A Purpose, Passion and Maker-Driven Life

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Today I walked into my mom’s house to an excited Braeden sharing his animatronic dinosaur costume design…inspired by YouTube videos from a group of puppet makers from China,  Jurassic Park and the realistic Dinosaur themed show that he saw at the Dallas Zoo about a year ago.  He wanted to know if I knew people that could help him. He wanted students with experience in soldering, auto-mechanics and engineering.  He even promised that if they helped, he would let them be in his video…because that’s what you do when you learn from YouTube…you thrive on sharing the wealth too. I …

No, Kids…You Can’t Eat a Raspberry Pi and Other Lessons from Camp

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“I really thought we were going to have pie this week.” – middle school student “I love this much more than I thought I would!” – 3rd grader “Wait, we really get to keep this? All of this? And never give it back?” – middle school student “Can we get one and build and learn too?” – high school student volunteer First, I have to admit that when I expressed a desire to teach kids how to “tinker” with a raspberry pi back in January, I had no idea how this would come to be, especially when my dream was …

Makercamps, Hackathons and Equity: From Vision to Reality with Support from Microsoft

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About six months ago, my superintendent presented me with the challenge of a lifetime. She asked that I dig into my creative hat and provide some form of innovative summer learning experience for our students. I may have researched and polled students for months before even expressing the first iteration of ideas…which have gone through a cycle of “rethinking” about ten times. Then, I met the Pantherbots, our Lufkin High School First Robotics team and everything changed. I watched them work alongside mentors for months, building and programming a robot from basically a box of scraps. I watched them create parts …

How to Give Feedback to a Creative Child

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When Braeden started making puppets, I’ll be honest in saying that sometimes we tried to give him “input” on what and how his puppets needed to be made. He needed to show less “thread”, more material, better precision or whatever else anyone could pick out. He immediately fired back on every occasion that these were things created from his imagination and that he made exactly what he wanted. It’s not easy and sometimes we get it wrong but Braeden always reminds us that at the end of the day, his creations are his. In a conversation with an actual professional …

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That Moment When Adult Decisions Break A Kid’s Spirit

Last week, I wrote about Braeden auditioning for his school talent show with a friend and being selected to not only perform but to emcee. In case you missed it…he wrote a script, chose his music and made themed costumes for his puppets as well as himself. He also recruited a friend, requiring him to sign a contract because this time last year, he didn’t even try on the grounds that his other friends backed out. Did I mention that the entire thing was themed after Star Wars?! Braeden wanted to perform so bad and after working for 3 weeks creating his three minute show, …

Two “Maker Moments”, Fear and Professional Responsibility

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Two moments occurred yesterday that I hope to never forget. The first was when our district science specialist came into our office wanting to see what we were creating. She was so excited to see us integrating science into what most people thought was a “tech” camp for kids. We’re hosting maker camps this summer and in doing so will be teaching kids as young as first grade how to create with squishy and paper circuits to producing a hackathon for our secondary students. What made that moment cool was that as much of a self-proclaimed geek that I am, …

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Braeden the Puppet Maker, Artist, Writer and Now Performer

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A few weeks ago, I was in a meeting and missed a ton of calls from my nephew. He finally sent this message… “I called to see if you could cut one of the songs or basically all of them because we only have 3 minutes & I need the music so I will know how much to I have for each scene. Call me I need to start scripting.” After viewing the three youtube links that he sent, I replied with this… “If you ever need to download a file from youtube to convert to mp3 clipconverter.cc to then combine multiple …

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Bringing “Maker Ideas” into Learning

When I was growing up, my mother was known to sew clothes every weekend. She made most of our clothes when we were younger and all of her own for years. She even made our prom dresses when we were in school. I grew up around her “crazy” ideas during school dance planning time. Think…Cinderella carriages and horses covered in glitter…all formed from wood cut in our driveway. For black history month one year, she even made a wooden President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (I definitely questioned her on creating a wooden cutout of President Obama’s signature …

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Creating a Purposeful Environment for #CSforAll

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of being a part of two pivotal moments. The first was visiting Microsoft’s “Education Underground” and getting a tour of their “Garage”, an extensive makerspace for Microsoft’s employees to tinker and build. Weeks later, the second moment was being invited to the White House during #CSEdweek, to an event created to bridge educators with developers, creating platforms to help teachers teach and learn more computer science. It was at this event that US CTO Megan Smith, walked in with “tools of making” and challenged us to think not just about coding alone but …

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Thank You Mr. Guidry, Band Director #ThankATeacher

Well before the official “instrument tryout” day, my mom sent my dad to look for my first flute. It was a used $50 pawn shop find, my ticket to beginner band class. During tryouts, my mom was told that I could not play the flute. They said that I had a tear drop upper lip, making clear sound virtually impossible. It didn’t matter as my mom stood her ground and insisted that regardless of what they said, I was playing the flute…so I did. My start as a flautist was terrible as I was literally the worst or 2nd worst, …