School Maker Faires
This event blends Next Generation Science Standards goals with
the concepts of the Maker Movement.
By Danielle Harlow and Alexandria Hansen
he Maker Movement (Dougherty 2012) highlights innovation
and creativity through “activities focused on designing, build-
ing, modifying, and/or repurposing material objects, for playful
or useful ends, oriented toward making a ‘product’ of some sort that
can be used, interacted with, or demonstrated” (Martin 2015, p. 31).
When engaged in these types of activities, children explore materials,
learn and try out new skills, and ddle with technology.
We believe this is a powerful way to learn. Even the White House
has endorsed making as a productive way to stimulate STEM interest
and learning and established both the annual National Maker Faire at
the White House (Kalil and Miller 2014) and the Nation of Makers ini-
tiative. While making is not discipline-specic, it is particularly well
suited to addressing the engineering standards and practices included
in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013).
Science and Children30
Maker Faires, communitywide celebrations of making,
have been hosted across the world, with the largest of these
attracting 100,000 visitors annually. At these events, peo-
ple of all ages and of various careers and hobbies gather to
showcase work and learn from one another. Some exhibi-
tors set up booths displaying things they have built (or are
still working on); others host hands-on workshops to teach
skills such as soldering. Visitors wander the grounds, fol-
lowing their inspiration and curiosity, and leave with new
ideas and plans. Elementary schools have begun host-
ing smaller events modeled after maker faires. Here, we
call these events School Maker Faires, the name given to
school-based maker faires that are licensed under Maker
Media. While any school can host a Maker event, regis-
tering the event (for free) with Maker Media (makerfaire.
School Maker Faire activities.
Stations Description NGSS Alignment
Bird feeders Students will be offered a variety of recyclable materials
and use them to craft/build bird feeders. The bird feeder’s
purpose is to provide birds with easy access to seed or water.
Play-Doh We will be providing ingredients that the students will
use in an exploratory setting to make modeling clay. The
students will be expected to measure out ingredients to use
mathematical and computational thinking.
Lunar lander Design and build a vehicle that will land on the Moon and
protect the astronauts inside.
Magnetic painting Objects in contact exert forces on each other (friction, elastic
pushes and pulls). Electric, magnetic, and gravitational forces
between a pair of objects do not require that the objects be in
contact—for example, magnets push or pull at a distance. The
sizes of the forces in each situation depend on the properties
of the objects and their distances apart and, for forces
between two magnets, on their orientation relative to each
other. At this station, students will use magnets to paint.
Magazine art The process of recycling paper goods takes time and energy
and produces carbon emissions. Finding a way to reuse paper
goods ourselves reduces energy use in recycling. We chose to
have three stations related to reusing old magazines. At this
station, you will make recycled magazine bracelets.
Make a game
Students will be exploring with programming and circuits
to gain an understanding of how circuits work. They will be
using fruits such as oranges and bananas to play games and
do activities on the computer, rather than using the keyboard.
com/global/school) provides permission to use the School
Maker Faire logo and to access a community of teachers
and administrators organizing other School Maker Faires
and resources for planning and hosting a School Maker
Faire. These events typically showcase student work and
work-in-progress to families and the community while
also providing opportunities for attendees to make along-
side students and teachers. During the 2015–2016 year,
we emphasized maker education in a science methods
course for preservice elementary school teachers. The
culminating activity was that the teacher candidates fa-
cilitated a School Maker Faire for local elementary school
students. Below we discuss the course that supported their
design and assessment of a maker education activity and
the culminating event.
March 2018 31
The preservice elementary school teachers in our pro-
gram were enrolled in a 13-month masters and teacher
credential program. All had completed an undergraduate
degree prior to entering the program. Elementary science
methods was held during the second half of the program.
While the course addressed many issues related to science
learning, here we discuss only those activities and consid-
erations that relate to maker education.
On the rst day of class, students were introduced to
the NGSS and to Maker Education through a shadow
puppet activity. The preservice teachers created shadow
puppets and a short video that used the shadow puppets
to demonstrate something about one of the disciplinary
core ideas. The preservice teachers designed storyboards,
created shadow puppets, and explored light and shadow.
While the preservice teachers were free to choose any area
of science to create their video about, the reection follow-
ing this activity was tied to what they learned about light
and shadow through the construction of the shadow pup-
pets and to the NGSS rst-grade performance expectation
1-PS4-3: Plan and conduct investigations to determine the
effect of placing objects made with different materials in
the path of a beam of light.
Throughout the quarter, they engaged in other activi-
ties related to maker education including creating card-
board automata, building robots, sculpting circuits made
of conductive clay, and designing objects to be printed
with a 3D printer. Reections following each activity
focused on connections to the NGSS and how to assess
whether or not students were learning without disrupting
the maker experience.
The culminating assignment was to develop and fa-
cilitate an activity at a School Maker Faire (Table 1). The
preservice teachers worked in small groups to iteratively
design the activity they would facilitate both in their stu-
TABLE 1. (continued)
School Maker Faire activities.
Stations Description NGSS Alignment
Recycled boats Students will be given an assortment of materials to create
something that ﬂoats. Students will be assigned the task of
creating something that ﬂoats using at least three materials.
Balloon rockets Students will be in groups of 2–4 and will make balloon-powered
rockets. They will be experimenting to see if the rocket goes
farther with a bigger or smaller balloon. They will test different
designs and make observations on how the size of the balloon
correlates to how far the rocket traveled.
Squishy circuits Make circuits using Play-Doh. 4-PS3-2
Stomp rockets Students will work in groups or individually to create stomp
rockets, use their scientiﬁc knowledge to classify different
rockets, and which ones will go higher than others, then develop
hypotheses about which rocket will go highest and back up their
claim with evidence.
Car racing The ﬁrst step to the process is for students to draw a model of
their design. When they have created their design, participants
will construct “cars” from bins of Legos, and will then race their
cars down a ramp. The participants will try to make the fastest
car, and can re-engineer and tinker with their designs when they
have another turn. A race will take place every 10 minutes. Each
step must be completed, so each racer will have illustrated their
design, then built their model. Students can make changes to
their original illustrations.
Concept: Energy &
Cause & Effect
Science and Children32
School Maker Faires
dent teaching placement and at the School Maker Faire.
They also developed an assessment activity and rubric
designed to elicit student ideas and measure conceptual
development of NGSS-aligned content related to their
maker activity. The preservice teachers could either assess
the students in their student teaching classroom place-
ment or they could assess students at the School Maker
Faire. The instructor and teaching assistant provided
feedback on early drafts on criteria such as whether the
assessment was likely to elicit the goals, whether the as-
sociated rubric showed conceptual growth, and whether
the activity, learning goals, assessment, and rubric were
aligned. We encouraged the preservice teachers to think
beyond multiple-choice tests and to develop assessment
tasks that did not distract from the fun of the maker ac-
tivity and suggested using assessments that included de-
sign drawings and journals, using the artifact as evidence
of learning, or informal interview questions. Two weeks
prior to the School Maker Faire, the preservice teachers
hosted a “mock maker faire” in their science methods
course. They set up their activity and took turns facilitat-
ing their activity for their classmates and providing feed-
back to their peers.
The School Maker Faire
At the School Maker Faire, stations were set up in class-
rooms and lawn spaces around the university education
building where the preservice teachers took classes. Ad-
ditional classrooms were used for workshops on computer
programming and 3-D printing, as well as a panel discus-
sion featuring local elementary school teachers who were
already integrating maker education into their classrooms.
Three to ve maker activities were placed in each class-
room, loosely thematically grouped. One room focused on
“remixing everyday materials” and housed four stations:
building boats out of recycled materials and testing how
many pennies the boat could hold, building balloon rock-
ets out of balloons and toilet paper rolls, and lunar landers
built out of paper plates and cups to hold a marshmallow
“astronaut.” Outside this room, students designed and
built bird feeders. Another classroom housed “Electricity,
Light, and Color” stations, and a third housed “Materials
and Art.” Online, we have shared the activities planned
and facilitated by the preservice teachers, the descriptions
provided by the preservice teachers for the visitors, and
the NGSS alignment they identied (performance expec-
Children create bird feeders.
The NGSS, Engineering, and the Challenge for Elementary Schools
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) describe a vision of science in which children learn science through
the practices of science and engineering. Engineering design is included in disciplinary core ideas, as part of the
practices, and integrated into performance expectations at all grade levels. Integrating engineering into science
instruction will be challenging for U.S. elementary teachers to implement, especially in ways that will broaden
diverse students’ participation in these disciplines. One strategy is to look to the growing Maker Movement for
inspiration. While making and engineering are not identical, they are related in that by engaging in making,
students are often also engaging in engineering design (Martinez and Stager 2013).
Effectively integrating maker education opportunities into schools requires educators to balance the demands
of formal school with goals of the Maker Movement, particularly in assessing maker education (Halverson and
Sheridan 2014). This means creating activities that align with the goals of maker education while also facilitating
learning standards and curricular goals for which schools are held accountable—all without reducing maker
education to only a focus on the tools (Martin 2015) or only creating small projects like key chains (Blikstein 2013).
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS
March 2018 33
Child’s drawing (left) and bird feeder (right).
tations, DCI, practices, crosscutting concepts or a combi-
nation of all three [see NSTA Connection and Table 1]).
Local elementary school children and their families
were invited and over 400 guests attended. At the event,
families were free to wander to any station and to stay for
as long or as little as they wanted. This required the pre-
service teachers to think about how to design activities
that invited children to engage with the materials. Also,
because this included children from kindergarten through
sixth-grade classrooms and their siblings, the preservice
teachers might encounter a 5-year old, a 10-year-old, and
parents simultaneously, requiring the preservice teachers
to provide multiple entry points to the activity. Further,
the children created very different artifacts and interacted
with the content in multiple ways, highlighting the diver-
sity of student ideas. To provide a sense of the types of ac-
tivities planned by the preservice teachers, a subset of the
activities are described in the following section.
Example 1: Bird Feeders. Three preservice teachers
designed a station in which children learned about local
birds through posters displayed around their station. These
posters included images of the birds and information about
the birds’ size, food source, and typical habitat as well as in-
formation about how pollution was impacting the habitats
of local birds. Children were provided with recycled mate-
rials and challenged to build a bird feeder that would meet
the needs of one specic, local bird species (see Figure 1). At
the station, children were asked to draw out their ideas be-
fore building (see Figure 2). The preservice teachers asked
students questions about how the design accounted for the
weight of the bird, whether it would allow the bird’s beak
to t, and whether the seeds would fall
out when it was hanging. These preser-
vice teachers aligned their station to en-
gineering (K-ESS3-3, K-2-ET1-2) and
life science performance expectations
(3-LS4-4). In a reection after the event,
the preservice teachers stated that they
knew that students were learning science
and engineering at their station because,
“Students were able to sketch, create, and
test their feeder. This allowed students
to use critical thinking skills to design a
practical feeding instrument. Students
came to the station and the rst thing they
were asked was to sketch a model of what
they wanted to make. Then they chose
what material they wanted to construct
the feeder from.” The preservice teach-
ers used these drawn models to probe the
students’ understanding about birds.
Example 2: Make a Game Con-
troller or Music Player. At another
station, families experimented with everyday materials to
make a game controller or music player. The station includ-
ed three computers set up with a piano keyboard program
(see Figure 3), a video game, and an open programming
Scratch screen (scratch.mit.edu). Each computer was con-
nected to a device that mapped to the keyboard, activating
particular keys when a circuit was completed. The content
goal for this station was focused on completing a circuit. In
the accompanying assessment activity, the preservice teach-
ers asked students in their classrooms to make a controller
for an online Simon game, which communicated with the
player using light and sound (NGSS 1-PS4-4). The chil-
dren then drew their circuits and explained their reasoning.
Example 3: Balloon Rockets. A third station focused
on balloon rockets in which children used balloons, toilet
A child made a game controller using modeling clay.
Science and Children34
School Maker Faires
A family creates a music player using fruit.
paper tubes, and straws to design a rocket. They placed
the rocket on string and observed how it moved when the
air was released from the balloon. These preservice teach-
ers described observing children designing and testing
their balloons to assess their understanding of engineering
(NGSS K-2-ETS1-3) and physical science (K-PS2-2) per-
formance expectations and related practices (analyzing and
interpreting data) and disciplinary core ideas (ETS1.C).
For example, simply placing the rocket in the correct direc-
tion on the string indicated some level of understanding of
how the balloon would move when the air was released. For
example, in response to the question about how they knew
children were learning, one preservice teacher at this station
stated, “I know students were learning because they were
adjusting what they were doing based
on what they observed. If they faced the
rocket the wrong way, they would turn
it around for the next trial. They would
notice that their rocket didn’t make it to
the end of the string and decide it was
too heavy and some parts needed to be
removed. Their answers to our questions
were also developing as they tested ideas
and gained more experience.” These pre-
service teachers designed a separate ac-
tivity to run in their classroom to create
a more focused opportunity for assess-
ment. In the classroom, they created sta-
tions focused on different topics. At one
station, children designed rockets, drew
ideas, and tested rockets. At another
station, children compared two differ-
ent rocket designs and made predictions
about how well they would work and
supported their predictions with evidence from earlier tri-
als. This activity both allowed for open-ended design and
focused assessment activities.
After the Event
After the event, the preservice teachers submitted reec-
tions on the event. They were asked how they knew if stu-
dents were learning, what they as facilitators learned from
the event, and what surprised them. Recurring themes
were that the preservice teachers were surprised by how
capable the children were, how much the children enjoyed
the activities, and the diversity of children’s ideas. One
preservice teacher who facilitated a station on squishy cir-
cuits stated, “We learned that regardless of age, kids are
able to engineer complex things with the appropriate help
of an adult. It was great to see the kids working hard to
understand why it wasn’t lighting up.”
Moreover, the preservice teachers enjoyed themselves
and found that they learned engineering and science along
with the children. As one stated, “I learned that it is possible
to teach what can be a complex science lesson to kids of all
ages. It was fun to challenge myself in nding the right way
to teach kids who were 5 and kids who were in fth grade
the same essential thing. I also found that through explain-
ing it over and over again to different students I was even
building on my understanding of the engineering concepts
that I was explaining to the students.” Another described,
“I loved to see students guiding their own learning through
their reactions and choices. We had questions to facilitate
the learning, but letting the kids lead always added new di-
rections and brought up new opportunities. This was such a
fun way to teach and learn!”
Students test boats made of apple pieces.
March 2018 35
How This School Maker Faire Fits
Into Larger Maker Movement
The stations designed by the preservice teachers each set up
a specic challenge and included specic materials. None
of the stations provided step-by-step instructions. Instead,
the preservice teachers were interested in what the children
would choose to build within the constraints of the tasks
and the children’s design process and decisions. However,
none of the projects provided the visitors a chance to decide
what they wanted to build themselves. Personal relevance
is a hallmark of maker education and many Maker Faires
include areas for open-ended building. This was discussed
in the course; however, because the preservice teachers were
also expected to demonstrate competency in their under-
standing of NGSS and science instruction, an open-ended
station that also met the constraints of their assignment
would have been more difcult to design.
In a reection after the Maker Faire, multiple preservice
teachers reported that their station became less structured
as they interacted with more children. In some cases this
was because they found that, when they had multiple ages
at the same time, they had to be more exible in their expec-
tations. In other cases, it was because their station was near
another station that used different materials and students
began productively using other materials in unexpected
ways. In the future, we will partner with other facilitators to
include such stations at the School Maker Faire so that the
event exposes the teachers (and participating children) to a
wider range of experiences typical at a Maker Faire yet still
allows the preservice teachers to practice designing an activ-
ity that meets goals of NGSS and is assessable.
In addition to the preservice teachers participating in the
course, the School Maker Faire also served local practic-
ing teachers. Many local teachers attended to learn about
maker education and some of these teachers have already
replicated the event at their own elementary school or
integrated maker education into the regular school day
through initiating the construction or designation of mak-
erspaces in their schools.
As the preservice teachers who participated in this event
take jobs in schools and have their own classrooms, they
will be prepared to harness the enthusiasm and creativity of
maker education and help children develop understandings
of disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices,
and the crosscutting concepts of the NGSS. ■
Danielle Harlow (email@example.com) is an as-
sociate professor and Alexandria Hansen is a PhD candi-
date, both at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Blikstein, P. 2013. Digital fabrication and “making” in education:
The democratization of invention. In FabLabs: Of machines,
makers and inventors, eds. J. Walter-Herrmann and C.
Büching. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript Publisher.
Dougherty, D. 2012. The maker movement. Innovations 7 (3):
Halverson, E., and K. Sheridan. 2014. The maker movement in
education. Harvard Educational Review 84 (4): 495–504.
Kalil, T., and J. Miller. 2014. Announcing the ﬁrst White House
Maker Faire. The White House Blog. Retrieved from www.
Martin, L. 2015. The promise of the maker movement
for education, J-PEER 5 (1): Article 4. http://dx.doi.
Martinez, S.L., and G. Stager. 2013. Invent to learn: Making,
tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA:
Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.
NGSS Lead States 2013. Next Generation Science Standards:
For states, by states. Washington, DC: National Academies
Download descriptions of how these activities connected
to the NGSS, plus the assignment overview and a list of
helpful resources, at www.nsta.org/SC1803.
A lunar lander protects its marshmallow astronaut.
Science and Children36
School Maker Faires
Connecting to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013):
Performance Expectation Connections to Classroom Activity
1-PS4-3. Plan and conduct
investigations to determine the
effect of placing objects made
with different materials in the
path of a beam of light.
• experimented with light and shadow to create shadow puppets that had different
Science and Engineering Practices
Asking Questions and Deﬁning
• developed activities for children that deﬁned problems for children to solve. (Note:
This does not engage the children in the practice of deﬁning problems, but does
provide the preservice teachers with the experience of deﬁning problems.)
Developing and Using Models • created models and prototypes related to various design challenges in the class.
They also were encouraged to collect students’ drawn or constructed models to
use as part of their assessment activity.
Constructing Explanations and
• used students’ ﬁnal designs as assessment tools.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
Design: Deﬁne a simple design
problem reﬂecting a need or
want that includes speciﬁed
criteria for success and
constraints on materials, time,
• engaged in deﬁning a simple design problem in both their construction of an
activity for children. They were instructed to think of the School Maker Faire activity
as a design problem. They had speciﬁc constraints (space, time, materials) and
goals related to children’s learning.
• engaged in this DCI through engineering activities in class. For example, they
discussed an engineering challenge proposed by NASA to design a non-edible
food-related object that could be 3D printed by astronauts (www.futureengineers.
org/startrek). They identiﬁed constraints related to conditions of outer space, size,
and material constraints as well as the speciﬁc problems that needed to be solved.
3-5-ETS1-2: Generate and
compare multiple possible
solutions to a problem based on
how well each is likely to meet
the criteria and constraints of
• brainstormed multiple ideas for their School Maker Faire activity. They then
discussed which would be most likely to be effective in the speciﬁc setting and with
multiple age levels.
• included stages in class engineering activities where students developed multiple
3-5-ETS1-3: Plan and carry out
fair tests in which variables
are controlled and failure
points are considered to
identify aspects of a model
or prototype that can be
• included stages in class engineering activities where preservice teachers tested
multiple models to identify how a prototype could be improved. In one example, they
were tasked with replicating the actions of a cardboard automata (an object that
when a lever is rotated, other objects move up and down, side to side, or around
[http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/cardboard-automata]). The interior mechanisms
of the sample automata were hidden from the preservice teachers. They constructed
and tested multiple models to determine which best recreated the desired actions.
Cause and Effect • engaged in activities where they explored how changing one aspect changed
Systems and System Models • engaged children in constructing models of systems and identifying the speciﬁc
Structure and Function • considered the structure and function of the objects they designed and the objects
that children designed.
March 2018 37