The first grade classes were engaged in a PBL experience centered on kindness. A group of boys decided that a Find-A-Friend sign was what was needed to help them complete their work – the sign was part of the Public Product element of their Gold Standard PBL, as defined by the Buck Institute for Eduction. So they were sent to Studio(i) to find out how to make one. But while they were there, they also need to explain to me what a Find-A-Friend sign even was! :-)

As they explained it to me, the sign was meant to help kids when they were at recess. The boys noticed that some of the kids at recess were sitting by themselves, not playing with anyone. As part of the kindness work, they would go over to find out why they were by themselves not playing with anyone. They discovered two things: (1) Sometimes the person couldn’t find anyone to play with them. (2) Sometimes the person didn’t want to play with anyone, they just wanted to be by themselves. Through some work with the teachers, they came upon the idea of trying to tell the difference between kids that wanted to play with someone, and kids that wanted some alone time. They pushed them further to think about how the other kids running around a recess could know the difference too.

The solution was the Find-A-Friend sign!

They would put a sign on the courtyard that kids could sit next to if they were looking for someone to play with. The kids that were playing could look over at the sign, see if someone was there, and then ask anyone by the sign to come join in their games. And if they saw a kids sitting by themselves someplace other than by the sign, then they would know those kids wanted to be by themselves.

It’s a brilliant idea, really. Really, really brilliant.

So when they came to the Studio looking for help, they had already done quite a bit of planning. They had a prototype sketch of what they wanted the sign to say and what image they wanted. They knew the size they wanted, too. And perhaps best of all, they had already thought about the fact that sometimes they have recess in two different places – the Courtyard and the natural playground known as the Frontier. The boys wanted a sign that they could put up in one space, but could also bring with them to the other space.

The last part was the most fun because we went on a discovery walk to see if we could find any other signs at school that could be moved from place to place. We found a few, but the one they liked best were the ones that the Partnerships Department put up in the front lobby of the school. They have a big foam core sign that sits on an easel. The boys pointed out that they’ve seen the sign get moved to different places on campus when people come to visit. They also noticed that the easel was used for a lot of other signs too, which they remarked must mean that “those wooden stands are a good idea if they are getting used all the time.” :-) These same boys also thought that the easel would be a better idea than digging a hole for a post because “that Courtyard is really hard ground.” :-)

I suggested that we create the Find-A-Friend sign in two stages. The first would be to create the sign itself, and the second to create an easel stand.

To make the sign, I gave the boys a quick introduction to the Carvey; a desktop CNC machine created by Inventables. We went through how to design their sign on Easel, the modeling software that simplifies creating files for engraving/carving on CNC routers. We talked about the material we would use, and how to secure into the machine. In a very short time, we had recreated their prototype sketch on the machine and started it up. When the boys saw it start to work, they shared an absolutely hilarious #kidquote about it! And in an equally short time, the Carvey had done its work, they’d vacuumed up the dust, and were holding their sign!

The boys were completed amazed by the machine and what they’d made. Personally, I was pretty impressed to that we were going to make a pretty cool high-res solution for their PBL… and it would be completely made by them.

Here is the creation of the sign:

For the stand, we decided to make a simple easel out of four pieces of 1×2 pine. The boys did some measuring to decide how tall they wanted it to be, and then moved the measurements onto the wood. I gave them each a job to do when it came time for me to cut the boards on the saw. But when it came time to assemble it, they each got a chance to run the air nailer to fasten the pieces together. I about 15 minutes they had an easel that was a perfect fit for their sign.

Here is the construction of the stand:

And finally, the finished project! When they brought it back to their room to show their classmates, it was pretty clear that these boys were sticking their chest out a little bit further, and standing just a little bit taller, than before. :-)

The completed Find-a-Friend sign.

Some social media associated with this #MakerEd moment…

Your turn. Any thoughts to share?