affected learning outcomes, and this research motivated educators in Hillbrook’s community to adopt the features of the iLab in individual classrooms. The iLab has since morphed into a makerspace. This makerspace will soon move to a yet unbuilt hub at the center of their campus. Their engine of further evolution is fueled by an in-house researcher and a teacher in residence program that will continue to measure the impact of their prototypes and prepare their community for whatever they choose to scale out next.

We can take Hillbrook’s shopping list and their how-to guide. What’s more challenging, and what I-280 does so well, is maintaining thoughts on higher aspirations with each incremental shift and assuring each development arrives with contrails that ask everyone to interrogate how that development might impact the next step, even if that next step has yet to be imagined.

The d.school advocates and educates towards mindsets and practices that enable organizations and individuals to navigate their evolutions with the intellectual elegance that is on display in ecosystems like Hillbrook’s. Stanford empowers professional and personal transformation, launching those that connect with their mode of design thinking well into the future.

MKThink is increasingly involved in constructing conceptual frameworks for identifying problems within problems and quantifying the impact of solutions in order to ignite continual iteration.

Nueva showcases standing evidence of a school very experienced in such evolutions, and their decision to expand into educating high schoolers displays their evolving savvy in thinking towards these next steps.

This year’s lineup of speakers and workshops at the Innovative Learning Conference also presented such maturity. Almost every presentation we attended focused on the process of evolution. Here is how we aligned a community around a set of values. Here are the many levers we have at our fingertips to drive us towards fulfilling those values. Here is how we measure our effectiveness. Here is how our measurements motivated pivots along the way. Here is the ecosystem we created. Take it in. We’re set to evolve.

But don’t copy us or our direction—it’s truly about the messy work of developing the ecosystem that will sustain your community’s values, not ours.

Umberto Boccioni: “The City Rises”

All in all, It’s easy to get wrapped up in the aggressive futurism embedded throughout I-280. Credos abound:

At its face, we might easily be turned off by such aggression that harkens back to F.T. Marinetti and Company:

“Do you, then, wish to waste all your best powers in this eternal and futile worship of the past, from which you emerge fatally exhausted, shrunken, beaten down?”

We know the environment is also competitive and cutthroat, and extremely problematic are issues of race and class, which also makes the Bay Area a central node for both social innovation and social unrest to the extent of outright riot (ex 1., ex. 2.).

We can also point towards other stars outside of the valley, from the transformative Mount Vernon and Shattuck St. Mary’s to the upstart Iowa BIG, Watershed, Big Picture Learning, Nuvu Studio, the latter allowed the luxury of developing an ecosystem from scratch.

But it’s the thoughtfulness, warmth, and calculated elegance with which organizations dedicated to learning employ empathy driven design thinking and lean methodology to engage in the messy process of transforming ecosystems along I-280 that makes a visit there so thrilling, as the area offers such a concentration of schools and school partners prepared shape the continued brilliance of the Bay Area for years to come.

Thanks to community members at the Hillbrook School for the warm welcome, Durell Coleman of DCDesign for an engaging tour of the d.school, Signo Uddenberg for exposure to MKThink and its work, and everyone who worked so hard to put together the Innovative Learning Conference at Nueva. And thanks to Annie Wright for dedicating the time and resources to make this experience happen.

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The Summer in Library

With August upon us, the Library & Learning Commons is preparing for another great year for the Annie Wright community. Throughout the summer, we have been continuing to evolve our space to best suit our patrons and the role our space plays within school life.

For all the library fans out there, here are few updates regarding the projects we’re rushing to complete for the start of the year.

Named for Albert Sutton, who was the architect of the Annie Wright Seminary and whose son John Sutton was the architect for the Library

Named for Albert Sutton, who was the architect of the Annie Wright Seminary and whose son John Sutton was the architect for the Library

The Sutton Room

As a space for both our library archives and community connections, the Sutton Room already holds the most historic books in our school collection. As we have transitioned this space into an archival center, we have decided to integrate our Reference collection into the main library, and we have been re-cataloging, re-labeling, and moving these items throughout the summer months. This should create enough shelf space to hold one or two of our historic periodicals. We hold over 100 years of National Geographic and many decades of Life Magazine elsewhere in the building.

Additionally, we will complete our installation of the teleconference equipment that helps make the Sutton Room a center for community engagement. Last year alone, we connected with alumni, task force members, and other schools on 15 occasions, and we hope to demonstrate how we might open school walls from this space in our learning commons.

Wayfinding

This summer, our 3D printer has been bustling with letters that we’ll use for signage throughout the library space. As a library that teaches information literacy, we really struggle with nailing down wayfinding philosophy: how easy should we make book finding experience for students? Ultimately, we have decided to take a few steps to label sections, and we think the 3D printed letters will look rather spiffy on the library walls.
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The Sound-Sensitive Bulletin Board!

Ok! That video above may not look as awesome as it will in a few weeks, but it’s shaping up to be pretty cool. Over the last few months, the Library Team have been teaching ourselves Arduino (click here for a quick introduction). When our bulletin board is up and running, we’ll have a sign that spells “READ” outside our library doors. If the hallway is relatively quiet for 3 seconds, the ‘R’ will light up. 3 more seconds? The ‘E.’ 3 more the ‘A,’ and 3 more the ‘D.’ If any noise occurs during that sequence, the sign will go dark and start counting again!

We aren’t necessarily fans of quiet libraries, but we thought this would be a cool way to showcase what one can do with a little coding, electrical engineering, and creativity.

And more! 

Besides those items, we’ve spent the summer developing curricula, planning acquisitions, sifting through archives, and making plans for minor Maker activities throughout the year. This school year’s going to be something else, and we’re excited to see the halls filled with learners so soon!

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2015 Lower School Summer Reading Recommendations!

Dear AWS Parents and Community Members,

Summer presents itself with such wonderful opportunities for informal reading and learning. Our children have more chances to freely dive into the topics, activities, and stories that do not always fit into the hectic pace of school life. What follows is a list of non-required reading recommendations that I hope will capture the interests and imaginations for our rising Preschool through Fifth Grade students.

Many of these will serve as perfect launchpads for a summer flush with learning, creation, and imagination. I hope you consider sharing these stories with your children through read alouds and conversations, as this is one of the most proven ways for parents to encourage academic success in children of all ages. Each title also presents opportunity for an accompanying activity, whether our young readers write a sequel, invent new stories with the same theme, or tackle a project that may have been presented within the narrative.

For more reading recommendations and techniques, you may consider Jim Trelease’s The Read Aloud Handbook or Diane F. Frankenstein’s Reading Together. We have copies of these in our library should you wish to check them out this summer.

Likewise, you may be interested in pursuing guides like UnBored: the Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun and Tinkerlab: A Hands On Guide for Little Inventors. These are flush with ideas for summer projects you may like to explore with your child, the projects will surely spark new interests and develop invaluable skills.

Additionally, there are many summer reading events and activities planned at our local public libraries, and they themselves are great resources for reading recommendations, as well. Here are links to the children’s programming for several local libraries:

Tacoma Public Library

Pierce County Public Library

Kitsap Regional Library

Timberland Regional Library

If you have any questions regarding reading opportunities, suggestions, or activities, never hesitate to e-mail us: library@aw.org.

Thanks for a great year of reading and learning. We’ll be excited to reopen the library in August.

All the best,

Joe Romano

Library Media Specialist

Reading Lists for Rising Grade Levels

Preschool and PreKindergarten

Kindergarten

First Grade

Second Grade

Third Grade

Fourth Grade

Fifth Grade

A note on these lists:

When available, we have provided links to the e-book editions of our summer reading recommendations, as many of them are available through Overdrive, our digital lending service. You can access these titles through your home computer, an e-reader, a tablet device like the iPad or the Kindle Fire, or even your smartphone. Click here to learn how your device can access our e-reading services. During this process, you will be prompted to enter your student’s username and password. This username and password are both your student’s AWS ID number. If you need assistance in accessing OverDrive, please visit our library or send along an e-mail, and we are more than happy to help.
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Design Thinking on PBS

Design Thinking in Education is one of the most exciting derivatives of inquiry-based learning (click here for our previous explanation or here for material more thorough). In this process, learners are presented with a challenge (“How Might We Make the Library Conducive for Reading?”) before starting in on a process of empathy (“What can I learn about library users?”), problem identification (“What is really preventing the library from offering better reading spaces?”), ideating problem solutions, and creating prototypes.

The Design Thinking Process Cycle used by Stanford’s dschool. Click the image to learn more about how the dschool works.

The Design Thinking model can be applied to almost any tasks. Want to make the lunch room experience even more effective? Want to re-think the gift giving process in your family? Feel like thinking how World War I could have ended differently or what is really causing a novel’s character to react so vehemently?

As an inquiry cycle, Design Thinking is particularly unique is its focus on empathizing with a particular user and its dedication to problem identification (as opposed to just problem solving). It’s also one of the few inquiry cycles in education that’s also used by businesses (although their resources to do research and user interviews are much greater).

If you’re interested in seeing Design Thinking in action, check out this week’s PBS airing of Extreme by Design, as it offers one example of the many ways Design Thinking is being used in education today. Click here for more information, or check out the above video for a preview of the film.

Even though the episode is set to air on Wednesday, December 11th, it will be available online for two weeks after the initial showing.

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Passion Projects & 3D Printing

In our Upper School, we strive to motivate our students to pursue what interests them most. We provide a robust activities program which includes Debate, Yearbook, Film, and Student Newspaper, among others, and we also provide a program called The Passion Projects. In this year-long program, 9th graders are exposed to a range of areas they may develop passions in, and 10th graders are given time and space to pursue their own self-created passion projects.

This week, a Blue Tie named Soojin came to the library to work on one of her passions: creating artifacts that relate to the Harry Potter series. She had spent 4 hours designing two items, which she describes in the project description she sent along:

For my passion project, I’m creating a couple props from Harry Potter as well as Harry Potter inspired crafts. As part of that, I designed a deathly hallows necklace charm and an alohomora key. The deathly hallows necklace is going to be painted silver to imitate Xenophilius Lovegood’s necklace in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The key has the word ‘Alohomora’ on it, which is a well-known spell that unlocks doors.

Two early prototypes from Soojin's designs. We're still working out how to avoid the scraggly edges.

Two early prototypes from Soojin’s designs. We’re still working out how to avoid the scraggly edges.

The print itself was rather wonderful. Soojin and I were monitoring the Makerbot while several Day School students, a faculty member, and a student’s grandfather also watched the items print (from a safe distance, of course). Soojin has a few kinks to work out of the actual design, but she’s off to a great start. All from a student who taught herself how to use the software!

If you’re interested in designing items to print on our 3D printer, check out TinkerCAD. While not the most complete 3D rendering software package, it’s easily one of the speediest to learn, with several tutorials that walk you through a design process. Once you’ve created your 3D design, stop on by the library, and I’ll show you the next few steps to get your material printed.

And finally, the library team wants to express complete appreciation to the Annie Wright Schools Parents’ Association, as they were incredible generous in providing the funds for a 3D printer, the MakerBOT Replicator 2. Technology Manager Eric Shandrow and I spent the spring calibrating the machine, and we wheeled it up to its home in the library at the start of this school year. Now, it’s here for all students to enjoy. Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t ask me about how to use the printer!

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Libraries as Spaces to Meet & Make

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Beyond being storehouses for books, periodicals, and databases, libraries have long served as social centers where groups can gather to develop ideas, share common experiences, and play.

This year, the AWS Upper School is focusing on how play might complement the strong academic performance that has always been within their school culture. As apart of the orientation, Dean of Students Annie Green and I hosted an exercise in collaboration and play, where teams of upper school students built towers and talismans out of balloons and other office supplies and materials.

ImageIn the coming months, we will be looking for other avenues for inquiry and play in the library, especially given the long lunches the upper school students have this year. Already, girls are dreaming up possibilities for the 3D printer, and we have plans to set up an old sewing machine in a corner so patrons can sew smart phone pockets for their skirts.

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