We arrived in Hong Kong to attend the 21st Century learning pre-conference school Maker Tour. The plan for the day had us visiting five schools who had Maker programs. Our school sent our R&D leaders for research for our flexible spaces team. Our hope was to collect more information to use during our development process. We were very lucky that this was a perfect pre conference to help with this.
Our first school was the Kau Yan School, a local Chinese curriculum school that has committed to having every student participate in Maker lessons. One of the things that worked well at this school was that they asked local parents and specialists to come in and help them teach. For example, a parent who is an Engineer came in to teach engineering concepts to the students. Another element that I liked was that they had specific skill development lessons outside of projects. That allowed students to develop skills and knowledge to use during their projects.
The Harbour School was our next stop. The schools “Foundry” was only in its second year. This school also had made a commitment to every student having a full week of intensive Maker experience. The full week begins in grade three with grade two and below having half day lessons scattered throughout the year focused on skill development. They also have some interesting community connections beginning. For example a group of students building a hydroponic garden in which they will grow items to sell in the local market while educating the locals in the benefits of local organic produce.
The West Island School showed us their design space which is only slightly smaller than my nephew’s University Engineering Lab! One of the aspects of their program that stuck with me was their upcycling abilities. They went beyond using old/used items by just cutting them up or using them as is. They had systems in place where they could shred plastic then remelt and press it into sheets which would allow them to then use the plastic sheets in other projects. I also loved their idea of having students create Kickstarter like videos to promote their projects. Their Repair Club is one of the programs that they started which has given their Maker and CAD club students a way to help their community by repairing items while learning about them.
Canadian International School was a school that I looked forward to visiting because they are a PYP. I was curious to see how they were developing their program within their programme of inquiry. One of the elements of their program that I thought was a good idea is that they have set aside a ½ day per grade level for their teachers, as a team, to work as Makers in order to develop their Making skills. They also had me asking myself questions after seeing their 1:1 robotics rial group. This got me thinking about ways to better embed coding into our curriculum. I also liked that they had parent days with their Maker program where their students taught the parents how to work in the Maker program.
Our last stop was at Hong Kong International School to see their new lower elementary (PK-G2) Maker space. One thing that I took away from them was that the Tech Coach does things like put a stack of iPad boxes and the start of a domino run on the floor outside the lab, which is also across from the library. He does this just to see what the kids will do. They also had some great furniture and room layout ideas that I liked.
After seeing all five of these schools my main takeaways were actually common to most, if not all of them.
- Embed coding in math and/or writing. I had been mainly thinking writing as a replacement for instructional writing.
- Sustainability is a key element.
- As in using recycled products, using products that can still be recycled after, and actually recycling products into new materials that you can then use.
- Kids are pretty good at Problem Solving but not at Problem Finding.
- Everyone is Learning – teachers, students, parents, the admin
- Failure is the goal, a process and how the learning happens
- Class teachers are hands on as learners or as leaders of the learning, not dropping the students off and leaving them.
- You need a Design Cycle.
- Maker is a Mindset not a space.
- We must use explicit language not kid speak.
- Teachers need tinker and training time