DonorsChoose: Help Young Entrepreneurs Change the World!


I’ve got a new DonorsChoose project (code SPARK til 3-25 for match!) up right now, and I’m pretty excited about it.  PWC has had a match offer recently for projects that teach financial literacy to students.  I thought about it for awhile and looked through other projects receiving the match to get ideas.  I also took some time to look through PWC’s middle school financial literacy curriculum to get some inspiration.  And then it clicked – part of financial literacy is learning about careers, and one aspect of many Makerspaces is entrepreneurship – these make a perfect pair.

I was inspired by a project that Jaymes Dec told me about when I visited the Marymount Fab Lab in New York City.  He challenged his students to create a project that made their school a better place.  Some of the projects his students came up with included a device that would play music anytime someone entered the elevator.  Another was a “flatterbox” that would deliver compliments when it sense someone swiping their card to enter the building.

My project combines several factors: the desire young people have to make a difference in the world, makerspaces as hubs for entrepreneurship, and learning how to create digital portfolios and documentation of projects.

Here’s what the project will entail:


We’ll be getting an assortment of books geared towards students on changing the world, making a difference, and becoming an entrepreneur.  I’ll be focusing this project on my afterschool STEAM club at first, although these materials will be available to all students afterwards.  We’ll meet and talk about what it means to become an entrepreneur, how it’s possible for young people to make a difference, and how to create a digital portfolio of their creations that they could potentially use later for job applications, patent applications, etc.


My students will be splitting into four groups, and each group will get an Arduino.  We’ll also be getting several books on programming Arduinos to help them learn how to use them.  Their challenge will be to find a way to invent something that can make our school a better place.  They’ll be able to use other Makerspace materials in their projects as well if they want (littleBits, MaKeyMaKey, Cubelets, etc)


As the groups come up with their inventions, they’ll be documenting the process using the iPads.  They’ll be taking pictures and videos.  They’ll be researching ideas on the iPads.  They’ll be app smashing to combine their documentation into a digital portfolio.   At the end of the challenge, they’ll present their projects and the portfolios to parents and students at our Mini MakerFaire event.

If you’d like to donate and help out my students, I’d be super appreciative.  I have a great group of students this year, and I’m excited for them to have their experience and discover that their creations can have an impact beyond the classroom.  Here’s the link, and if you use the code SPARK by 3-25, you donation will be matched.  Thank you :)

Book Review: Worlds of Making by Laura Fleming

Worlds of Making

I was beyond excited when I heard that Laura Fleming was writing a book on makerspaces.  And I was even more excited (and honored) when she asked me to write a section on the beginnings of our makerspace at Stewart.  So I made sure to order several copies as soon as it became available on Amazon.  Laura was a huge inspiration for me as I started my library Makerspace and her book, Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School, is definitely now on my short-list of must-read MakerEd books.

excerpt from Laura's book

Laura defines makerspaces as “a place where learners have the opportunity to explore their own interests, to tinker, create, invent, and build using the widest variety of tools and materials”.  She provides background and context for the Maker Movement from German hackerspaces in the 1990s to John Dewey’s theories of education.  She ties in the idea of “Participatory Culture”, a term coined by Henry Jenkins which focuses on creating “low barriers to expression and engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others, and… informal mentorship.”.

Maker graphic

Hearing the story of New Milford High School’s makerspace and how it came together is inspiring.  I love how Laura describes the planning process she went through as she created the space.  She focused first on talking to her students and finding out what their interests were.  She then assessed what the current curricula and course offerings at her school were.  She looked at the greater maker community and global technology trends.  She developed themes for her makerspace, including robotics, 3D printing and design, wearable tech, coding and electricity, among others.  Then she ordered materials based on supporting these themes.   I love this approach.  So many people want to immediately spend money on materials without a plan for what types of learning they want to support or what the interests of their students are.  By carefully considering student interests, curricula and themes, we can better support learning in our spaces.

“Maker education fosters curiosity, tinkering, and iterative learning, which in turn leads to better thinking through better questioning.  I beleive firmly that this learning environment fosters enthusiasm for learning, student confidence, and natural collaboration.” ~ Laura Fleming

Laura gives advice for setting up the physical space of your Makerspace (and what to do if you don’t have a dedicated physical space).  She talks about the importance of creating a Maker culture throughout your school.  Her discussion of Makerspaces and the standards is an excellent overview of how Makerspaces tie into the Common Core Standards, ISTE standards and AASL standards.  This is fantastic for those who are having a hard time getting support for creating a Makerspace in their school because of a perceived lack of relevance to students’ education.

“It is our responsibility as school librarians to promote effective and purposeful learning in our libraries, not to preserve is aspic some golden-age notion of the library as a repository of books and little else” ~Laura Fleming

If you haven’t bought it yet, go to Amazon right now and get Worlds of Making – it’s essential reading for anyone interested in Makerspaces :)

Makerspace Tour: The HIVE

*This post is part of an on-again off-again series where I visit makerspaces in schools, libraries and public/private spaces.  It’s a great chance to see the amazing diversity of spaces there are in the Maker Movement*


The HIVE is Tampa’s first public library Makerspace, and it’s awesome.  Their motto is “create – collaborate – cowork” and the space is fantastic for everyone from young makers to entrepreneurs to adults just wanting to learn some new skills.

The HIVE at John F Germany Library

The HIVE is located on the 3rd floor of the John F. Germany Library in downtown Tampa (fun fact: I worked at this branch during my public library days for about a year).  It opened up this past summer, and it’s already buzzing with activity.  Taking up the entire floor, the HIVE is divided into different work areas with a nice smattering of common areas for brainstorming and collaborating.

The Media:scape pit

The Media:scape Pit

The Media:scape Pit

I am pretty seriously jealous of the HIVE’s media:scape setup. I’ve drooled over this particular Steelcase setup for a long time.  The technology allows patrons to collaborate by sharing their devices’ screens with one another using a device connected to the monitor.  This side is set-up for groupwork/collaboration, which the other side is set up for small group instruction.  I took a class on Tinkercad there in the fall and got to make my first ever 3D printout.

The Makerspace

Makerbot Replicator 2

Makerbot Replicator 2

The HIVE has two Makerbot Replicator 2’s in their Makerspace area, and Hillsborough County library card holders are allowed to print for free thanks to the donation of filament from the Friends of the Library.  Patrons can even e-mail their .stl files and pick up the print-outs later.  Of course, I think it’s much more fun to get to watch them at work :)

Arduinos galore!

Arduinos galore!

The makerspace area of the HIVE includes a variety of tools for patrons to tinker with, including Arduinos, littleBits, a Shapeoko and hand-tools.

The Shapeoko

The Shapeoko

The Robotics Center

Robotics Center

Robotics Center

The HIVE has their very own First LEGO League team and they’ve got a great set-up for robotics team practices.  They’ve had several groups of students using this space, and it’s in a window enclosed area in the middle of the floor, so other visitors to the HIVE can watch al the robots at work.

The Arts Center

The Arts Center

The Arts Center

The arts center has whiteboard walls, arts and crafts supplies, sewing machines and a vinyl cutter.  The HIVE has already held several programs in this space, including one focused on teens creating cosplay outfits.

The Recording Studio

The Recording Studio

The Recording Studio

The Recording studio has a green screen, high quality cameras, recording and video editing software.  Library card holders can set up appointments to use the equipment here.  They were doing a pretty awesome green screen photobooth during one of my visits here.

The Flex Space

I didn’t get pictures of it somehow, but the flex space is a great group meeting area with movable tables and chairs, whiteboard walls, a projector setup for presentations, etc.  My district’s media specialists group, HASLMS (Hillsborough Association of School Library Media Specialists) held one of their meetings in this space.

If you’re in or around Tampa, I highly recommend checking out the HIVE.  It’s pretty awesome :)

Check out their Facebook page for up-to-date information.

FETC 2015 Recap

FETC 2015 Recap

Way back in January, I attended and presented at the Florida Educational Technology Conference in Orlando.  Since it’s only an hour away, I’ve been attending this conference every year since I started as a media specialist five years ago.  Most years I just went to the vendor hall, until last year when I started attending sessions.  This year was my first time attending the entire conference, and also my first time presenting, and it was amazing.  Rather than give you a play-by-play of which sessions I went to and what I learned in each session, I want to take a broader look at my experience at FETC as a whole.

Meeting awesome people

Awesome people I met at FETC

Awesome people I met at FETC

From left to right, top row to bottom:

Drew Minock and Brad Waid, Nancye Blair Black, Steven Anderson, Shannon Miller, FETC Tweet-up with Jerry Blumengarten and Susan Bearden, Eric Sheninger, Erin Mulcahy of littleBits, Sylvia Martinez, Abbe Waldron

Other people I got to meet/hang out with but didn’t get pictures with: Samantha Morra, Tom Murray, Jennifer Scheffer, Kristy Cleppe, Bob Dillon, Tim Clark, Jen Womble plus my local friends Josh Newhouse, Sundi Pierce, Glenda Pierce, Wendy Lopez and probably other people whose names I missed

To me, the best things about conferences isn’t all the amazing sessions, the cool gadgets in the vendor hall, or the endless swag.  The best thing at a conference is getting to meet and be around inspirational fellow educators.  Conferences really were the beginning of my connected educator journey.  I love the opportunity to meet up with friends and people who have inspired me.  While reading blogs, participating in Twitter chats, and watching webinars are all great, there’s nothing quite like talking to someone face-to-face.

Of course, there were also a lot of awesome sessions; check out videos of some of the featured ones.

Edu-furniture & other vendor hall stuff

So much beautiful furniture

So much beautiful furniture

I’m a self-proclaimed edu-furniture nerd, so the most exciting part of the vendor hall for me is not the gadgets and gizmos; it’s the amazing, innovative furniture.  With booths from the likes of Bretford, Interior Concepts and KI, there was a lot of awesome stuff to look at.  I think I need a bigger library, because I want to get all of it.  Or maybe someone will give me a budget to completely makeover an entire school.  It never hurts to dream ;)

Other awesome vendor stuff

Other awesome vendor stuff

I did, in fact, check out some gadgets in the vendor hall too.  I’ve decided that I seriously need one of these locker style charging stations for my library – how cool would that be for my students?  I also got my first chance to play with a 3Doodler – those things are harder to control than they look.  I met up with my friends at littleBits in the Makers Hub and was happy to see so many people tinkering and playing (littleBits wrote up an awesome FETC Recap too).  I got to try out zSpace, which is a pretty awesome virtual reality education system.  And I got to play a little with Osmo, which is pretty ridiculously fun.

Presenting and sharing with the world

Presenting at FETC

Presenting at FETC

Probably the biggest conference game-changer for me has been branching out into presenting.  There is such a thrill in getting to share my experiences with others.  I always get nervous, but it’s immensely satisfying to hear from people who attend my sessions about how they’re going to start a Makerspace when they get back, or how they’ve built a LEGO wall in their library.  Conferences should be about give and take –  I always used to just attend to get information and inspiration from others.  It really makes a difference to also give back and help others.  It’s amazingly fulfilling.


Do you attend educational conferences?  What’s your favorite part?

My other FETC 2015 posts:



Scholastic Bookfairs and Makerspaces

Scholastic Bookfairs & Makerspaces

One of the most frequent questions I get about Makerspaces is how to fund them.  There’s a lot of creative ways to do this, including DonorsChoose projects, writing grants and asking for donations.  Another great option is to take a look at funding sources you may already have.  Many schools out there host Scholastic Bookfairs every year, and while these events are great for adding new books to your collection, they’ve also got a lot of great resources and products for Makerspaces.  This post features some of my favorites.

Book Browser with Plastic Bins


This book browser (which is actually a Copernicus classroom library cart) is probably my favorite item for Makerspaces from the Scholastic School Resource Catalog.  Finding organization methods that work for Makerspaces has always been a challenge for me.  Then I got one of these carts at my fall bookfair.  It was amazing for storing arts & crafts supplies and made a great mobile Makerspace – I could wheel it out for events and then store it when not in use.  Recently, I repurposed it into a K’nex storage cart and it’s been amazing.  I plan on getting another one to organize our LEGOs.

Our cart in action

Our cart in action

Classroom Toolkit

toolkitI got one of these toolkits to go with our Tech Take-Apart pop-up station and it’s worked great.  My only recommendation is the remove the hammer, otherwise your deconstruction zone can quickly turn into a destruction zone.

Maker Books

Maker books


Books with project ideas and inspiration are essential for any Makerspace.  We support our students’ interests with books, so we should make sure to have Maker books.  Scholastic has a ton of great books for Makerspace libraries.  These are a few of the ones I found:

Craft Supplies


There’s often great craft supplies at the fair and in the catalog.  In the fair you’ll often see things like washi tape and craft packs with instructions and supplies.  The catalog sometimes includes things like origami paper.

Maker Inspiration Decor

Pop Charts

I love to decorate my Makerspace with posters and other things to inspire creativity in my students.  Scholastic’s Pop! Charts posters are fantastic for this.





The Stewart Library Makerspace Story

We entered the Follett Challenge this year with a video telling the story of how we started the Stewart Makerspace and the impact that it has had on our library and our school.  Unfortunately, we weren’t among the winners this time around.  Still, I’m so proud of how this video has come together, and I want to make sure that I am sharing it as much as possible.  I think that it makes for a great overview of our Makerspace journey, and I hope that it can serve as an inspiration for other schools around the world.

So please watch our video and enjoy :)

The Stewart/Lamar Catapult Challenge

The Stewart Lamar Catapult Challenge


I don’t remember exactly when the first conversation happened, but somewhere through chatting on Twitter and the interwebs, Colleen Graves and I decided that it would be awesome to connect our Maker kids.  I have an afterschool group that meets on Mondays at the same time as her group, even though we’re in different time zones.  I had some technical difficulties the first time we tried to connect, and ended up Skyping over my phone.    It was more informal, students sharing various projects we were working on.  After that first meet-up, we decided to up our students’ game by giving them a joint design challenge, The Catapult Challenge!


Even though it started out as the Catapult Challenge, it quickly became the “make-something-that-flings-something-across-the-room-without-poking-someone’s-eye-out” challenge for my kids.  There were crossbows, ballistas and trebuchets (which are NOT catapults, my students were quick to explain to me).  We had some regular old catapults too of course.  As we were sharing our projects on Vine, Twitter and Instagram, Colleen was sharing projects from her students as well.

Google Hangout

At the end of the challenge, we met up in a Google Hangout and shared our projects.  Colleen’s students had made some amazing giant catapults capable of flinging multiple ketchup packets at once.  My kids proudly showed off their creations and were ecstatic that they worked (the trebuchet was having some issues).

We’re in the midst of our next challenge now, the MaKeyMaKey challenge!  More on that later, but be sure that you’re following me on Vine and Instagram to get the latest updates.


Tinker, Make, Learn GHO Interview

Tinker Make and Learn with Diana Rendina. from Robin Bartoletti on Vimeo.

Last week, Robin Bartoletti and Tom Kilgore from the massive open online course Tinker, Make, Learn, interviewed me about how I got started in the Maker Movement, what steps I took to create my Makerspace, and what some of my favorite maker activities are.  Check out the video, follow the hashtag #TMLOOE, and consider joining the course and checking out all the amazing Makers and resources there.  It’s pretty awesome :)

For links to resources I mention in the interview, check out my page in my presentations section.

Link Round-Up: February 1, 2015

link round up

*Welcome to Link Round-up.  As I read blogs, peruse Twitter, and save things to Diigo, I come across a lot of great resources that I think others would benefit from.  This post is my place to bring together some of my favorite finds and share them with you.  Enjoy!*


  • Why I Am Not a Maker – The Atlantic :  Amazing, thought provoking article engineering professor Debbie Chachra on why we need to be cautious about insisting on people identifying themselves by what they make.  While I don’t necessarily agree that encouraging people to make things devalues education and caregiving, it is a valid criticism to think about.   tags:maker atlantic makered linklove
“I’m uncomfortable with any culture that encourages you take on an entire identity, rather than to express a facet of your own identity (“maker,” rather than “someone who makes things”)…  There’s a widespread idea that “People who make things are simply different [read: better] than those who don’t… The problem is the idea that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing”

Education/ Libraries

“Because the truth is, while being thinner and grading papers faster may be good goals, my students won’t remember me for either. They’re going to remember how I treated them and how I made them feel, long before they remember how I looked or how many days I took to return their work.”

Technology/ Tools

Happy Birthday, Stewart Makerspace

January 29, 2014 - The birth of our Makerspace

January 29, 2014 – The birth of our Makerspace

One year ago today, I took a leap that one change my life.  One year ago, I took three bins of K’nex out of our storage closet, dusted them off, and put them out on our library tables.  I didn’t have an action plan. I wasn’t sure how my students would react.  I didn’t know where it would take us.  I had no prompts, no policies and procedures, no instruction manual on how to start a Makerspace.  But I took the risk anyhow.  And this simple decision to just go for it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my students, my library and myself.

One of our pop-up makerspaces from last year

One of our pop-up makerspaces from last year

The journey of this last year has been amazing.  My students have connected with other students and makers through Skype and Google Hangouts.  We planned our first mini Makerfaire together and received a warm reception from our school community.  We got new STEM books, won a littleBits pro library and received a grant for new furniture.  We had nine DonorsChoose projects funding over $5,000 worth of supplies.  We built an Epic LEGO wall and painted a whiteboard wall.  Our after-school STEAM club has connected with Colleen Graves’ students at Lamar Middle School on design challenges, sharing our projects through Google Hangouts.  We’ve shared our story with the world through Twitter, Instagram, Vine, here on this blog and at state and national conference presentations.

Our library in action

Our Makerspace at one year old

Some things worked, some things didn’t.  Some days there were LEGOs all over the floor.  Sometimes LEDs broke.  Projects would fall apart with the first prototype.  But we persevered.  We kept going.

All of this has happened in the last 365 days.  I can’t wait to see what the next 365 will bring :)

Happy Birthday, Stewart Makerspace.