Maker’s Grimoire: Playground + Makedo

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 the new Maker’s Grimoire blog that I started, so that I can share it with other makers.

The idea behind the Maker’s Grimoire is the same idea that’s behind the idea of a grimoire, generally.  A Grimoire is a magical book, specifically a book that teaches magic.  Ergo, a Maker’s Grimoire is a book that should teach its users how to become makers.  Do the projects in the collection, and gradually you become a very capable designer — just  as medieval users of grimoires became magicians (or at least tried to become such).

More below the fold.

So, to do this version of this project, you need some Makedos. 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.

But, Project: That’s why you’re here, right?

Redesign A Playground

Allow two hours for this workshop.  We ran it for grades 2-5; we had mostly 3rd and 4th graders. Divide it up this way:

  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.
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  1. Hi Andrew! I’m from Makedo. What a great activity! Do have any pictures from this workshop to share and inspire our community? Are you planning to do anything more?


    • Dear Ness,

      Thanks for the interest. I’ll see what I can do about photos. But as this blog has frequently noted, Design Labs Make Designers Not Products. It was the kids’ first time playing with Makedos, and the designs were … ahem. Have you found that kids build a playhouse or a castle the first time out? The thinking they did was first rate, though the designs themselves lacked a certain flair.

    • Hi Andrew. We’re just glad kids are having fun, thinking and playing with Makedo. Yes, we saw your castle! Great detail. Would love to see what you do in the future. Thanks for incorporating Makedo in your classes, seems like a perfect fit 🙂

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