Collaboration and Co-Critique

Collaboration and Co-Critique

A Picture of Practice by 2017-2018 Agency by Design Teacher Fellow Monique Parrish

Monique Parrish is a 3rd grade teacher at Grass Valley Elementary School in Oakland. As part of her inquiry over the course of her fellowship, Monique wanted to learn how to enable a more engaged classroom where students supported and learned from one another, not just from her. 


In Room 2, students are constantly moving about and are having many interactions throughout the day. My goal this year was to make the interactions more self directed, positive, engaging, helpful, supportive, diverse, and insightful. To support my goal, I decided to do an inquiry on collaboration and co-critique.

Inquiry Question:  How can students collaborate and co-critique without teacher intervention, to achieve the learning goal for the group task?

In creating a culture of collaboration and co-critique in my classroom, I used various techniques and strategies to promote collaboration. I used Roles to promote collaboration during group work, and I also used collaboration surveys to help determine how students best work together. 


I also used team building games. Together we discussed 'What is Team Work?' and came up with the following list: 

  • Working on things we need to focus on

  • Working hard to help each other and figure out stuff as team

  • Help your partner build

And we also played many team building games:

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors Showdown- The students partner and play rock,paper,scissors. the winner goes on to challenge another player and the other partner becomes the winner’s cheering fan. This continues until there is one winner and the entire class is cheering for them. After the game we had a discussion about what went well and not so well. 
  • 1,2,3- The students partner and alternate saying the number 1,2,3. 


I really wanted my students to be able to give meaningful, helpful, and deliberate feedback that would support their peers in refining their work. Therefore, I implemented a protocol for co-critique, which I discovered in the book “Visible Learners Promoting Reggio-inspired Approaches in All Schools,”  By Mara Krechevsky, Ben Mardell, Melissa Rivard and Daniel Wilson

Critique Center (Looking, Noticing, Listening, Wondering, Inspiring) 
Learners were asked to share their work with their peers and receive feedback to inspire ideas.
Students were taught to give feedback that is specific, (exact), kind, and helpful

1.   Looking- looking quietly at the work being presented

2.   Noticing- This is the time to talk about noticings. What

do you notice? I notice that…………… I see that………………

3.   Listening- The presenter will discuss their work

4.   Wondering- What do you wonder about the work?

      How did you…………..

      What did you………….

      I wonder why………….

5. Inspiring- friendly ideas to help improve or finish work

TakeAways: I learned that teaching kids to collaborate and co-critique can be a big task that has a lot of moving parts. Student need to be presented with many opportunities to collaborate and teaching collaboration is strategic. If you can put protocols in place, feedback can be very helpful and productive. I learned that not every student enjoys group work, but most students felt that they got along with their peers in a group (despite me observing disagreements). I also observed differences in attitudes towards collaboration depending on the task. I loved the fact that overwhelmingly, when the students were asked how they would solve a problem, they would ask their group for help, or have them apologize to each other. 

Questions I still have: How do I make accommodations for students who would prefer to work alone or with the teacher? What does fully implemented collaboration look like?


"I believe that Making can bring out the best in students and make learning fun. When they're making students learn a variety of skills (social, creativity, and academic), students are vested in what they are making (because it's their project), and it's engaging."

Monique Parrish
Third Grade Teacher, Grass Valley Elementary School, OUSD

Monique Parrish is an educator in Oakland Public Schools, and is currently a third grade teacher at Grass Valley Elementary. She has lived in Oakland most of her life, and is herself a product of Oakland Public Schools. Monique is a married mother of three (two adults and a teenager), and enjoys art, teaching, eating, and cooking.

Integrating Making Across Curriculum

Integrating Making Across The Curriculum

Picture of Practice by Agency by Design Oakland 2017-2018 Teacher Fellows Gabi Lapointe and Annika McPeek

Gabi Lapointe and Annika McPeek are teachers at Hoover Elementary School in West Oakland. As part of their fellowship year with Agency by Design Oakland, Gabi and Annika worked together to integrate maker-centered learning into existing structures at their school.


Our school, Hoover Elementary, is undergoing a redesign to restructure the way we “do school.” One component of this redesign is a STEAM Lab. The current vision for STEAM Lab is the integration of literacy and a content area. Our hope was also that STEAM Lab could be a place where maker-centered learning will live. Our school does not currently have a maker space in place, nor does it have any making teachers, so the driving force motivating our project was to gain a better understanding of how we might incorporate making into content area curriculum, in order to supplement and support student learning. Our driving question for our inquiry work was: How can a maker-centered learning project provide a complementary and culminating experience to an integrated unit of study?


Our integration of reading, writing, and social studies with the FOSS (Full Option Science System) science curriculum was driven by standards. We focused on creating a culminating task that would provide students an opportunity to collect information from research and show their understanding in a final project. They would also require information from the “Pebbles Sand and Silt” FOSS unit to understand the relationship between materials and their properties. Creating notecards for their final presentation was a writing task for students to synthesize information gained from multiple sources. See the bottom of the post for the standards we were trying to hit in this unit. 

Students read and took notes on informational texts in order to learn about the structures people lived in long ago. After a whole-group activity that introduced students to the Parts, Purposes, and Complexities Thinking Routine (PPC), students used a PPC approach to organize their notes. They used information gathered from reading to analyze the properties of those materials (parts) and why they were used (purpose), in order to create effective structures. Students then worked in groups to choose materials, based on properties congruous with their purpose, to design and build structures demonstrating understanding of the houses they learned about. They were given an opportunity to share their finished products with a class of kindergarten students.

Essential Understandings
Our culminating project required students to use knowledge of social studies and material properties to design and create a structure based on their research. Components of design thinking and Agency by Design strategies showed up in our project through encouraging group work and collaboration, the Parts, Purposes, and Complexities (PPC) Thinking Routine, and our observations of student ownership.

Students had access to information about different native tribes of California and the communities they lived in. They used texts we supplied from the public libraries, as well as their own knowledge of materials and properties, learned through the FOSS Science curriculum. These resources were the background knowledge they used to design structures from appropriate materials that would model the houses they researched.

  “Parts” Diagram of the Ohlone Tule Reed Homes

“Parts” Diagram of the Ohlone Tule Reed Homes

Our unit integrated science and social studies 2nd grade state standards. Our goal was that students would use what they learned through the FOSS curriculum and through research on different indigenous groups to understand that native people of North America built structures using materials around them. In addition, the materials used served specific purposes for these structures.

During the Parts Purposes and Complexities thinking routine students analyzed the materials available to native tribes and investigated the purpose each material served in their structure. Students then used this knowledge to plan their own structures to emulate the structures they had researched. The PPC thinking routine was a common thread throughout the research, building, and presentation phases of this process. It helped guide students in their thinking of what was really important when reading texts, designing their structure, and building their structure.

Thinking routines established an approach to examining a topic and provided a scaffold through which our students could approach their structures. They helped to narrow the focus to what was really important in this unit: people choose certain materials to build with because of the properties the materials exhibit. Consistently exposing our students to the schema provided by the PPC routine helped tether our second graders to the task of constructing a structure based on research, particularly when it was tempting to embellish or decorate without purpose.


Culminating Presentation
Students worked in groups to document and reflect on the process of building structures, and then prepared presentations to teach a class of kindergarteners what they learned. The opportunity to teach others and share a final product was a great experience for both the kindergartners and the second graders.

Student Reflection and Synthesis of Learning
Students were asked a few questions to support them in reflecting on their work, and in pulling out the important information they were going to share with the kindergarten class. They were asked to provide basic information about the people they studied, and also to discuss the relationship between the parts and purposes for the houses they studied, and the structures they built with their group.

Question 1: Introduce the group you studied: 


Question 2: Parts and Purposes
Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between materials used and why they are used in their reflection. They could list properties of materials that relate to why those materials were good for building their structure. In addition, some groups were able to relate these properties to an understanding that the environment shapes the way these houses were built as well (“...bark which was insulating to keep them warm in the winter.”)


Question 3: Parts and Purposes of the structure students built
During their presentations, our students showed a sense of pride and ownership for their groups and for their structures. The opportunity to present and act as an expert on something helped our students see themselves as builders and makers. The chance to teach someone else something was an experience that allowed our students to see themselves as having something to contribute and share with our community.


Take Aways: What We Learned and Next Steps
Thinking routines help focus learning and organize student thinking. However, it is not only a valuable tool for the student. We found that the use of a thinking routine helps teachers assess student understanding as well. Thinking routines provide a structure which we felt supported our ability to pinpoint misunderstandings or gaps in knowledge. We would like to continue using thinking routines with consistency to support students’ development of critical thinking

Introducing and Implementing maker-centered learning in a classroom
Go slow! Because of the nature of our inquiry, we felt the pressure to implement a myriad of strategies and new challenges for our students all at once. Next year, we would like to be able to have a more gradual roll out of maker-centered learning in our classrooms to focus on instilling making mindsets and building agency and collaboration skills. In addition, we would like to have consistent implementation of design challenges and projects throughout the year to help students build their own sense of agency and identity as makers.

For our students, one really big goal we have is to support them in learning interpersonal and relational skills that will ensure they succeed in communicating and solving problems effectively with peers. We feel that a lot of the Agency by Design strategies and mindsets complement this goal. Having their own structure and group, they became “experts” on a certain group of people. This helped build a sense of ownership for their project and for the process they went through. In addition, students presented to the kindergarteners with a lot of pride and took on the role of teachers when they shared their projects. Looking to next year, we would like to encourage teachers at our school to allow more group work and projects that allow students to present and share their knowledge with others.


"I believe it is incredibly important to teach children to be problem-solvers and sense-makers in their own rights. I hope for my students to see that they can not only be students, but be teacher as well, and that they have agency in their lifelong careers as learners. Equally as important, I want my students to see that learning can be fun!"

-Gabi Lapointe
Second Grade Teacher, Hoover Elementary School, OUSD

Maria Lapointe is a second-year teacher at Hoover Elementary. She is currently teaching second grade, but in the process of a redesign at the school, she is the STEAM (STEM plus art) teacher for both 1st and 2nd grades. Maria is also a trainer in GLAD strategies, which is an organization that brings professional development in the area of language acquisition and literacy. She is very interested in developing her experience and ability to teach in meaningful ways that are flexible, academically rigorous, and conducive to student ownership and creativity.


"When my students engage in maker-centered learning, I observe them becoming dedicated to their learning in ways I don't see regularly. They light up with the joy of their ownership over their project in a way every child deserves." 

Annika McPeek
Science and Engineering Teacher, Hoover Elementary School, OUSD

Annika McPeek teaches science and engineering at Hoover Elementary in grades K-2 and is also the Lead Science Teacher and support STEAM instructor for K-5. She grew up going to a school where learning was through making, and she continued to engage in making throughout her life. Once she received her teaching credential, she was thrilled to find a job at Hoover Elementary as their engineering prep teacher. Over the past three years her role has developed to include making in her classes, and supporting STEAM integrated into regular classroom instruction.

Social Studies
-2.1 Students differentiate between things that happened long ago and things that happened yesterday.

- 2-PS1-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties. [Clarification Statement: Observations could include color, texture, hardness, and flexibility. Patterns could include the similar properties that different materials share.]
- 2-PS1-2. Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose. [Clarification Statement: Examples of properties could include, strength, flexibility, hardness, texture, and absorbency.]

Common Core State Standards- Writing
-W.2.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations).
-W.2.8 Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

Common Core State Standards- Reading
- RI.2.2 Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.
- RI.2.10 By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social  studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 2-3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
- R.I.2.5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.

Stop and Smell the Memes: Exploring the Values of an Evolving Generation

Stop and Smell the Memes: Exploring the Values of an Evolving Generation

A Digital Picture of Practice by Agency by Design Oakland 2017-2018 Teacher Fellow Sarah Chung

 Detail image "Currency Garden: Stop and Smell the Memes," Sarah Chung's documentation installation at Agency  by  Design Oakland's culminating event in May 2018.  

Detail image "Currency Garden: Stop and Smell the Memes," Sarah Chung's documentation installation at Agency by Design Oakland's culminating event in May 2018.  

When a 14-year-old is asked “What do you value? What is important to you?" a variety of responses is to be expected.  Common answers are, “My phone,” “Music and Memes," “Money and love,” but equally common responses are “nature and mental health,” “friendship,” and “loyalty.”  As a generation born into a world of social media, smartphones and apps, how do their values compare to yours?  

The installation “Currency Garden: Stop and Smell the Memes” is the representation of my inquiry into the values and motivations of post millennial youths.  If you were at the Agency by Design Oakland event, you would have seen laptops playing looped GIFs, nestled amongst plants and LEDs soldered to tree branches, as well as laser cut student quotes blooming amongst graphic designs of alternative “currency” notes that reflect what students personally value.  

 "Currency Garden: Stop and Smell the Memes," an Installation by Sarah Chung

"Currency Garden: Stop and Smell the Memes," an Installation by Sarah Chung

Through reflecting on my conversations with students and reviewing peer interviews and student surveys, I have gleaned that the group of youth I work with have evolved to develop their own unique language and culture networks employing the internet and existing social media platforms. Internet memes, GIFs, videos and vines are used as a way to connect with others. Many students share the sentiment that a really good meme or vine can elicit cathartic feelings of joy. One student told me that a good vine can provide a “fleeting moment of joy in an insane world.”  Another student said that they use memes as a “momentary escape or coping mechanism from “all the noise.” Their culture and use of media and technology (cultural capital) may seem foreign to someone of an earlier generation, but as educators, it is useful to be open minded and curious when co-developing a shared definition of “tech leadership.”  

One student told me that a good vine can provide a “fleeting moment of joy in an insane world.”  Another student said that they use memes as a “momentary escape or coping mechanism from “all the noise.”

I work with Code Next in East Oakland with 9th graders in an intensive weekend and after-school computer science program, with the mission to “cultivate the next generation of black and latino tech leaders.” In our program participants learn to code, learn about entrepreneurship, and are encouraged to recognize and exercise social capital.  I decided to use my participation in the Agency by Design Oakland Fellowship as an opportunity to analyze more closely what social and cultural capital means to this group of youth.  I was curious what students thought of the term, “tech leader.” I asked myself, how can I facilitate meaningful discussion of how they see themselves and where they want to go? It was important to me that they had confidence in what they personally value, and that they bring these values into an evolving definition “tech leadership.”  

I wanted to ensure that our curriculum made space for youth voices and feedback and that our curriculum and responsive teaching practices could fold their feedback into the design of consecutive learning experiences.  This led me to focus my Agency by Design work in redirecting authority and encouraging co-inspiration.

 Detail of "Currency Garden: Stop and Smell the Memes" by Sarah Chung

Detail of "Currency Garden: Stop and Smell the Memes" by Sarah Chung

What this looked like was weaving Agency by Design thinking routines into our curriculum.  I used thinking routines such as Parts, Purposes, Complexities and Parts, People and Interactions to analyze commonly used smartphone apps as well as various systems, such as US and international monetary systems.  Students looked closely and deconstructed app interfaces and experiences, as well as closely studying the details on currency. Both activities revealed a lot of information but more importantly, many open ended questions.  Following these critical deconstructions of apps and systems, students then ideated their own ideas of apps they would like to create and alternative currency designs that more closely represents people and ideas and values that motivate them.  


"Maker centered learning at its best allows for the individual to find the most interesting way to become who they are. Humans are by nature curious, and often our imposed systems don't allow for this to develop.  Direct experiences are the most impactful way humans learn."

-Sarah Chung
Head Coach, CodeNext Oakland

Sarah Chung is an artist and educator living in Oakland. She has a teaching degree in K-12 art education and has taught and designed curriculum for a variety of schools and after-school programs since 2006. Sarah is currently working as head coach for CodeNext, a high school after school and weekend programming and making intensive focused on bridging tech skills and mentorship opportunities to youth that are from historically black and latino neighborhoods. She enjoys the trans-disciplinary nature of learning and this has led her to a path of maker education. In addition to education, Sarah values community and is always trying to balance her own artistic practices with teaching and find that they often mirror and integrate.

Making and Un-making Memoir: A Downloadable & Interactive Zine

Making and Un-making Memoir: A Downloadable & Interactive Zine

A Picture of Practice by 2017-2018 Agency by Design Oakland Teacher Fellow Susan Wolf

Susan Wolf is faculty in the Integrated Learning Specialist Program at the Alameda County Office of Education. In her role she works with closely with Alliance Academy of Integrated Learning and Roots Academy, to infuse Arts Integration into core content areas. She just completed her second year as a Teacher Fellow with Agency by Design Oakland, and next year she will be a Senior Fellow and Coach on the leadership team. This past year she explored the complexities that inform our individual narratives, specifically in regards to our identities as makers. As part of this inquiry, Susan, an artist, created a zine called the Making and Un-Making Memoir that guides readers to explore their own identities as makers. Learn more about her inquiry below, and download a pdf of the zine to print. And don't miss Susan in August, when she presents these ideas at the Inventing our Future conference. 


What is your maker identity?

In the 2017-18 school year Susan explored the complexities that inform our individual narratives of who makes what why. She began by asking the questions: What are our histories, mechanisms, assets and experiences of making? Susan ultimately arrived at the conclusion that “to understand a maker’s identity is to tell a story, and knowing that story is the difference between dirt and soil.”  

Her research was influenced by the article Making Through the Lens of Culture and Power: Toward Transformative Visions for Educational Equity. This text, in combination with conversations with other educators in her maker identity inquiry group, fueled her desire to investigate her own lineage as a maker in an authentic way, including her privilege and position as a white cis female. 

After exploring and researching forms of making, and the lineage of her own "making and un-making," Susan was left with the dilemma of how to invite folks to think about their unique maker identity. She decided to create the Making and Un-Making zine as an interactive tool for anyone who would like to explore their maker identity. 

The simple questions asked within this zine are great as conversation starters. Not just for grown up parties but to learn about our students and their families. The limited space of each zine page is an invitation to begin what may become an ongoing curiosity about our lineage and who is making and unmaking the stuff in our lives. -Susan Wolf

download the Making and Un-Making zine here

The PDF is designed to be easily photocopied multiple times, on 11" x 17" paper, and then tested on your own or with students. You can find folding instructions here and here. To document your process, Susan has created a list of possibilities for how to use the zine: 

Try it over the summer so that you are ready to ask your students questions about their maker identity in the Fall: 
Voice Recording: I have been using voice memo on my phone to record thoughts that feel important. Try to describe one object that you have made or a family member has made and then post it on a soundcloud channel using a picture of the object.
Illustrations: Share what you have made by breaking it down into easy steps, then add sketches. Need examples of what this might look like? Visit this great project
Photo archive using social media: Instagram and twitter can be great tools for creating a thematic thread. Create a unique channel and anchor the post with text and #makeridentity.

To hear more about Susan's process, you can also listen to her Making and Un-Making Podcast Series.


"Making is a form of self care. It allows people to think about how things work and about how pieces fit together. This is revealed in layers of metaphor and metacognition. I am in love with the slow gestures of making that provide space for our thoughts to wander."

Susan Wolf
Faculty and Coach, Integrated Learning Specialist Program, ACOE

Susan Wolf is an arts integration coach working with teachers at two middle schools in West Oakland. She supports teachers in their fluency with Culturally Responsive Teaching practices and is always looking for the ways she can best support white educators to shift their understanding of their teaching methods to match the needs of their students. As a visual artist, her art practice and teaching practice frequently intersect. Her most frequently asked questions are: How do you know your students understand? What could you do differently to allow your students to follow their own inquiry?

Decolonizing STEMM

Decolonizing STEMM: An Ignite Talk by 2017-2018 Agency by Design Oakland Teacher Fellow Reina Cabezas


Reina Cabezas is a CTE Engineering Coach with the Oakland Unified School District. In her Ignite Talk, presented at Agency by Design Oakland's year-end event on Saturday, May 5, Reina focuses on decolonizing STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, & Making), and how she explored this idea with students. She then invites us to find the elders in our community in order to liberate indigenous STEMM practices, so that students can both know their history and innovate for the future.  

“I offer that liberating STEMM indigenous practices might be what we need to interrupt misguiding ourselves and misguiding our students.”

Watch Reina's inspiring Ignite Talk below!  And follow the #PictureofPractice hashtag to see more Ignite Talks and leadership from our 2017 - 2018 Teacher Fellows.   


"[Maker-centered learning] is inspiring, hands-on, and relevant to the world we interact with all day."

Reina Cabezas
CTE Engineering Coach, OUSD

Reina Cabezas has been an educator for ten years in Oakland and the Bay Area. She started out teaching 4th grade very traditionally, and later found technology, maker edu, fab labs, and engineering, which led to a way of teaching that inspired her. Reina is a mother of two teenage boys, and is herself a Xicana daughter and granddaughter of refugee parents from Central America who define what it means to "make" for her.   

Making it Routine: Parts, Purposes, & Complexities in a Middle School Making Class

Making it Routine: Parts, Purposes, & Complexities in a Middle School Making Class

A Picture of Practice, by Agency by Design Oakland Teaching Fellow Amy Dobras

Amy Dobras is the 7th and 8th grade Making Teacher at Lighthouse Community Charter School. Over the course of her fellowship year, Amy regularly implemented the thinking routine Parts, Purposes & Complexities, using different objects and tools to find out how the student reflections would change over time.

 Students testing their designs in the Creativity Lab at Lighthouse Community Charter School.

Students testing their designs in the Creativity Lab at Lighthouse Community Charter School.

This year, in the Agency by Design Oakland fellowship, I practiced the Thinking Routine Parts, Purposes & Complexities (PPC), multiple times with my class, with different kinds of experiences and prompts, to see if my students would have—over time—deeper understandings of how things work, as well as more genuine reflections and questions.

I teach how to TINKER in my Making class. At first many students have no idea what it mean to tinker and they don’t know how to do it. They often want to be told how to do it, they want to be shown how to do it, and they want to make sure they are doing it “right.”  As they practice learning how to tinker through making activities (such as the building a scribble bot or making a paper circuit), they start to realize that there is no right way to do this. I think it is similar with Parts, Purposes & Complexities when students first start. They are unfamiliar with this kind of thinking routine, they haven’t done it before, and they are maybe intimidated by the open-ended nature of it, or the lack of a “correct answer.” But, they quickly realize—after practicing it a few times—that it is a new way of thinking about something and they begin to develop a design mindset.

experience #1: Parts, Purposes & Complexities of a Pen

All of my students took apart a ball point pen and labeled the PARTS (they created names for the parts when they did not know the real names), attempted to explain the PURPOSE of each part, and came up with several COMPLEXITIES. I realized early on that coming up with complexities was difficult for my students, so for this first activity we brainstormed complexities together. 


I learned that my students struggle with understanding complexities and how to form genuine questions around the complexities of an object.

I also learned that by facilitating a group brainstorm of complexities my students did much better. When we brainstormed the complexities together, of a common item (a pen), we came up with several sentence starts and ideas on how we could approach a complexity. This allowed my students to come up with many complexities.

I wonder….

This reminds me of….

This is similar to or connects to...

I'm wondering about the materials that made the parts...

Wondering how the parts were made or designed...

Asking a question..

I did this same activity (taking apart a pen), with 2 different classes. In one class I did not provide examples of complexities and I did not brainstorm with the class a group list of examples, largely because I wanted to leave it open ended and see what they came up with. However, I was not surprised when they did not come up with many complexities, and I realized quickly that they really didn’t understand how to approach this idea of finding complexities of an everyday object.

The second time I facilitated this same activity with a different group of students I slowed down and took the time to brainstorm as a class many complexities before they did it on their own. This led to a much more successful experience, and all my students were able to come up with several complexities on their own. Upon reflection, I realized that my students just needed practice with this new Thinking Routine. I connected it to the idea of teaching students how to think in a new way and how to have a “Maker Mindset.”

I learned that it is valuable to have students all do a take apart on the same item so that we can share our ideas and learn how to think about complexities together.

Experience #2: Parts, Purposes & Complexities of your hand 

As an introductory lesson in a new unit I had my students practice PPCs of their own hand. They drew and then labeled the parts, explained the purpose of each part, and considered the complexities of their hand and how it works. They then started to build a mechanical hand that could pick up things. 


EXPERIENCE #3: Taking Apart Musical Cards

As an introductory activity before we made light up cards with paper circuits, I had my students take apart musical greeting cards while practicing the PPC routine.


EXPERIENCE #4: Reflecting & Brainstorming Ideas

Students were asked to reflect on the prompts: “Why take apart everyday objects?” and “What can we learn?” They were also asked what they would like to take apart if they could choose. 


Experience #5: Parts, Purposes & Complexities of an Object of their Choice

Students took apart an object of their choice and then curated a poster display. Again, they were prompted to label the parts (this time looking up some of the real names of the parts), explain the purposes, and come up with some complexities. A few of the objects they took apart were phones, cameras, laptops, a CD player, a keyboard, and a fan. 

I learned that student choice leads to student engagement. 

When I asked my students what they wanted to take apart, rather than just giving them something to take apart, they were much more engaged. Some of the most popular items requested to take apart were cell phones, video game controllers, bikes, & mechanical toys. 

I learned that a simple take apart Like a Pen, or observing your own hand, can be just as impactful as a more complicated take apart.

Often, when a take apart was more complex my students got caught up in the excitement of taking apart the objects, which usually translated into spending less time on the thinking routine and documenting their ideas. I found that simple objects that required slow looking, in parallel with the thinking routine, elicited a lot more thoughtful responses and observations. 

I learned that showing my students real world examples of take aparts, like from the book "Things Come Apart," inspired some of them to create thoughtful displays of their take aparts.

Believe or not, such an easy thing like simply showing them some artwork, made a huge difference when it came time for my students to display their work. I encouraged them to display the parts of their object in an artistic way and I noticed that it slowed them down in a new way, the same as how the thinking routine also slowed them down and asked them to think in a new way. For me, the display became yet another way for my students to think and reflect on the Parts, Purposes, and Complexities of everyday objects, further developing their Maker and Design Mindsets. 


"I hope that teaching making will help shake up the equity imbalance in our world and get more students of color and girls in these careers that have always largely been white and male. So, for me, teaching Making is important because it is all about equity and trying to build and "make" a more equitable world."

Amy Dobras
Making Teacher (7th & 8th), Lighthouse Community Charter School, Oakland

Amy Dobras teaches 7th & 8th grade Making at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, and has been teaching and working in education in public high schools (and non-profits) with low income students of color for the past 15 years in SF and Oakland. She is a mother to two daughters, a soccer coach, and has a passion for origami, carving wooden spoons, and photography. Along with making, Amy loves to swim, bike, surf, climb, and paddle.