MG Basic Training: Makedo Playground

The Design Lab at my school ran a two hour workshop this past Sunday, and now that I’ve had a chance to process it and think about it, I’m sharing it to the Maker’s Grimoire in two ways:

  • It’s going here on my blog, as part of the Maker’s Grimoire series, and
  • It’s going to this, the new Maker’s Grimoire blog that I started, so that I can share it with other makers.

So, to do this version of this project, you need some Makedos. You can “Fork” and redesign the work, by providing different tools and materials.

We had fifteen kids, and so we had five of their three-person sets.  I saw more than a few broken parts in the lab, which is upsetting… but, on the other hand, they’re relatively cheap and also reusable, and we have tons of cardboard that can be disassembled and re-used.  Which means that kids will gain greater facility with these tools in the weeks ahead, and start learning to make really awesome things.  You also need a LOT of cardboard, maybe a couple of dozen boxes for each team.  They’ll start small, as I discovered today, and then gradually build up their skills and confidence to make more and more things.

Redesign A Playground

Allow two hours, minimum, for this workshop.  We ran it for grades 2-5; we had mostly 3rd and 4th graders. With three hours, I’d have given more direct instruction in using the tools: most of our kids were beginners in using the little Makedo cardboard saws, and needed more practice to do the big fancy things you see in the Makedo advertising.

Divide your time up this way in a 2 hour block:

  • 10-15 minutes on the playground, seeing what’s already there, and what needs changing
  • Have clipboards and adult recorders keeping data charts for the younger kids
  • Have an “expert” explain some construction to them, and some safety guidelines.
  • 1 1/4 hours of build time
  • 15 minutes of explanation and reflection at the end.

On a more expansive level, it looks like this:

  1. 10-15 minutes on the playground. Be nearby with a whiteboard to record things the kids like and don’t like.  
  2. Encourage them to notice things about the playground that they notice all the time.  We got things like:
    1. Splinters from the playground equipment
    2. splinters from the wood chip ground cover
    3. Bars too close together on the climbing bars
    4. parallel bars too far apart
    5. Needs to be taller.
    6. Needs more of an edge
  3. Bring them back to your design space with Makedos for each team, and cardboard
  4. Give them 10 minutes to decide on a plan
    1. Ask each team to decide on 3-5 functions they want their new playground to have.
    2. Ask each team to use the Makedos to build a model of their playground.
    3. Give them plenty of room.
  5. Give them an hour and a half to two hours to build their models
    1. Assist the students (as we had to) with learning to use the tools and manage the rivets.
      1. They will be OK.
      2. Risk alert: giving kids plastic saws with which to cut will reduce their worries about real blades, later.
      3. Help with cutting, particularly heavier cardboard.
    2. Encourage them to converse with one another about their designs and their plans
      1. Particularly with younger kids, don’t force them to work on teams
      2. DO encourage boys and girls to talk to one another, about what the other gender likes
      3. DO encourage older and younger students to talk to one another about what older and younger kids like.
  6. Allow 5-7 minutes for each team to talk about their designs with the other students and parents who are picking their children up at the end of the workshop; DO invite the parents.
    1. Remind the parents and visitors of Carle’s Dictum: “Design Labs produce designers, not designs.”
    2. Remind yourself that great designers emerge from conversations and learning experiences as much as direct instruction.

One thought on “MG Basic Training: Makedo Playground

  1. […] room is home to the Book Fair this week, because the Design Lab wasn’t available because of yesterday’s event. So the chairs from the conference need to be stored in the Design Lab so that I can teach in my […]

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