Maker Portfolio

Using this space as a way to document my thinking as I make and tinker…

6/10/15: Making with Amazing Santa Rosa math teachers (K-8)

Maker Badge and stickers

Marshmallows and marble runs…

The Marshmallow Challenge:

Challenge: A marble run is a contraption made from familiar materials designed to send a rolling marble down a fun path (usually made of tubes, tracks, funnels, bumpers, etc.). Your challenge is to build a marble run in which the marble starts at 5 feet high and comes to stop at 2 inches above the ground.


  1. Use any materials that you have on hand (no need to buy anything)
  2. Take a picture or draw your completed marble run
  3. Feel free to capture your process of building the marble run as well
  4. How might you re-design this marble run challenge? (Have fun with this!)

5/19/15: Exhausted Reflections on the Bay Area Maker Faire

I was fortunate to be able to run a Maker Certificate Booth at the Bay Area Maker Faire and speak on the Education stage over the May weekend (May 15-17). It was both exhilarating and exhausting–exhilarating because of all the makers and maker educators on hand sharing their experiences and knowledge, showcasing student work, and coming together to geek out over making. What was also wonderful was that the recently Maker Certified educators and instructors helped me run the booth and I am so impressed with their leadership and energy in promoting making in their schools. They inspire me!

5/2/15: Lucy and a Marble Machine

I brought my daughter, Lucy, to the Marinnovator Day at the Marin County Office of Education and she had a blast on the Marble Machines (thanks to The Tinkering Studio for the inspiration!) Look at her intensity and curiosity.

Lucy marble machine 1 Lucy marble machine 2

4/16/15: Makerspace Tour in Sonoma County

The Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE), specifically Rachael Arye and Chuck Wade, created an amazing tour of K-12 makerspaces in Sonoma County through the Northern CA Career Pathway Alliance. As Common Core and Tech Ed receive more attention and support and a primary focus for educators is the preparation of students for college and career,making and maker education has become a key resource. The makerspace tour allows educators, including teachers and administrators, to see first hand how schools have started maker programs with small spaces and limited budgets. It also offers key contacts for future communication with educators and accounts of how students are using the space and how teachers are supporting students in the space.

Here are the makespaces they visited on the tours:

  • Maria Carrillo High School (Santa Rosa)
  • Schaefer Charter School (Santa Rosa)
  • Kenilworth Jr. High (Petaluma)
  • Meadow Elementary (Petaluma)
  • Petaluma High School (Petaluma)
  • Analy High School (Sebastopol)

11/7/14: Hackpad for a Maker Portfolio

Matt O’Donnell at the Sonoma County Office of Education shared a great way to document Maker activities and events using Hackpad. He gave an example using scribbling machines:, in which he was easily able to outline the materials needs for the activity, insert video from the activity we completed just 5 minutes prior, and organize some pictures of the process. The Hackpad entry he created is also editable, so it makes it easy to collaborate and capture the Maker process.

10/19/14: East Bay Mini Maker Faire

Julia Marrero and Kaki McLachlan, both Maker Educators in the Maker Certificate Program at SSU, helped me at the Wearable Tech booth at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire this past Sunday (see pic below).

Maker Day

Maker Educators at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire in Oakland!

We had a blast using LEDs, felt, felt tape, a 3V battery, a safety pin, and some scissors to make bracelets, brooches, and rings with young and old alike.

If you are interested in making your own wearable tech, just follow the instructions on this Wearable Tech Poster or pursue these amazing resources via the website!

10/17/14: Marble Machines!

I found myself on the floor of The Exploratorium at 9:30am on a Tuesday morning in September, paired with a high school engineering teacher and armed with the task of making a marble go as slowly as possible. It’s not often that I find myself on the floor engaged in a learning activity for work. I have two small children so I am often on my knees or laying on the floor playing with them or frantically searching for a missing Lego piece or a morsel of food that my daughter threw to the ground.

The Exploratorium resources

On this Tuesday morning though I was on the ground for my own learning and I was invigorated: I had a partner, I had a goal, and I had the resources of The Exploratorium to create a marble machine that would require us to grapple with gravity, slope, velocity, angle, material precision, and create a system designed to slow down a marble. I, of course, didn’t realize these curricular connections at the time. I was just simply excited to tinker, build, and test materials that could assist in challenging a marble’s natural inclination to roll down an incline.

For two hours, my partner and I played and tested materials such as a peg board, pegs, ramps, cardboard, paper, pipe cleaners, funnels, tape, string, and metal lids. During this time, I found myself laughing, high-fiving my partner when things went well, and clenching my fists when we were not successful. Yet I viewed our minute “failures” as learning opportunities to rethink and retool our marble machine. At no point was I defeated or uninterested or annoyed or wondering why I was engaged in the activity. I also found myself to be open to the possibilities of the materials—rethinking my perception of the materials from what they were designed to do and more oriented towards what I needed it to do at a specific moment: I didn’t need the pipe cleaner to clean a pipe, I needed it to gently force our marble onto two parallel straws that would widen and allow the marble to drop down to the next ramp.

Working on the marble machine.

During these moments of nuanced success and failure, I started to remember skills that I was good at: I was always the one to fix the wobbly table with any available materials; I had played competitive softball for years and my steady hands that helped me grab line drives and put down the bunt now helped me strategically place a small copper pipe on a ramp to slow our marble; and I could collaborate with a partner that I knew had more expertise on the topic and know that I would still be able to contribute to the task at hand.

The “low floor (easy to get started), high ceiling (opportunities for complexity)” marble machine activity was a wonderful entry point for me to engage in tinkering—to experience the minute variability of a project defined by a simple goal. By design, my partner and I were given two hours to work on our marble machine AND walk around the room and check in with the other 16 educators engaged in the same process; The Exploratorium staff offered “just-in-time” mentorship with a sensitivity that always allowed my partner and I to work through our frustrations and overall thinking without them (or at least me feeling like they were) co-opting our project or our ownership over the activity. They were hands-off so we could be hands-on. And one of the best aspects of the overall activity was the reflective discussion as a whole group. After each pair had shared their marble machines, earned a round-of-applause and insights from the other educators, the group reflected on the diversity of materials used to create our “slowing” systems, analyzed the K-12 curricular connections, and cleaned up!

Reinvigorated Reminders for Myself

  • Design experiences in which learners are hands-on while teacher-facilitator is hands-off and provides just-in-time mentorship; tinkering and making is a wonderful jumping off point for this
  • Embrace the idea that play + fun = learning; and contrast with, “What does learning look like when it is not fun?”
  • Ongoing reflection! Analyze both the process and product of tinkering and making activities

Amazing Resources:

9/28/14: Thoughts on Zero to Maker: Learn Just Enough to Make Just About Anything

I am reading David Lang’s Zero to Maker (2013) book and really appreciating his documentation process for his own learning experience and his new found knowledge of the “maker mentality” (p. 41). A few of these nuggets include “everybody is a teacher as well as a learner” and “celebrate failure” and “D-I-T: Do It Together”, instead of Do-It-Yourself (DIY). For me, I really see a need for educators to view making as both a mindset and as acts of creation.


9/16-9/18/14: Facilitation Notes from The Art of Tinkering workshop at The Exploratorium 

How to Facilitate Making and Tinkering Activities: Notes from the Pros!

The Tinkering Studio's Definition of Facilitation

The Tinkering Studio’s Definition of Facilitation

Facilitation is…a practice/art form and it is important to observe how other facilitators do it; it is fluid as communities develop around an activity; it is supportive.

1) Spark: how to get started?

  • Opening of possibilities through introductions, welcoming environment, and chances to tinker
Julia working with Nancy at White Hill

Julia working with Nancy at White Hill

2) Sustain: how to stay engaged?

  • welcome frustration: create an environment where it is ok to NOT know
  • give permission to try things
  • make connection between participants
  • people usually get stuck on common paces in the process
  • simplify

3) Deepen: how to dive into the complexity

  • point out/ask about connections to prior experience and interests
  • model a reflective attitude
  • ask questions


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