My residency at the International School of Billund

(taken from

Hej! As you can tell, I'm already fluent in Danish.... I'll be trying to keep a bit of a blog here with updates on my experience as the maker in residence at ISB. Stay tuned!

Monday (day 1)

After my arrival at ISB this morning (the first bell is at 8am), I was taken to the staff room that seems like it will be more or less home base for me until we start setting up the CreatorSpace next week. Ben Mardell and his pedagogy of play team from Project Zero's arrived just after me and Camilla took us on a tour of the school. There is still lots of construction going on, with various new spaces opening up starting December and ending in August. The CreatorSpace is still very bare bones, but it is HUGE!

There are a couple of classrooms in the back that teachers can reserve so they can bring their class there and use that as a home base as they grab materials and tools from around the space, and there are two woodworking shops connected to the space as well (one for general tools that students can take out and one for more powerful tools that need supervision). There is a room full to the ceiling of boxes with LEGO and there are crafts materials and tools in various other places in the school that I will be helping to unpack and move this and next week, so hopefully the space will be set up and ready to use for my workshops next week and definitely by Week 43 for them to use for BBM, which seems to be the planned soft opening of the space.

I ended up hanging out in the staff room most of the day and getting to know some more teachers as well as exploring their old design room and chatting with Mike a bit about the CreatorSpace and their concern that it is too big (I disagreed). There was an all staff meeting tonight (catered and with champagne toasts to successful collaborations with Tufts and Harvard) with the folks from PZ around the topic of documentation as a tool for teachers to help make learning visible and deepen learning for students. Below is a photo of a sheet that was given out about the various workshops they will be running with teachers throughout the semester and the three "cycles" that they are hoping to apply what is discussed in the workshops, the first one being BBM. It is very interested how they look at documentation as both a research method and a tool for teachers to help their students learn deeper with the expectation that teachers share their documentation with the researchers as well as their students.

Tuesday (day 2)

This morning began with me meeting with Mike and Amos, the sort of "maker in residence" at ISB from last semester (here a couple of days per week, mostly helping Mike lead after school activities). We went back through this document that they had put together to give an overview of all of the making-type activities that they did last semester in the design room, and talked about what worked for them and ideas for how the CreatorSpace could build off of that experience. The activities they did last semester seemed to have varying levels of success in terms of engagement with kids in the after school club and real learning that happened, but it was definitely a cool start for making activities. They also talked about having some sort of internal activity database, almost expanding upon the document they had already created, with challenges and activities that could be done in the CreatorSpace including feedback from teachers and facilitators which seemed like a good idea, and I showed off the STOMP activity database to give some inspiration.

We then had a CreatorSpace meeting with Camilla, Mike, Sue (academic and scheduling head), Tue (music teacher), Ben (Pedagogy of Play PI), Avante (art teacher, married to Tue), Idah (head of the kindergarten team), and Jen (also from PZ) to discuss the big picture questions and directions for the space. Camilla will be writing up and sending out her notes from the meeting that I will pass along when I get them, but my main takeaways were that they want to focus on the process of making to add value, be sure to instill good thinking routines and work habits from the start, and how they can work in the IB assessments that they have to do with design challenges in the space. We also talked about how the space will start to be used in the next few weeks, and the plan is that BBM will be the first time classes will use the space (each class is scheduled for time in the CreatorSpace a few times throughout the week). After that, Mike and I will set up a "challenge of the week", probably simple open ended challenges such as paper towers or tin foil boats, that will be left out in a corner for anybody to try either after school or during free time. Teachers will hopefully start reserving rooms off to the side of the CreatorSpace during that week as well and doing making activities with their classes in addition to some more guided making with the "after school club".

Below is an attempted hand drawn blueprint of the layout of the CreatorSpace to give everyone a bit more of a detailed idea what we're working with here.

As you walk in, there are two wood shops on the right, and they are the most set up and stocked spaces as of now. There are lots of hand tools (saws, hammers, drills, wrenches, etc.), some power-tools that are key operated (power sander and saw), and workbenches with vices as well as a decent supply of wooden planks, boards, and dowels.

Entrance to space

One wood shop with workbenches in the middle and power tools to the side

There are currently four big, long tables set up lengthwise down the middle of the room, although Mike has some ideas about changing up that layout to include couches and a tray-like system for tabletops and projects. At the end of the main open space, there is a circular table of computers next to two LEGO work tables that are currently holding the creations for the FLL "Trash Trek" challenge.

The chairs were set up for "parent's university" that night, and the man in the picture is named Bent

Computer table with LEGO work tables

The four classrooms attached to the space are still in the process of being set up, but so far it seems like one is dedicated to LEGO sets (gives the supply closet a run for its money), and another has kind of been commandeered by the art teacher for now. There was some talk of adding a video editing station in another class and there are pottery wheels set up in the other one, but the idea still seems to be that teachers can reserve a classroom and use it as home-base as their students do a making activity in the space with their class.

Potential video editing room with "bubbles" in the back [rocking stools for kids to sit on]

LEGO room

Art room. There are sewing machines still in boxes in the back

Room with pottery wheels set up in the back

I just want to mention my conversation with Bent, who is officially the caretaker of the school. He is the one who knows where everything is at school and has been working with Mike to order tools for the CreatorSpace, most specifically for the wood working rooms. With all of the construction still going on, he has been very busy with overseeing everything around the school as more and more new spaces open up every month, but is very into the ideals of the CreatorSpace and would love to be more involved. It seems like next year, once construction is all done, he will be able to spend some more time in the space and kind of act as the "maker in residence", which would be a really awesome resource for them to have at the school.

This afternoon I began sitting in on individual team meetings to get their ideas for how they think their class could use the CreatorSpace and what tools, materials, and support they'd like to see from the space. I will be writing up my takeaways from these meetings and share them at the end of the week, but it definitely seems like teachers are excited to use the space once it's available to them. The group of 2nd grade teachers I spoke to today already tries to incorporate as many creative projects as possible with their units, and would love to use the CreatorSpace to support those projects and could encourage them to do more.

I then sat in on a BBM planning meeting with all of the lead teachers for each grade level and experienced all of the confusion surrounding the week, but they seemed to embrace it and broke off into teams by the end to look at the website and brainstorm plans for the week. Mike is doing an awesome job of collecting materials and has bins set up at various places around the school and a trailer out front for parents to bring supplies in. I also went into a meeting with the parent-kindergarten council after school to talk a bit more about the idea of BBM and they seemed very much on board with it as well!

Kids painted the BBM bins after school today

Trailer outside Mike's house, currently outside of ISB

And finally, tonight ended with "Parent's University", a workshop very similar to the staff workshop last night run by the Project Zero team with parents. Parents were asked to draw pictures of themselves being playful and did the design challenge called "throw your money away" in which they had to make paper airplanes that held 7 pennies and could fly 4 meters. The catch was that in each group of 5, two people were simply observing the other three as they worked and looked for examples of playful learning, and then the observers shared what they saw with the builders at the end and had a discussion about what playful learning really means.

Wednesday (day 3)

I ended up spending a good part of the day today unpacking boxes of tools in the wood shop and starting to organize and set them up. As I went through more and more boxes, it occurred to me that the wood shop is where most of the resources for the CreatorSpace have gone so far. All of the tools are very high quality, and there are just about enough for every kid in a class could have their own tools at the same time, but it seems like they might have put all of their eggs in the wood shop basket without thinking of all of the other tools and materials that would help promote diverse projects in the space. There are great resources for crafts materials already spread around various other spaces in the school which I will try to bring in to the space to promote projects diversity, but I will try to bring this up with Camilla in the next few days and see if there's any way of expediting the ordering of other tools and materials that are more accessible to students (lots of safety concerns and restrictions on the wood shops).

I also sat in on a couple more team meetings and continued picking the brains of teachers to see what their conceptions of the CreatorSpace is as of now, how they could see their class using it, and what kinds of tools, materials, and support they would like for the space to have. Pretty much every teacher seems to be very on board and can't wait to get their classes into the space, as the culture in the school is already very much based in play and open ended, creative projects. One thing that I am starting to get a feel for is the IB framework that the school is using and how the CreatorSpace could help with that model, especially during assessments. There are formative assessments that are smaller and happen during units, and summative assessments that are a bit longer term at the end of the units. The assessments seem to currently be based in projects, and a couple of teachers could see themselves using the CreatorSpace to help support these assessment projects. I will continue looking into and thinking about the space in this light as I learn more about how the IB system works and how the two could help support each other.

Tuesday (day 7)

Lots has happened in the past couple of days in the CreatorSpace! It is vacation this week for all students, so a few of teachers were assigned to spend the first few days of the week helping to set up and organize the space. Yesterday was spent unpacking endless boxes of craft materials to fill the wall and other rooms of the space. The wall in the main part of the space is mostly filled with labels and pictures on each container so younger kids can see what's in the boxes higher than their eye level. Two rooms on one side of the space are generally organized into a "messy room" with things like clay and paint, and a crafts room with a sewing corner and other crafts materials.

"messy room"

I set up a "Project Request" poster on a wall just as you walk into the space with space for teachers to request things that they want made and a place for students to sign up to build them. The first example was written by Lisbeth, the teacher taking charge of the sewing corner, for something to help organize the thread spools for the sewing machines, which I build. We will hopefully think of lots more projects that can help make the CreatorSpace more organized that kids can sign up to make in after school club (making for the maker space.... meta-making!).

Today, I ran workshop with kindergarten and 1st grade teachers, and will be running the same workshop with different teachers tomorrow and Thursday. I started by doing paper towers with them as an intro to the engineering design process and talked a bit about my experiences in STOMP and shared the philosophies of the CEEO. In order to get them to explore the space and all of the tools and materials, I then introduced them to IEL and read a summary of The Ugly Duckling (Hans Christian Anderson of course) and asked them to design a solution to one of the problems that the duck faces on its journey to not actually being a duck after all. One group chose the problem that the kids in the farmhouse were too loud and their solution was to make headphones with buttons that the duck could push with its beak, and the other group designed a comfortable and warm home for the duck in the cave where it lived over the winter.

Thursday (day 9)

I continued workshops with teacher for the past couple of days and from the feedback I've received, they are even more excited to bring their classes into the space and now have a better idea of the type of projects they can do. I tried to emphasize two points through the workshops; the engineering design process is a great framework to give the students as they are working on a challenge and problem solve, and the importance of posing challenges that allow for a diversity of solutions while being focused enough to give students inspiration and allow them to learn form each other. Here are the designs from the rest of the Ugly Duckling IEL challenge:

A warm home for the ugly duckling on stilts so it could be in the middle of the water so cats couldn't get to it.

A cozy home for the ugly duckling with a garden on the outside.

A mechanical wing suit with instructions that the duck can strap on his back to help him fly

A bedazzled jetpack to help the duckling fly as well as look cool so he is not made fun of as much by the other birds

I have been spending the rest of the time continuing to organize the wood shops so they are ready to use for BBM in case students want to use some of the tools or wood in there to make their instruments sturdier.