Make Education Forum – Highlights

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“Making and the Future of Work”


If you are at home eager to have an overview of everything that happened at the Make Education Forum, this post is for you. The Forum aimed at spreading the word that one  important outcome for maker education is helping more students find meaningful, productive work. At this year’s Education Forum at World Maker Faire NY, a great lineup of speakers  look at how maker educators can help students navigate the future of work–a future that focuses on curiosity and innovation.Speakers and panelists provided insight into how hands-on learning experiences  develop future-forward skills and mindset.

Innovating the School Experience

Sarah Boisvert with Fab Lab Hub operates 2 Fab Labs in Santa Fe, NM and has developed Digital Badges for operators and service techs. Her work mapping what skills are needed for today’s operators and technicians point to the  realisation that 95% of the manufacturers said they are looking for people with problem-solving skills. All the work All work is documented online and accessible to those willing to master important skills for the jobs of the future.

The New Collar Workforce

At the heart of making is the belief that we have the chance to tackle the problems we are passionate about. Carlos Moreno, Co-Executive Director of Big Picture Learning, is unapologetically passionate about promoting equality. He supports schools and educational leaders who are creating high-quality, non-traditional schools.

Fostering Maker Empowerment and a Sensitivity to Design

Senior Research Manager Andrea Sachdeva from the Agency by Design (AbD) research initiative at Project Zero (Harvard Graduate School of Education) took us beyond thinking of making as a skill to be applied. She shared some relevant frameworks to help educators think of  making as an educational approach to design and instruct maker activities across the curriculum. She brought along examples far from the technical skills and offered a fresh look to making. The Project’s site is undergoing massive changes soon.

What School Makerspaces Can Learn From Co-Working Spaces

Azadeh Jamalian, the former head of Education Strategy at littleBits, is the founder of the world’s first incubator + invention hub for kids.  She got Inspired by new working environments and a their flat hierarchy to think of ways schools can promote new social + invention hub for kids to do what they dream.

Makerspaces in the Workspace

Aaron Cunningham, the global makerspace lead at Google, Leads a team of over 250 volunteers. They focus  on Google engagement and growth at over 50 makerspaces in Google offices around the world. Google encourages making as a means of driving innovation across Google. In the beginning, people would come to a google makerspace to code. Then, 3d printers were introduced to prototype products.  3d printers started to collect dust and the office understood that what makes the place are the people in them. Aaron shared his personal story – he does not have a college degree but by volunteering and working together with other makers at  a makerspaces developed in him the skills that landed him a job at Google. Aaron urged educators and people to encounter the maker movement. “…We should not worry about certificates. We need dispositions to make things happen at google.”

Connecting Students and Seniors for Real-World Problem Solving

Niti Parikh shared the process and findings from a pilot workshop offered in Spring 2018 where 6 senior community members were paired up with 6 Cornell Tech graduate students. The methodology used is fascinating and the results were interesting.

Inspiring Makers, Dreamers and Entrepreneurs

Michael Holmstrom introduced us to STEM Punks and inspires a new generation of creative and innovative thinkers. Their  eLearning programs have been developed to enable online learning of our Innovation Programs.

Solving Hard Problems in Challenging Situations

Brad Halsey of Building Momentum in Arlington, VA has applied his diverse maker skills in maker training for the Marines as well as deployments in disaster relief. Brad is a motivated scientist who thrives at leading others to develop and use technology to rapidly solve critical problems, especially in challenging, austere, and combat environments. He advocates for Problem solving being used as a tool and says that all one need to find solutions is confidence and permission. He challenged educators to throw a real challenge at the school community and he would help youth build the confidence and competence needed  to make changes.





Freedom of Press, 2018 | Collaborative Program Design

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Casa Thomas Jefferson`s Freedom of Press 2018 program is a strong case of how integrating multiple resources is the right strategy to engage people in lasting initiatives.  Partnerships of all types have made this event possible, and we at the CTJ can only thank each and every part for their involvement.

First, we would like to  thank the American Embassy for proposing such an important theme and a mission: to help engage as many people as possible in Brasilia, as well as  people in other locations in Brazil in talking about “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law” in innovative ways.

The theme is of course a concern during an election year, so it’s easy to understand why so many BNCs responded positively to the invitation of hosting programs on the theme of Freedom of Press. At the CTJ, we avidly read the TOOLKIT – package programs and links, adapted to the BNCs’ reality, and set an online Design Thinking session. During the DT session, the CTJ team shared some thoughts on how to address the theme with varied audiences and how to reach out for partners (in public universities, in the private sector, and among alumni), and introduced the idea that the BNCs should inspire and get inspired by the American Spaces network. Once warmed up, the BNCs engaged very well in a lively online brainstorming session on Padlet.

Made with Padlet


In May 2018, the BNCs offered to varied target audiences programs specially designed to promote connection, expression, exploration, and active learning. See on a Google  map an overview of the programs held at Binational Centers in Brazil on the theme of Freedom of Press. Each BNC organised an event using their own time and financial resources.


Freedom of Press | at Casa Thomas Jefferson

Casa Thomas Jefferson held several programs on the theme. The first one, on May 3rd, was a panel with undergrad journalism students and university professors. On May 8th, the CTJ Makerspace held two events. Both in the morning and in the afternoon, we welcomed public school teachers and students from CIL Samambaia. We started with a Human Library session, in which participants talked to alumni and influential people in the field.Our ‘living books’ shared their own stories related to the theme.

  • Alumna Gisele Rodrigues, from the House of Representatives, @gisele.a.r
  • Programmer and communications specialist  Apolinário Passos, @apolinariosteps
  • Lawyer with the Supreme Court Walter Moura

Students engage in active learning as they investigate ways to spot fake news.


Students practice a skill they should be already using as a habit of mind: questioning and verifying sources


The hands-on part that followed used a game designed by @midiamakersbr during a mediation that involved educators, programmers and journalists in an effort to produce cc pedagogical materials in São Paulo – once again the awesome power of collaboration played a huge role and enriched the program. The CTJ makerspace team adapted and translated one of the news checking games, and counted on the expertise of Elizabeth Silver, a highly skilled and resourceful American teacher, who works at CTJ and co-designed and delivered the program.



CTJ’s Resource Centers

Besides collaborating with the makerspace team, Wander Filho, CTJ Resource Center supervisor,  organised workshops that offered the public dynamic learning experiences on the theme in the other CTJ branches scattered around Brasilia. RCs celebrated two important dates during the month of May: World Press Freedom Day and Memorial Day  to promote literacy and digital citizenship.


Casa Thomas Jefferson Culture department in collaboration with the Embassy, invited journalists, university professors and students and the community to  a panel discussion to celebrate the theme. The event was held at CTJ`s modern and welcoming facilities and transmitted on the Embassy’s  Facebook page.

See photos of CTJ makerspace in action

CTJ - Freedom of Press : checking and validating news - May/2018

Makerspace & EFL | Unique Learning Experiences

By | 21st Century Skills, Classroom, English, Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Problem Solving, STEAM Activity, Testimony | No Comments

To solve the many problems we humans are bound to face, we will need to have people who know how to collaborate and efficiently put thoughts and skills to work together to solve challenges. So, it is phenomenal when teachers see their English Teaching practice as malleable and experiment with Maker-Centered Learning [MCL] within their curriculum so as to provide youth with exciting and dynamic learning experiences. Last week, a CTJ teacher, who loves seeing teens thrive and engage in the learning process, brought her group to the school’s makerspace. Her journey underlines some of the real benefits of adopting a framework for Maker Empowerment. What you will read below is Elizabeth Silver‘s testimonial of her class. Enjoy and become part of a growing number of educators willing to experiment and identify the  benefits of MCL.


“Want to do something fun and easy with your class? This activity is adaptable to any level and can be done in both the Makerspace and/or the classroom. The challenge is to see how much weight dry spaghetti noodles can support. This idea was inspired on 5B’s Unit 9 – Engineering Wonders.  To take better advantage of the content offered here, I went looking around in the internet for something to construct with my class. I came upon these two sources:

What you need in terms of materials

  • A couple of bags of spaghetti (the cheapies will do)
  • Styrofoam boards – about 3cm thick and 1 meter long (I used one for each group, but you could cut it in half)
  • Box cutters/craft knives/utility knives (whatever you want to call them)
  • Objects to put on top of the dry spaghetti to test strength
  • Baggage hand scale to weigh objects (I happen to have this, so I made use of it. You could just estimate the weight or even use vocabulary of comparatives and superlatives to talk about the objects).
  • Optional additions are LED lights and batteries, which give the students another level of making/designing. I also had on hand markers, paper, string, toothpicks and scissors – but NO glue, which would defeat the purpose of the activity.
  • Design Thinking form – the outline for this is on the PPT. I have the students copy it down, do some pre-design thinking on the objectives, materials available, how they plan to execute their idea and their expected outcome. Here is a perfect moment to include target language. After they do the activity, they revise their forms according to their experiences. Then I have them hand it in for basic corrections and as a way to wrap up their findings, thus leading to a class discussion. I also do this to stimulate critical thinking, reflection and analysis.
  • Slides


Figuring it out

They were so engaged! They took it upon themselves to divide into groups, got the material (even asking if other Makerspace material was available for use), and spoke only in English (this time I did not have to insist on that); they cooperated, collaborated and shared ideas. The final structures were so different, showing the diversity of thought among the students. The Makerspace staff, who provided support and ideas, readily assisted them.

Developing a sensitivity to design

The result of this experience was beyond expectations. We used the Makerspace, which in itself takes your class to another level – what I like to call a ‘shift’. The idea above is not in and of itself so innovative or technological, but the dynamic that took place with my students was phenomenal.

Learning from tools and from others

At one very cool moment, two  Makerspace staff members brought out a specialised tool for cutting styrofoam and demonstrated how to use it (less mess than a box cutter). The class stood around them watching how it works, and they were in such awe that they literally let out a collective “AAAHHHH!” The word we heard the most from them during it all was “satisfying”. Summing it up, we had fun – smiling, chatting, joking, laughing. It was akin to a social event. They are begging to go back… to be continued.”

Elizabeth Silver is a teacher at CTJ since 2012 
and is always looking for different ways to 
ignite the learning spark in her students.



ACCESS Maker Camp

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, Digital Literacy, English, Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Sem categoria | One Comment

Imagine a place where youth learn about new skills, tools, and opportunities, a place where there is room for creativity and genuine intrinsic motivation, a place where learning a skill may lead to learning a competence that could influence the way you perceive yourself and your role in society. Such places exist, and are growing in numbers in Brazil. On July 3rd and 4th, CTJ Makerspace, in close collaboration with the American Embassy in Brasilia, had the pleasure to host a two-day Maker Camp for 30 extraordinary English Access Micro-scholarship Program students. The Access Maker Camp was specially designed to promote experiential learning opportunities for participants and teachers. For two days, thirty students from all over Brazil and three American interns participated in maker activities and experiences that may lead to their building a growth mindset and becoming more responsible for their own educational and professional prospect.


Inspirational Talk

Day one started with a brief talk about flexible learning environments and the educational system in Brazil, and about connecting with ideas and worthy information on the web. Participants discussed how schools are still trapped in a model that perceives learners as passive consumers, and how access to information may give them a chance to be more prepared to change that. We shared some valuable links and resources that may help youth become more digitally literate and have a voice or even come up with solutions for challenges in their communities.


In small groups, all participants attended five experiential stations.

  • Circuit Board  challenges
  • Strawbees
  • Goldberg Machine
  • Cardboard brain teasers

The goal was to have participants feel the thrill of learning by making and notice how simple materials can be repurposed into exciting learning prompts. Once the hands-on part of the activity was over, we opened a discussion on what they learned while engaged in each of the tasks. Many participants told us that they had learned how to listen to their peers and how to collaborate in order to succeed – precious soft skills to acquire. Participants also talked about how they could use what they had learned to improve schools or libraries in their communities.

Workshops – laser cutting and making circuit boards

Participants were divided into groups and attended two workshops. In a world surrounded by design, it is almost unconceivable that students go through high school without pondering what design is or even learning how to use image editors to convey powerful messages. The laser cutter workshop started with participants learning how to prepare files and use features in an image editor. They were told that all we need to do in order to learn something new is to be willing, do our best and learn from our mistakes. The second session gave participants the chance to make the circuit boards they had used during the showcase so that they understood how they work. Knowing how things work and becoming sensitive to design may promote understanding that the designed systems and objects are malleable, leading learners to become active agents of change. When asked what they had learned, one student said that he understood that sharing what you learn with your community strengthens everyone.

Human Library

For the Human Library session we invited two extraordinary women who had a very important message to give: we are responsible for our own future. Teresa Pires, a well known designer and entrepreneur, talked about her experience as a public school student, how lost she was as a teenager, and how her passion helped her understand what made sense for her professional life. Teresa opened her own instagram store and she teaches people how to bind books. She also told the kids about learning to use technology, available at CTJ Makerspace, to improve her business outreach, and shared her new Youtube Channel. Angelita Torres, a computational science grad and outstanding member of CTJ Makerspace team, inspired youth and told them about her experience as a girl in the STEAM field, where the vast majority is male students. We had a vivid exchange of ideas in English as participants were given the task to find three things Angelita and Teresa had in common. To wrap the two days of hard and, at the same time, pleasant work, Access students were asked to take a picture of something they found interesting and post it on their social media. You can relish what these smart eager learners had to say here.
Read about Human Libraries in American Spaces here


ACCESS Maker Camp

Glowing firefly- vector illustration

Enriching Teacher XP | Professor Fazedor

By | Digital Literacy, English, Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Português, Sem categoria | No Comments

The first makerspace in a binational center in Brazil, CTJ Makerspace, has one main goal: we aim at bringing the library into the 21st century – teaching multiple literacies through print and digital content. With the support of a dedicated staff, we are always more than happy to help teachers use pieces of technology to enrich their lessons. A good example of this practice is how the English teacher Lucia Carneiro learned how to use an image editor (Adobe Illustrator) to create unique learning experiences for her learners.

Our librarian and makerspace supervisor, Soraya Lacerda, helped Lúcia use technology to get creative and design an innovative storytelling session. Students participated in the telling as the teacher projected characters on the ceiling using a flashlight and cutout bugs. Lucia also took to class a template of a firefly, facilitated a session in which students made the bug light up, and recorded their singing the song “Fireflies” (OwlCity) while playing with their creations. As a result, students were very enthusiastic about their production and families realized how creative her lessons are.

EFL Learning | Maker XP 

A Casa Thomas Jefferson é um centro de excelência acadêmica muito comprometido com o treinamento de professores. O CTJ Makerspace é um local onde educadores buscam novas vivências e se aproximam de tecnologias para enriquecer suas práticas de sala de aula. Um bom exemplo disso foi o aprendizado da professora Lúcia Carneiro no makerspace esse semestre. Ela veio ao espaço e com ajuda da bibliotecária e supervisora, Soraya Lacerda, pensou em duas atividades para os seus alunos. Lúcia usou a plotter de corte para criar stencils que, usados com uma lanterna, projetaram imagens no teto. As alunos participaram ativamente de uma contação de história bastante inusitada que trazia vida ao vocabulário estudado. Lúcia também usou o makerspace para criar os templates  que os alunos combinaram com bateria botão e LEDs para construir vagalumes. Ao final da atividade, os alunos cantaram a música “Fireflies” (OwlCity) e gravaram um video que foi encaminhado aos pais. Lúcia, intrinsicamente motivada, aprendeu uma habilidade, adaptou ao seu contexto, encantou seus alunos e compartilhou o seu conhecimento com colegas. Pontos fortes de um DNA maker de profissional do século 21.  



Human Library |Biblioteca Humana

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Modern American Spaces are lively physical venues that promote honest conversations about relevant topics. There are simple and effective ways to deliver programs that promote social engagement and, at Casa Thomas Jefferson, Library Supervisor Wander Filho keeps his eyes open for these opportunities. He understands the need for meaningful engagement, and got inspired by the Human Library – a global movement that helps build understanding of diversity by providing a framework for real conversations about important issues. Their site brings clear guidelines to help facilitators promote open and honest conversations that can lead to greater acceptance, tolerance and social cohesion in the community.  In April 2017, CTJ used this innovative approach to challenge stereotypes through non confrontational and friendly conversations. Surrounded by inspiring pieces of art at CTJ`s Art Gallery, guest speakers, representing varied social and ethnic backgrounds, were available to participants. It was a unique learning experience for all involved, as it gave voice to different groups and supported a greater understanding of diversity and social cohesion. Among the topics discussed: women in pursue of a career in STEAM, strategies to overcome intolerance, engaging in volunteer work, Traveling to the U.S, etc.


A Human Library é um movimento internacional que promove uma forma inclusiva de desafiar o preconceito e os esteriótipos através do contato social. Atualmente é realizado em mais de 60 países. A Human Library promove o encontro e o contato entre as pessoas. São conversas abertas e honestas que podem levar a uma maior aceitação, tolerância e a coesão social nas comunidades. Pessoas reais, em conversas reais, em um ambiente seguro, acolhedor e que facilite o diálogo. Um lugar e momento onde seja permitido fazer perguntas difíceis de maneira respeitosa. Um lugar onde essas perguntas são esperadas, apreciadas e respondidas.

Nossos convidados e convidadas são chamados de Living Books, pois assim como em uma biblioteca, um leitor ou visitante da Human Library pode escolher um Livro para ler. A diferença é que os Livros são pessoas reais e leitura é uma conversa.

Na dinâmica da Human Library, as pessoas sentam em grupos de até seis pessoas, com rodadas de diálogo com a duração de aproximadamente 20 minutos. A ideia é que os grupos troquem de mesa a cada ciclo.

 A agenda de equidade de gênero é um dos objetivos estratégicos da Thomas. E não por acaso, a primeira edição da CTJ Human Library priorizou a fala de mulheres convidadas a compartilharem suas experiências. Ouvimos Nanauí Amorós evidenciar como ainda hoje o machismo torna difícil mulheres estudarem e trabalharem no campo da tecnologia. Também ouvimos as experiências de Rose de Paula e como seu espírito aventureiro moldou seu futuro profissional na diplomacia brasileira. Conhecemos a história de Ana Paula M. G. e como sua experiência de voluntariado do outro lado do oceano Atlântico se tornou uma poderosa ferramenta de empatia. E finalmente ouvimos o depoimento marcante de Catherine Taliaferro Cox e como uma experiência na infância pode moldar o caráter e os valores de uma pessoa.


Human Library


Making My First Robot | Meu Primeiro Robô

By | English, Evento, Maker Movement, Português, Programação, Sem categoria | No Comments

3D printed parts, wires, batteries, switches, servo motors, sensors, and arduinos were all electronic components that were tinkered with to help kids make their first robots. There’s no better way to get introduced to arduino than seeing how they bring  objects to life. Using simple construction tools and electronic components,  children who came to our 3D Printing for Kids Workshop  put together their OTTOS - interactive robots that can dance, walk, make sounds, and avoid obstacles. Otto causes a wow effect at first glance. The idea came from a parent, a cellphone app developer who wanted to give his kid this amazing learning experience,  brought for us the idea,. He told us he wanted his kid to be curious, passionate and eager to learn new things.

What are the qualities we value in this activity?

Science and Art Connection

As you build your first OTTO,  you understand how it works from the inside, make  basic circuits and have an overview of what an Arduino is and what it does. In addition to playing around with scientific content, children learned how to be patient and resilient, which are important skills to learn nowadays.

What is the personal View of an educator on this maker activity?

Isadora was my English as a Foreign Language Student when she was five. At the time, I taught her the numbers, the alphabet, names of objects. Now 12, she shows up at CTJmakerspace for the OSMO with the same curious eyes and smiley face. As one of the facilitators in the session, I could see her start developing her maker identity. I saw her developing  a I can do it attitude that might lead her to an understanding of what she can do and what dispositions she might have when interacting and making a tangible objects. Isadora is a lucky kid for having supporting parents who understand the c\value of rich and varied education. We hope more and more kids will too.

Peças impressas, fios, baterias, interruptores,  motores, sensores, buzzers e Arduinos foram os componentes eletrônicos usados na nossa oficina Monte seu Próprio Robô. Não há melhor maneira de ver pela primeira vez conceitos básicos de Arduino (plataforma de prototipagem eletrônica) do que ver como eles trazem objetos à vida.

Usando ferramentas de construção simples e componentes eletrônicos,  jovens montaram  seus OTTOS - robôs interativos que podem dançar, andar, fazer sons e evitar obstáculos. A ideia da oficina nasceu de uma conversa com um pai que gostaria e engajar o filho em uma atividade maker, mas não conseguia motivá-lo. “Fazer o projeto em um grupo com o apoio de facilitadores em um ambiente de estímulo a criatividade fez toda a diferença” , nos disse o pai ao final da sessão.

O que  valorizamos nesta atividade?

Conexões de Ciência e Arte Construir o robô com as próprias mãos, fazer circuitos básicos e ter uma visão geral do que um Arduino é e o que ele faz, são algumas das habilidades que os jovens aprenderam. Além de ver na prática o  conteúdo científico, os jovens aprenderam a ser pacientes e persistentes, habilidades importantes para aprender hoje em dia.

Conexão do Mundo Real

Montar seu próprio OTTO do zero ajudou os adolescentes a entender os princípios básicos de Arduino e como podem usar linhas de código simples para mudar o comportamento do robô. Este conhecimento pode ajudá-los a entender que quando investimos tempo em um projeto, o erro deve ser  visto como parte do processo se  forem persistentes e resilientes e que eles podem fazer muito mais com tecnologia do que apenas consumi-la.

Jovens felizes e pais encantados nos deram excelente feedback. Uma das mães nos mandou a seguinte mensagem: A Isadora leva o Otto a toda parte e fala feliz que o fez sozinha. Ela está curiosa e quer muito aprender mais sobre Arduino e programação.

Making My Fist Robot


Strengthening Public School learning Experience

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, English, Makerspaces | No Comments

There are many makerspaces in the world and many of them have something in common: Educators emphasize the importance of building maker competence and confidence. In the book Maker Centered Learning, the authors mention that educators involved with the Maker Pedagogy take a special interest in competence and confidence building and how these  character traits foster a tinkering disposition. People who make projects in makerspaces often become comfortable with the natural uncertainty of the tinkering process and become more willing to work in a project that involves content that they might have seen only in theory.

Maker centered competence and confidence may support the development of a tinkering disposition specifically but can also be seeing as building blocks for a wide variety of other dispositions. For example, as a result of the development of competence and confidence— and depending on the particular maker activities a student engages in— a student might develop a carpenter’s disposition, an entrepreneur’s disposition, or a hybrid disposition that draws on a combination of any number of maker competencies. Also, Students and educators  learn  to be patient, to recognize how their limitations guide them through the making process, to collaborate, to work with their peers, to respect the material and the tools, and to develop a sense of common, shared projects.

On Monday, May 15th CTJ Makerspace welcomed Unb – Brasilia`s  federal University scholars and public school students who take part in the initiative Catavento – a project that aims at promoting discussion and awareness of the consumption and production of renewable energy. CTJ makerspace staff members understood that engaging these students and educators in a maker centered activity would  help them build a maker mindset, practice English, and learn that they can use our collaborative platform to hang out, learn new skills, connect with people and ideas and become independent learners.

When students arrived, they were given a tour and we showed them all the free machine training workshops we offer the community (3D printers, laser cutter, plotter and sewing machines). After that,  they learned about simple circuit building thought LittleBits challenges. Then, students learned what a Goldberg machine is and started collaborating to build their own. Throughout the program CTJ staff members felt the thrill of  witnessing once more  what the book aforementioned advocates  as the most important benefits of a maker centered activity. Create opportunities for a mindset change, and consequently,  foster an I can do it attitude that is crucial to anyone who is involved in collaborative projects that aim at promoting the soft skills necessary to become  active agents of change.



Be the Change You Want to See in Educational Settings

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, Digital Literacy, English, Maker Movement, Sem categoria | No Comments

We invite you to consider the following questions:

  • What kinds of challenges will people face in 5 years?
  • What kinds of skills will people need to face these challenges?
  • How do educators and parents who believe in maker centered learning get prepared to foster a I-can-do-it attitude in young people?
  • How to develop a sensitivity to design and understand learning as experiences that should prepare people for the challenged that will appear before them in the future?

Perhaps the answer to the last question should be:  develop soft skills in ourselves first. In other words, educators should be the first to feel encouraged to notice opportunities to build, tinker, hack and design learning artifacts and systems in a ever changing world.

With this premise in mind, we designed and delivered two Librarian Training sessions 2017. The idea revolved around the fact that we strongly believe people, educators included, need to become sensitive to opportunities to activate their sense of maker empowerment.

On our first meeting, Casa Thomas Jefferson’s Resource Center team was invited  to think about what their patrons’ needs and interests are and how to design programs to cater for those needs. Then, the whole Resource Center team revisited what Casa Thomas Jefferson’s mission is and started writing the Resource Center very own mission statement.

For the second meeting, Resource Center staff members came to CTJ makerspace and got their hands dirty; we revisited the mission they created as a group and learned a new skill – we learned the technical part of using a plotter machine, but we had a purpose in mind: The team learned how to use the machine to make the mission statement visually appealing to everyone who visit our Resource Centers.

All in all, the two sessions worked on a maker skill as a secondary aim, for the most important learning outcome was to build confidence and build a maker mindset. As a result, we  have a shared vision as what a dynamic learning center is. Now it’s much easier to plan programs that engage people with ideas and tools to foster learning in the  21st Century.

Building Internal Expertise


Maker Centered Learning in Resource Centers

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, English, Maker Movement, Makerspaces | No Comments

In 2012, much was said and heard about the maker movement. Discussion about the benefits of making tangible or digital objects for pedagogical purposes abounded. Maker learning environment ranging from traditional classrooms to public libraries, museums, galleries, and even the halls of the White House drew lots of attention. Among the narratives to back this exponential growth some resonated well with Bi-National Centers: Creating dynamic learning environment where people could find opportunities to engage in innovative  programming, develop a sense of agency, and be inspired by projects, people and ideas.

In sync with the primary benefits of maker centered learning, all six resource centers at Casa Thomas Jefferson, offer monthly extra-curricular leaning opportunities with a focus on participants as content creators. In February, we had three of these activities: Blind Date With a Book, Read and Share, and Draw words.

Blind Date With a Book – To celebrate Valentine’s Day,  librarians selected and made available books. The catch was that people had to give the book a chance and could not judge it by its cover, for the book was wrapped up as a Valentine’s gift.



Larissa Goulart

Resource Center – Casa Thomas Jefferson Asa Sul

Read and Share - Reading is something magical and worth sharing. Librarians  encouraged participants to share their reading experience and asked them to make a video about their favorite part.

Larissa Goulart

Resource Center –  Casa Thomas Jefferson Asa Sul


Draw from Words - Participants had the change  to learn new English words and recycle the words they already knew. Participants also had the chance to use their  creative potential and develop spatial / visual intelligence. 

Thaíse Nogueira

Resource Center  - Casa Thomas Jefferson Águas Claras


Strengthening BNC Network

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, Digital Literacy, English, Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Sem categoria, Smithsonian | No Comments

Brazil is a country with nearly 50 American Spaces, mostly comprised of independent Binational Centers. BNCs,  well-regarded institutions in their communities for the seriousness of their education, and for the wide cultural programs they offer. Not surprisingly, BNCs easily understood the need to redesign libraries to provide  people with collaborative learning experiences. Aiming at strengthening Brazil’s Binational Center network, The American Embassy worked in close collaboration with Casa Thomas Jefferson  to implement The Achieving 21st Century Skills Project –  a Mission Brazil American Spaces education initiative.

Now on its third phase, 27  BNCs work together to design program plans so that BNCs can do more than teach English, offer cultural programs, provide EducationUSA services, open a library, and conduct alumni activities. BNCs  are  opening to the local community innovative learning hubs to engage people with topics related to social entrepreneurship, and enable them to inspire and be inspired by new ideas, people, skills,  and tools.

From 20 to 24th of March, 22 participants from eight different  regions in the state of São Paulo (Campinas, São José dos Campos, Taubaté, Sorocaba, São Paulo, Franca, Lins, Tupã, and Ribeirão Preto) met to learn new skills, plan strategic programs, fast prototype and learn new concepts and ideas to help them better design and deliver innovative program plans.  Glauco Paiva and André Vidal, local makers with great expertise to share, inspired teachers, administrative staff,  and librarians to challenge their own mindset and raise awareness on topics such as how to foster human centered learning, inspire change and connect people and ideas to promote social change. During the training, participants learned about design thinking, innovation tools, best outreach programming practices, the maker movement, and best reporting practices. To enrich the sessions, participants were engaged in hands on maker centered learning activities aimed at opening facilitators` minds and enabling them to design and  host pedagogically sound, effective programs in their own institutions. The session ignited collaboration and a sense of shared vision that will linger and create a positive effect in the BNC network.

BNCs  Educational sessions


Augmented Reality and Wildlife Conservation

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, Digital Literacy, English, Maker Movement, Sem categoria | No Comments

In March, 2017, 30 youth participants came to Casa Thomas Jefferson Taguatinga  to have a quite unique English learning experience. Participants made a customized sketchbook with an augmented reality cover. In the beginning of this program, we  talked to participants about encouraging environmental protection (such as wildlife conservation or response to climate change). We explored the concept of augmented reality and told participants they would make a sketchbook.

We used the app Floresta sem fim (Faber Castell) that  depicts Brazilian wildlife species and engaged participants with hands on activities. We had 30 youth participants eagerly working and practicing the English language out of the classroom through making a tangible object.



Thomas Griggs at “Centro Interescolar de Línguas”

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, English, Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Sem categoria | No Comments

Thomas Griggs

The binational Center Casa Thomas Jefferson has a program called Thomas Griggs  aimed at preparing youth to become eligible to American High School certification. Students take complementary lessons on US History, US Government, British and American Literature, Computer Education, Health e Fine Arts. Also, students get prepared for Community Service.

CTJ Makerspace

CTJ has an innovation hub that offers students and people in the community unique and innovative english language learning experiences. We designed a program to promote collaboration between Thomas Griggs students during community hours and public school students.

Innovative English Language Programming

In March, 2017, 20 Thomas Griggs students did community hours at Centro Interescolar de Línguas. The program brought a challenge: create a drawing bot out of recyclables and Littlebits. In the first part of the workshop, students learned about American Spaces and the learning opportunities available for them at CTJ`s makerspace. Then, they were introduced to Littlebits and used their creativity to make their bots work. When this experiencial part of the session was over, students reflected upon what they had learned and how they could facilitate a similar session for 30 CIL students. Then, each Griggs student became a facilitator of a small group, and collaboration and genuine exchange of ideas abounded.  One of the highlights of this maker workshop was when the first projects came to live and participants started believing in their ability to make their project work. Soon enough the school was buzzing with excitement and learning. All CIL school community and Griggs students were invited to CTJ Makerspace for more free learning opportunities (to laser cut, 3D print, and use design software).

Thomas Griggs


Access Students at CTJ Makerspace

By | Classroom, Digital Literacy, English, Evento, Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Sem categoria, Smithsonian | No Comments

The English Access Micro scholarship Program (Access) provides a foundation of English language skills to youth ranging from  13 to 20 year-olds from economically disadvantaged sectors. The program makes available  after-school classes and intensive sessions in well known language institutions.  Access gives participants English skills that may lead to better jobs and educational prospects and Casa Thomas Jefferson is always careful with the design of the lessons and material choice so that access students are offered the best teaching practices.

On November 11th, 60 access students came to our makerspace and our staff  provided them with learning opportunities  specially designed  to “fulfill the human desire to make things”. Our team used years of teaching experience aligned with the knowledge we have gained making our space to design activities for our access students. During the sessions, students worked in groups and had to perform three tasks. The underlining assumption in each of the tasks was that success in a knowledge society is not about knowledge alone. Learning environments  must focus on building a culture of innovation, beginning by creating a foundation for lifelong learning. All the activities motivated collaboration and  provided students with digital and analog tools to support learning practices that inspire such culture.




Green Nation Fest

By | American Spaces, English, Maker Movement, Projetos, Sem categoria | No Comments

On November 24th, 2016, Rio de Janeiro hosted  at Museu do Amanhã and Pier Mauá The Green Nation Fest to raise awareness of the impact humans have caused. But the festival did more than that; It actually promoted  the new approach Cradle to Cradle – The Way We Make Things.

The main goal of the festival was to make ordinary people, organizations, and business sensitive to the challenges our planet faces today and take action to create feasible alternatives. Through sensory installations, presentations by national and international experts, workshops, and panels, the festival opened room for reflection on what we consume, what business models we want to support, and what our options are if we are committed to both reducing our carbon footprint and having a positive impact on the planet. The festival showed  that innovation must be part of everyday business and life, and that it is only  worth it if it helps people strengthen connections and deepen health and environment.

The main themes of the 2016 event revolved around environmental preservation, water scarcity in the world, recycling, climate change, self-sustainable  fashion industry and more. This year it offered several attractions; Programming was divided into Circular Economy, Entrepreneurship to Overcome environmental challenges, and Innovation for Sustainability. This edition also included workshops on co-creation, a multimedia festival and an International Film Festival with films about sustainability in the daily life of big cities, and of course maker workshops.

Because the mission of the festival is closely tied to the U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Rio, CTJ was invited to host a series of maker workshops that combined technology, innovation and construction of knowledge. Our narrative started with two installations created by our partner Glauco Paiva, a very prolific and generous maker.

Participants got their hands dirty in the construction of automatas. We were very impressed by two things; First, how some people completely freeze when they are asked to make something functional. We heard over and over the phrases: I can not make anything; I am not creative at all; I have no clue how to start. We gave examples, worked together, motivated, and got every single person to at least try creating something, accept failure as a growing path, and be more positive regarding  their creative processes. Second, how participants  were eager to be offered a more experiential approach to learning. People who came to 0ne of our sessions learned that they can learn by doing  in a collaborative environment.

See more in the video below










Rereading Famous Paintings

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Rereading Famous Paintings

On May 08th we celebrate the day of the artist in Brazil, so the Resource Center staff at Aguas Claras Branch planned a program to explore participant’s artistic potential and promote awareness related to  freedom of expression.

Three famous paintings were selected, and the librarians  did a research on the platform Smithsonian Learning Lab on Leonardo da Vinci so that they were better equipped to talk about him and his contribution to humankind.

To add a digital component and make participants curious, the  Osmo Masterpiece app was available to supercharge participant’s drawing skills. Then, participants used crayons, colored pencils, ink or materials to make  mosaics to paint their own versions of the masterpieces.  Both children and adults who participated in the activity had the opportunity to explore, create and recreate.

The Osmo app enriched the experience, for even those who could not draw very well felt empowered to do so. Now, participants who come to the Resource centers at Casa Thomas Jefferson find Smithsonian-inspired designs and the breadth of its engaging and high-quality materials to learn a new and relevant life skill.

Written by Thaise Nogueira & Lucas Marques

Resource Center CTJ Águas Claras 

IMG_0209 (2)


What to do with your DIY studio?

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, English, Maker Movement | No Comments


Okay, so you’ve built  yourself a really neat DIY studio! You got at least 3 light spots made from recycled and environmentally friendly materials, a nice Chroma-Key wall, and there are lots of people eager to learn more about photography! Everything is nice! No?!

Having studio material, such as light spots, backdrops and softboxes, is just the first step to get your studio working. as many people find it very hard to get deal with the techniques and terminology of a photo studio. This little tutorial aims at  trying to solve some of these problems and making your little DIY studio work like a dream! Let’s Begin.

1. Choosing the lights

If you followed the instructions properly, you should have at least reflectors and a Chroma-Key wall. So, the next step is choosing the right light bulbs to get  your spots full operational.  The main rule is trying to find the strongest light possible in local stores. Many people would prefer using fluorescent lights since they’re colder and more economical. Hotter incandescent lights are also an option, since they’re cheaper and easier to find in higher wattages. Always try to find lights with equal potencies so that you can control your lighting from a distance distance or using dimmers. Avoid using LED lights, since many commercial lights in the market lack some color bands.

2. Preparing your room

Even if you get the strongest lights possible, there’s no chance  that you will be able to beat sun light  in a well lit room. Most pro studios don’t have any windows, or rely on blackout curtains to avoid sunlight interference. However, since we are dealing with DYI studios, maybe the best lighting conditions will not be available. In this case, try using curtains or closing your windows for better light control.  Another option is paying attention to your room and observing the position of the sun during the day to determine what the best time to use your studio with the least interference possible is.

3. Working at your studio.

There are many different lighting schemes for studios, but most of them will work with the Standard “Three-Point Lighting”.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 5.10.04 PM

With this standard, we achieved the following results in our own DIY studio:

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A single light source on, acting as the key light.

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Two light sources on, acting as the key light and the fill light

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All the light sources on: Key, Fill and Back Light

It is always important to experiment with position and distant, for every studio will have its own peculiarity. While dealing with light brightness, always remember that thumb rule: Light Intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance. That means that the furthest you move your light, the weakest it will arrive at your object. Use this creatively to control your light intensity and try to achieve some of the results above.

One more thing to have in mind  is that light always travels in straight lines. So, always remember to point your spots exactly where you want light to be!

With those little tips, your DIY studio will surely work like a pro one!

Have fun playing with your lights,



Ivan Sasha is a designer and photographer since 2009 and is finishing his undergraduation in Communications at University of Brasília. Today he worksas an intern at Casa Thomas Jefferson’s Marketing Department.


Google Apps to Boost Productivity – Module Two – Google Keep and Calendar

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, Digital Literacy, English | One Comment


In the second module of the Increasing Productivity with Google APPS workshop, librarians, and teachers learned how to use Google Keep and Google Calendar to increase productivity at work, feel connected to peers,  and have time to enjoy life.

In sync with the Maker Movement, participants explored the applications in groups and together learned how to use some of the  features. Google Keep, a personal curation system, was an interesting surprise for participants. For the first activity with Keep, Carla Arena, head of the Technology and Innovation Department at Casa Thomas  Jefferson, asked participants to create three areas of different colors: the first for thoughts, the second for actions and the third for conversations. Then she proposed a reflection and asked people to list all the activities they were involved in in the last 24 hours. Participants were asked to categorize the activities in the colored areas. Some were surprised to realise that, throughout the day, they did not have time for themselves nor to talk to anyone.  As a result, everyone was eager to learn ,with and from the others, ways to use digital tools wisely to maximize work hours, become more productive at work, and be more content with their personal lives.

Storytelling in the Making

By | English, Makerspaces, Sem categoria | No Comments


There is something magical when a group of children sit comfortably for a storytelling session. When the storytellers are Larissa Victório, an educators who works at the American Space Casa Thomas Jefferson, and Cynthia Franco, a devoted teacher at the same institution, the result is magical.

For the March session, teachers  told the story Collin’s Colors, and brought to the little ones a charming and colorful world. To create a  perfect environment  to practice the English language, the staff decided to come up with something new. They wanted to surprise the young readers, and used Makey Makey for a follow up.

Larissa explored a platform called scratch, learned a bit about coding and made a project. Check out the tutorial below to create your storytelling in the making as well.

Project on Scratch

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 5.10.25 PM

Virtual Tour – Smithsonian

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, English, Smithsonian | No Comments

Many kids and teens are curious about dinosaurs, but not many kids here in South America have the chance of visiting a Smithsonian museum and seeing first hand a dinosaur fossil and learning from it. To change this, the museum has been 3d printing many of its artifacts and making all the content available online. Having learned of such rich resources, the RC team at our Resource Center at Asa Norte branch organized a program departing from a Smithsonian Virtual tour. The whole RC was decorated with posters, Smithsonian magazine clippings, dinosaur toys and a thematic book display. We had iPads logged on the virtual tour, and we had lots of swabs cut into small pieces and worksheets with printed skeletons for students to cover  the design forming the dinosaur skeletons. Participants got small pieces of  flattened  clay and  pressed the swabs onto the it to print the fossils. During the activity staff members talked about the theory of evolution defended by Darwin and  the scientific importance of fossils. It was gratifying to see how well students engaged, got curious, and learned a bit more about the resources they can find at the Smithsonian, and how important archaeological findings are to science.   DiScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.45.03 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.45.13 PM  Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.45.41 PM

World Water Day

By | English, Smithsonian | No Comments

Water Day LAS-01

We wake up in the morning, take a shower, brush our teeth, grab a cup of coffee and head out for the day. Water is an important part of our daily lives, and we use it for a wide variety of purposes. But do we really think about the impact of our daily choices on the planet? Do we really care enough to change our routine?  To talk about such an important theme in an engaging way, our Resource Center staff designed activities in which visitors had the chance to explore, collaborate, and be surprised.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.26.40 AM

The main goal of this program was to motivate people to think about what each one of us can do against the threat of water shortage. To contextualize and make the project appealing, we played the holographic version of the World Water Day 2015 Trailer. We also made an impact by showing the video  a “swirling monster” of plastic trash, documented by the Smithsonian Institution’s Dive Officer.

We used The Newspaper Clipping Generator to create future water-themed headlines. We had headlines depicting a positive future and others announcing a negative perspective. Participants created their own headlines, played with a Water Consumption Calculator to become aware of the amount of water used, and thought about what they could do to make sure we solve the challenge faced by our planet nowadays.

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To keep the audience engaged, we had a series of STEAM activities related to the theme and promoted meaningful learning out of the English classroom.

Water Tension



 Pascal Principle



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Bouncing Bubbles


Water consumption Calculator

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Water conservation awareness is fundamental, and we need to put the theories into practice. When planning programs for our libraries, we aim at creating opportunities to address important issues and for people to feel motivated to speak English as a way to participate in a global dialogue. We invite you to come and see what we have for the month of April and celebrate with us environmental awareness through programs for Earth Day. Follow Casa Thomas Jefferson on Facebook and visit us at






Teaching Code through Digital Media: Hour of Code and Beyond

By | 21st Century Skills, Classroom, English | No Comments

This year’s Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week (Dec 7-13) is about to start, and institutions willing to kick off simple and engaging makerspaces should learn how to design  learning how to code environment.  One of the main concern of parents and educators is the amount of time kids spend in front of their devices, and learning how to code can turn some of this comsuption into production time. The point of having coding events is that every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path.

Last week, I watched a  webinar called Teaching Code through Digital Media: Hour of Code and Beyond. The ideas presented are appropriate for students age 10 and up and we learn methods to integrate coding into any subject area. To increase girls’ participation in computer science, Melissa provided an overview of Vidcode, a platform designed to teach programming by making video projects with code. Through a hybrid interface of block-based and syntactical code, Vidcode functions as a bridge between visual programming languages like Scratch and more complex text-based coding while tapping  into a hobby teens are already immersed in: video and photo sharing.

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Topics covered include:

  • How to incorporate code into other disciplines through creative projects
  • How to participate in this year’s Computer Science Education Week
  • Projects ideas for semester and year-long classes
  • Introduction to the Vidcode interface and curriculum and ways to get started right away
  • Explanation of continued training and support for both computer science and non-CS teachers

















Why Maker Showcases?

By | 21st Century Skills, English, Maker Movement, Smithsonian | No Comments

To get a maker showcase up and running, we exchange many mails, get all the logistics ready, make sure all the maker kits are running well, pack, prepare two hours early to make sure we make it in time to train some new staff members, get everything out and …

One more maker showcase is ON.

It’s surely a hectic routine, the one of our mobile makerspace, but highly reassuring. We have delivered at least ten maker showcases in partner schools over the last three months, and it’s safe to say that the buzz starts the minute we arrive. All we see is the audience:

During our showcases, wherever we look, we see people moving happily around, going from work station to work station experimenting the thrill of making something for themselves. People overcome their frustration and celebrate making. It’s just beautiful to watch the excitement and engagement and hear questions like: Are you guys going to come back tomorrow? When are you guys coming back? Where can I go for more of these activities?

Last week, a parent asked me a very interesting question as I was helping his kid add a dimmer to the circuit she had just finished.  “You are with an English school, right? So, what does English teaching have to do with things like coding, 3D printing, circuitry, and electronics?” I can think of at least three very good reasons for an American Space to have maker showcases. Makers tap into an American admiration for self-reliance and combine that with open-source learning, contemporary design, and powerful personal technology, which are great concepts to teach at any school. The interactive component of maker activities are worth pointing out, too. By participating in a broad range of activities with others, participants appropriate (internalize or take for themselves) the outcomes produced by working together; These outcomes could include both new strategies and knowledge.

Another advantage of having maker showcases and letting people experience making is the fact that there is a mentor in each station to foster learning. The activities are drop-in, but participants might be guided by the mentor who does not provide answers or a manual, but asks discovery questions and leads participants to “a-ha” moments instead. Vygotsky’s concept of the Zone of Proximal Development – the area where a person can solve a problem with the help of a more able peer – can be easily noticed as kids work together to overcome challenges. Hosting numerous maker showcases around town stirs the imagination of people numbed by generic, mass-produced merchandise and invites participants to engage with activities that sparkle genuine curiosity as to the English language.

GRAFFITart + Maker Showcase @ CTJ-FAN  -

Mobile Maker Showcase @ Galois Infantil Águas Claras –

Mobile Maker Showcase @ CIMAN –

Mobile Maker Showcase @ Festival Literário do Colégio Santo Antônio –

Mobile Maker Showcase @ Feira de Tecnologia do Colégio Cor Jesu –

Mobile Maker Showcase @  Leonardo Da Vinci Asa Norte –

Mobile Maker Showcase @ Sigma Águas Claras –

Mobile Maker Showcase @ Sigma Águas Claras –


Graffiti in the Making

By | American Spaces, English, Projetos | No Comments

After making its way into our Resource Centers, the maker movement has gained strength at Casa Thomas Jefferson as we have been addressing themes related to American Culture and combining maker showcases with themed workshops.  A good example of this new format was the GRAFFITart –  a maker showcase combined with a graffiti live painting show, which wowed visitors to the CTJ Asa Norte in October.

Born at the heart of American hip-hop culture, graffiti was treated as vandalism, but managed, with great difficulty, to make its way from the city’s streets and subway cars to large galleries. Many pieces of work have been commissioned by media groups, corporations, governments and famous museums – like the Brooklyn Museum, the Amsterdam Museum and the Smithsonian Museum, to name a few.

Recognizing the power of street art in Brasilia, CTJ invited three of  the most prominent graffiti artists in the city  to boost our maker showcase: Pedro Sangeon (@gurulino), Hugo Willians (@yongattack), and Camila Santos (@sirenarte).

Pedro is a brazilian visual artist, illustrator and meditator. He signs his work as PSAN and is best know for his famous character, Gurulino. Camila – Siren as she is best known – expresses in her work the same serenity and happiness when performing. Hugo – or Yong – is a Brazilian urban artist, who has been coloring the city for ten years.  Surrounded by students, parents, admirers and lovers of urban art, our guests spent the afternoon doing graffiti and inspiring visitors to understand the mission of our new MakerSpace that will be inaugurated early 2016.

Our maker showcase

For the maker showcase we had the contribution of local makers who kindly came to talk about 3D printing and modelling. Makers are very often inspired to share and empower people to become makers too. Our special thanks go to Rodrigo Proença - father of our very talented student Maria Augusta ‘Gutta’ Proença  who loves cosplay and Arduino. They brought a 3D printer, a drone, and a very special project to share and inspire us all.

gutta proença3



Here is a list of the activities put together by the Resource Center Asa Norte maker team. Special thanks to our super team Aline Mota, Flávia Pellegrini and Tássia Ávila, and also to our Asa Norte branch executive aide Lucilene Elias.

  • Makey Makeys
  • 3D printing and Arduino showcase
  • Littlebits
  • Snap Circuits
  • Pedal Powered Blender
  • Big Bits
  • Spinning Art

The event was so upbeat that the partnership between CTJ  and  GRAFFITart team did not end here. On November 18th we already have another MAKER GRAFFITart in the Asa Sul branch and soon we will have a Graffiti Workshop with Yong, Gurulino and Siren. Stay tuned and follow us on Facebook to make sure you do not miss this great learning experience.


BIGBITS_Circuit boards_Handbook

BigBits : a low cost – with high impact – circuitry activity

By | English, Maker Movement, Makerspaces | No Comments

Everywhere makers go, we hear that we don’t need fancy or high tech materials to take our maker space to the next level. And it is true, indeed!

Last August, I was one of many maker enthusiasts, from all over the world, that took the “The Tinkering Fundamentals” course, offered by The Exploratorium Team at Coursera E-Learning platform.

A three weeks course, “The Tinkering Fundamentals” aimed to help educators and enthusiasts to learn how to develop a practice of tinkering and making. This course was designed as a hands-on workshop, where we handled making and tinkering activities aided by video content, activity guides, background reading, forum discussions, and instructor`s guidance.

With a very clear and straight to the point content, especially for those who are taking their first steps into the maker movement, the Exploratorium Team guided us on how to conduct making and tinkering activities without handing to the kids the whole treasure map, motivating them to think, discover and solve problems by way of trying, failing, trying again and finally nailing it.

Each week we had to do an activity aligned with the content dealt with. I was happy to see that most of them were no news to our maker team at Casa Thomas Jefferson, and some were even already posted here as inspiration like the ones in the posts: “How to Make a Doodler”, “How to Make Your First Robot”, “How to Make a LED Powered Card” and “How to Make Your First Wearable Circuit“, just to name a few.

The activity of the Week Two though was a refreshing surprise: The Circuit Boards – what we right away nicknamed as BigBits (a clear reference to its ‘cousin’, the ©LittleBits). BigBits, as we call them now, are real electrical parts mounted on sturdy wood blocks designed for anyone (at almost any age) to start creating electrical connections between everyday objects like batteries, bulbs, buzzers, switches, and other electrical components, using alligator clips. They are very similar to the LittleBits, but with a difference: they are low cost since you can make them from scratch with used toys and electric parts, or very inexpensive components.

We put together a basic set here at Casa Thomas Jefferson and it made a surprisingly humongous success! We never imagined they would cause such engagement and curiosity. Even parents couldn’t resist the urge to start playing around.  It is great to see how they figure the connections out without minimum orientation, and how participants solve the problems of multiple connections easily by working together.

We leave the set available on a table, and they are free to play with it whenever they want. We also use it as a drop-in station whenever we throw a Mobile Maker Showcase at our outposts or external events. In either case, it is a buzz maker!

To make a BigBits set is easy and it only requires some basic DIYer skills like drilling, hammering and handling the soldering iron and the hot glue gun. The detailed instructions on how to make the circuits are available at The Exploratorium website.

The wood blocks can come from scrap pieces of wood that you can easily negotiate at any wood workshop (I did and it cost me nothing!), and here are a few basic components you might find at any local electronic store – except for the hand crank generator (sold at Amazon) and those knife switchers (easily replaced by any regular ones). Check the materials and the tools you need here.

We also used some parts from old toys – from a campaign we made – like DC motors, servo motors, switches, lamps, engines and so on… Here are some images from our set in action.

So… what are you waiting for?! Roll up your sleeves and make a BigBits set for your maker space. One thing I guarantee: you won’t regret it and the kids will have loads of fun! ;-)

Exploratorium Activites Ideas

Exploratorium Courses at Coursera

Circuit Boards “BigBits”  Handbook

Electrical Components Stores (Online)

Creative Design

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, English, Smithsonian | No Comments



The project Achieving 21st Century Skills aims at creating synergy among the cultural and academic departments, Resource Centers, and the EducationUSA office inside the Binational Centers. American Spaces in general often host exhibitions that address issues like the environment, preservation, tolerance, etc. – issues related to the U.S. mission in Brazil. Exhibits and cultural events that already take place in American Spaces can be interesting opportunities to encourage people to participate in maker activities to learn a new skill and to interact in authentic and fun ways. Find below an example of how an art exhibition became the starting point for an extracurricular maker activity in an American Space.


The artists Hermidia Metzler and Marcia Mazzoni invited the audience to Casa Thomas Jefferson’s art gallery in September, 2015 to take a look at their work and learn different ways of perceiving plastic and transforming what could be trash into pieces of art. The program ‘Design Criativo’ aims at motivating people to rethink consumption, calculate the impact they cause on our planet, and upcycle plastic bottles using one of the techniques the artists use in their work.  The program provides an open space for creativity and inspires the audience to come up with solutions, learn together in a very practical way, and establish communication among local artists and makers with the community in general.


5’ – Use the video from the National Museum of Natural History on ocean pollution to start a discussion on what kind of products people in general buy and the impact on the planet. Make sure you tell participants a bit about the video first (you will find info on the post to elaborate your talk).


5’ –Use the  video from National Museum of Natural History on ocean pollution to start a discussion on what kind of products people in general buy and the impact on the planet. Make sure you tell participants a bit about the video firs t(you will find info on the post to elaborate your talk). Ocean Trash: Marine Debris From Shore To Sea

15´ -Motivate participants to visit the site  Ecosytem on the Edge to calculate heir Nitrogen footprint. Invite volunteers to share the results.

2  hours – Hands on activity  -  The artists shared some techniques they use to transform plastic and guided participants as they made two decorative pieces for their home.

Keep in mind that this program could be a good way to build community and to do so, you should invite local artists to collaborate with you.




Healthy Living

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, English, Maker Movement, Smithsonian | No Comments

In September we celebrated healthy living with interesting  activities at our Resource Centers. Our staff prepared varied learning opportunities with an eye on  alternative ways to be mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. Our super maker American Space staff  prepared lots of activities for visitors  to give them a chance to practice English in very exciting ways.Please see below what was on our plate for Healthy Living Month.

Tip –  The project tutorial suggests we use old CD cases to make the projectors. We found them hard to cut (and a bit dangerous too), so we used acetate  instead. It works beautifully!


Did you know that…?

All branches had a “did you know” poster wall with tips that went beyond common knowledge. There was a curating phase on Google drive to gather relevant pieces of information to share. The innovation department prepared eye-catching posters that were displayed around school and on our social media. Would you like to read or revisit the material? Enjoy and share.

Did you know

Pedal Powered Blenders

Have you ever heard of  Pedal Powered Blenders? You probably have. Have you ever seen one? Come to our Resource Centers and you will! We we will keep two bikes going around in October. So, you can still come and make sense of this project. See how you can transform your body`s power into another source of energy that can go back to you in a very nutritious way.   

Healthy diet

People who attended   “Living happily  ever after with lactose intolerance” Practiced English, learned about lactose intolerance and tasted delicious recipes.

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Food Wheel

Our staff created a game that was a visual representation of a healthy diet. People completed the wheel and learned what should be eaten most often and what should be eaten least often.  


 The Pillars of A Healthy Life

Nutritionist Rogério Barros delivered the workshop “Atividade física e alimentação equilibrada: pilares para uma vida saudável” . Besides getting exposed to great ideas participants got a gift from the local health store Bioon and tried some delicious treats.


Healthy mind

Tai chi Qi Gong Sessions in different branches. People enjoyed a bit of calm in their lives and welcomed  our Tai chi Qi Gong teacher Soraya Lacerda, who delivered this relaxing experience in English.


Healthy brain

Magic cubes were in order. We had a Mini Workshop with contestants of the world championship during break time.


Stay tuned for more fun, discovery and excitement at the American Space – Casa Thomas Jefferson and come check out what will make October the spookiest month ever! Stay healthy,    

Arduino in American Spaces

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, English | No Comments



In a rapidly changing world, powered by social media and instant information, learning opportunities can be found everywhere. Just as traditional libraries are evolving into dynamic community spaces in the United States, American Spaces must be dynamic learning centers as well. To enrich participants’ experiences in the Resource Centers, CTJ American Space is eager to use non-traditional materials to design programs and become a community center, where youth can use digital tools to explore entrepreneurship, learn English, connect art and design with social change, and learn digital artifact creation. Nowadays, there are many materials that provide opportunities to do just that, but our staff needs to build internal expertise in order to take full advantage of such materials. In August, teachers, librarians, and resource center staff were invited to participate in an interesting hands-on session to learn a bit about Arduino and how to use them in some of our programs. So, What`s Arduino and why use it in a Resource center?

Arduino is an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. They can read inputs – light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message – and turn it into an output – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online. Arduino is the brain of thousands of projects and there is a huge community of makers (students, hobbyists, artists, and programmers) gathered around this open-source platform. Their contributions have added up to an incredible amount of accessible knowledge that can be of great help to novices and experts alike.

Why should we use Arduino in American Spaces` programs? First, Learning how to use arduino boards can enable people to find solutions to local problems. And Arduinos are extremely flexible as you can use them again and again for different purposes. Lastly, developing projects with Arduino will engage participants in a collaborative learning process and foster 21st century digital skills.

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Youth Innovation Camp

By | 21st Century Skills, Digital Literacy, English, Maker Movement, Programação, Smithsonian | No Comments

Logo-YIC (1)There are great ways for kids to spend their time off from school. If the activities enable participants to use their creativity to self-express, tinker, and learn new skills, it’s even better. Last July, the Binational Center Casa Thomas Jefferson, in  coordination with the U.S. Embassy, offered the community the chance to do just that. Youth Innovation Camp, Casa Thomas Jefferson’s very first summer camp, motivated participants to come to the main branch for five days and experience different learning possibilities. The themes varied from inventions, entrepreneurship, coding, 3D printing, making, and STEAM, and  all the activities offered participants the chance of engaging in rich authentic use of the English Language to learn a new set of skill and how to do or make something new. The CTJ task design team used as inspiration materials from the well known chain of museums The Smithsonian Institute to enrich participants experiences. We share here all the activities developed during the camp so that other language schools, Binational Centers, and libraries  and schools also offer little creative minds the chance to get creative and participate of the Maker Movement and redefine some learning spaces.

Youth Innovation Camp engaged participants with  immersive experiences carefully planned  by Casa Thomas Jefferson teachers  in collaboration with the  Maker Team from all  Resource Centers. During the five afternoons in each weekly edition, Casa Thomas Jefferson`s main branch effervesced Campers who were eager  to experiment with different possibilities of practical and playful learning. Various topics related to inventions , programming, 3D modeling, STEAM activities, entrepreneurship and toy making were explored. Day by day participants were wowed, discovered and learned in a playful and collaborative way. Participants realised that to create something new,  it takes just curiosity, inventiveness and not be afraid to try as many times as necessary. Our motto of the camp was: It`s ok to fail!

For the Youth Camp team, it was an immeasurable joy to have spent such creative time with the children, leading them in this adventure of discovery and the thrill of ‘learning by making’. It was very rewarding to have them with us these two weeks and notice their engagement, excitement and willingness to learn. And after the feedback received from students and parents, the feeling that remains is that we have a successfully crowned design. Hope to see you in the next Camp!

Young Entrepreneur 


Coding and 3D printing

Inventor Day


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How to Make Your First Wearable Circuit

By | American Spaces, Classroom, English, Sem categoria | No Comments

1235950_10155029437205107_6780974537386070107_n     Making simple wearable circuits is usually a big hit in makerspaces. This simple project might entice young makers and empower them to set creativity free and experiment with different materials. You could ask  children to make masks, monsters, hats, stuffed animals, or let them play freely. 241125_764018243669849_5141205968619777668_o If you are a language teacher, you could carry out one of the following tasks:

  • Ask students to create characters for  storytelling.
  • Have students make their own monsters to practice describing features.
  • Have students create a product and advertize it using modal verbs.

Here is what you will  need for this project. 10264036_774295072642166_1059743152918155543_o

How to Make an Electric Insect

By | American Spaces, Classroom, English, Sem categoria | No Comments

photo 2

The idea of making your own circuit is very empowering. There is something magical about being able to make something for the first time, and people who engage in these kind of activites learn much more than circuitry; They learn that they can actually sit down and try to understand how things around us work.

This is a simple maker project that you can offer in your makerspace to reach different learning goals. In a language class, a teacher might propose this task as aprompt for a writing activity, teach narratives, or build a sense of community, for people will need to interact to succeed.

What you will  need:


Tools; hot glue,soldering iron and solder



Display all the materials on the table and ask participants to tinker. Do not show them how to do it, but ask questions to trigger thinging.

How to Make a Doodler

By | American Spaces, Classroom, English, Maker Movement | No Comments


When Glauco Paiva told us to build a doodler, I had no idea where to start. I could see all the materials on the table and some people seemed to know what they were doing. Feeling a little lost at first, I decided to get my hands dirty and started my project. So, every time someone celebrated an accomplishment, I went there and tried to learn from it. Slowly, my own doodler got ready and I could also celebrate and see first-hand how rewarding it is to learn collaboratively. I felt the thrill and excitement of making something functional, and students who experience this feeling might be more involved and attentive. My take on this activity is that there is something very exciting about making something from scratch, and hands-on learning followed by reflective practice might boost and deepen learning. If you are a language teacher just like me, you might be wondering how to use such an activity in your language school or lesson. Here are some suggestions:

What you need

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  • Ask students to write a narrative using past tenses or a sequence paragraph.
  • Teach conditionals.
  • Practice reported speech by reporting the interaction among people during the activity.



Be a Maker Kid

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With his right hand, my 11-year-old son presses the red-hot soldering iron against the tiny motor. With his left hand, he guides a thin, tin wire until it’s pressing against both the motor and the tip of the iron.

As tin begins to melt, there is some smoke, and a metallic smell drifts back to where I am standing behind him and all the other kids in the room. I have to confess that I get a bit nervous, but I am at ease because I can feel the thrill students get from the act of making something.

These children live in a world in which the objects around us are complex. We have gadgets in our pockets, but we do not have a clue about how they work. Kids buy toys and toss them aside when they break. And, not many parents encourage tinkering and opening things up. To help students slow down and lead them to a very different way of thinking about the world, we decided to run a toy making workshop and started a campaign called Be a Maker Kid  at Casa Thomas Jefferson this year.

The workshop is part of a much larger phenomenon called the Maker Movement. The Maker Movement has grown into a global community of tinkerers, programmers and designers joined by the simple satisfaction they get from making stuff and sharing what they create. The goal is to teach kids a wide range of digital and analog skills: computer programming, 3-D printing, and sewing and drawing.

Beyond the skills they learn, kids learn an important lesson: that the act of creating something can be incredibly educational and deeply gratifying in a way that buying something off the shelf never will be.

We are committed to sharing everything we learn about the maker movement, so if you are interested in running a similar workshop in your institution. read the tips below.

Advertise the event in your social media and around school with interesting posters.

Give a ticket to each student who donates a broken toy.

Send an invitation

Choose a project your students might enjoy (see some examples below)

Electric car – Electric insect – Doodler – LED powered card

Involve school staff for the tinkering part

Have lots of fun, and record your students’ suggestions and what they learned with the activity.

From Plastic Straws to Spider to a Bandstand with a Swing: Making and Letting Imagination Go Wild

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10801951_762669793804694_3629100874132611237_nRead what our guest blogger Jose Antonio da Silva has to say about his experience with the Maker Movement.In a recent plenary for a Braz-TESOL local chapter event, Gisele Santos told us that we teachers were all makers. She was right: we really are. We are always planning lessons and creating materials for our classes. Our students, however, are in many occasions very passive participants in the learning process. We do try to get them involved, but we approach content with abstractions that require them to think without necessarily involving one of the most powerful tools they have: their hands. Having that in perspective, maybe we should rethink what we do in class and try to design activities that make use of brain/hand coordination more often and use the required language as a tool to accomplish making tasks.

One specific event was what made me ponder about the role of making in a language class and what it entails as a pedagogical practice. Just last week, I had the privilege of being a member of a group of educators   invited to a makers’ workshop with Glauco Paiva. This event was sponsored by the American Embassy and had teachers from several institutions. My invitation was a maker kit: a brown bag with a package of white plastic straws and connecting pieces. The task was to create an object and send a picture to the organizers when I was done. In the beginning, I was a bit paralyzed but it did not take long for the child/maker in me to awake. A little clumsily, I started fiddling with the pieces and in my mind there were lots of possibilities: a Gaudi style cathedral, our national congress building, and so on.


Once the enthusiasm and the deluge of ideas receded, I had to deal with the constraints presented by the task, my limited designing skills, and the material I had in front of me. One may say constraints are a drawback, but on the contrary, they are the springboard of ingenuity. Limitations help bring to life the engineer in each one of us. Therefore, asking our students to make something with limited resources challenges their creativity and inspires them to strive for innovative solutions. So, as I played around with my maker kit, I first came up with spider. As my imagination ran wild, I saw how that spider was a metaphor for how this tinkering with my hands had taken over my digital life. I decided to capture that insight (see picture below). Some of my limitations did not allow me to snatch the full scope of this spider crawling over my laptop. I felt like a child and imagining myself telling this story about a spider. That is what making does, it starts with our hands and brain working together, but then it triggers other creative processes that are so important for learners young or old.


After examining my crawler for a while, I decided it was not good enough and said to myself that I could make something else: a bandstand. I dismantled the spider, got some scissors and cut every straw in two halves, put pieces together and got my bandstand with a swing in the center and little boy swinging. I was a bit disappointed because my boy would not stand upright, but it was clear to me what it was. At that moment I realized I could tell a whole story about that place, that character in the swing and the whole city around it. So, it was making with storytelling.


I know my designing skills are poor and the final product is crude. However, I also know that when it comes to making is the reflection that takes place afterwards that matters. Therefore, after playing I thought about what such an activity  could to my students. Giving them an opportunity for using their hands to create something might prove to be a golden opportunity to exercise their minds, hands, and hearts. I could visualize the kind of language they could use while putting pieces together (conditionals, imperatives) and I could also see the stories they would tell about their final product. It would probably be an endless story because they would keep improving design, process, and the final product in their minds.

How to Make Your Robot_ Maker Movement Makes It into Language Teaching Classrooms

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It’s easy to understand the enthusiasm of many teachers when they hear about The Maker Movement, for its experiential aspect and how it engages people with a kind of learning that triggers emotions and connection.  Some months ago, I came across a great tutorial that called my attention because the activities proposed have students explore and then brings in the theory behind them, which make learning significant and authentic. However, any teacher committed to learning might consider any change carefully. Do we have class time? Is this activity going to help students learn? How are students going to react? How can I facilitate learning? The maker movement is relatively new in Brazil, and early adopters are the ones responsible for reflecting, opening the way, and helping change teaching in private and public schools. Last week, Ellen Cintra proposed a maker activity to her teen students and shares her insights below.

UntitledI have been an English teacher for the past 9 years, 4 of them at Casa Thomas Jefferson, and the the contact with different technologies, from paper to Ipads, have always made me think about how I could improve my classes. When I am preparing my classes for Casa and for Fundação, where I teach Portuguese to sophomore high schoolers, I keep on thinking “How can I make use of different technologies and tools to prepare relevant activities that  basically present the “gain-gain” side of the equation (challenging and engaging, efficient and not too long) and fit my schedule? How can education really make a difference in these students’ lives?” These questions are always on my mind and after different conversations with Dani Lyra, who led me into this maker world (where I’m still crawling…), I was able to realize that we can make our teaching more meaningful when we give students different opportunities to manipulate and produce knowledge, try, fail and succeed.

I have recently had a first hand experience with the maker movement when together with Dani Lyra and Carla Arena at the former´s house I witnessed kids building a robot from scratch.

I then thought we could try it at Casa after working with Unit 11, from the Teens 2 course. The connection was clear: we had just talked about a robot (Asimo) and students had worked on readings and had watched videos about him… and they loved it! Next step was to produce a paragraph in which they would give life to their imagination and create their own robot. I tried to make the writing about the robot a fun moment and we speculated and played around with ideas about what our robots could do. Next, after talking to Dani, I teased them about how nice it would be if they could really produce a robot and when I told them we would really go for it, they were enthusiastic and looked forward for the big day!

The preparation included selecting materials at home, doing some more specific shopping for the missing parts and making a robot on our own, so that we really understood the steps for building the robot. In class, a little before taking the students to the Resource Center, where the librarians and school staff also helped by monitoring and guiding students, we brainstormed what the robots would be able to “really” do with the materials we were going to use additionally students started to think about closed circuits and equilibrium. Next, we started by eliciting vocabulary (the names of the pieces we would put together) and then we checked pronunciation a little bit. The students spoke in English most of the time, especially when they needed to use the target vocabulary. First students checked if they had all the necessary parts and then they connected the batteries while Dani and I prepared the containers by making holes  which would later receive different pieces. After that, students used plastic clamps to tie the batteries and the motor into the container and that was followed by attaching the switch. In the following class we continued by having students try to close the circuits and then we could see some more critical thinking going on: they tried, failed, asked a more knowledgeable mate, tried again, got angry, tried something new until they understood what they were doing wrong and how to fix things, so that they worked. It was great to watch students persistence and progress, as well as using creative alternatives to make their robots work. They used the target language, and relied on their peers and teacher to assist them with the “little bit” they needed to move on. In the end, students used different materials to personalize their robots and used some parts of the writing they had produced before to talk about their robots abilities. Teacher Dani recorded the students´ robots description and later combined the recording and the pictures of the robots using the app ChatterPix. Students then played around joyfully and left the class in excitement. They had learned lots of things and I can assure you that their brains were releasing lots of dopamine!

This fun and challenging activity could also be used in different scenarios, as for example in my Portuguese classes to sophomore high schoolers. I could tease students to think about technology and how we human beings can manipulate materials to suit our needs until we got into talking about robots. Then, I would challenge students to try to build robots in groups of 4 (I would give them the kits with everything they needed) and would assist them as necessary. After that, they could play around a little and engage into “competitions” before we started exploring written fiction related to robots and their use. An interesting link would be having students relax a little in the dark and listen to me reading an interesting piece of the book “Frankenstein”, by Mary Shelley. Next, they could work in groups or individually and elaborate a new end to the narrative.  Later, we would work on having their robots “tell” their stories by using the website “Blabberize”, which connects voice recordings and pictures the same way the app does. This could be extended to a more interdisciplinary approach by having other areas work cooperatively to enrich students’ critical thinking and scientific background. History, Philosophy, Sociology or Physics teachers could engage by bringing in discussions about Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” and how circuits and energy distribution work; Geography and History teachers could talk about technological innovations and how they have changed history and the way humans socialize, produce and consume (food, equipments, etc); Biology teachers could have students think about alternative ways to reduce pollution by having robots perform certain roles and help in research.

It seems too much to be done… it really does. Nevertheless, once we give students the power to go after things, we reduce our workload and they actually produce and engage much more than if we just stood at the front of the class lecturing… I truly believe it is worth a try.

Brown Bag Challenges

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Photo 04-11-14 13 44 18 (1)

The Brown Bag STEAM Challenge-  Project Ideas for Engaging students 

This activity combines art, science, The English language and play. I’m not overselling it when I say it’s mesmerizing. Helena Galvão has been a maker since she was a little kid, and now that she has graduated in psychology, and has been a teacher at casa Thomas jefferson for a while, she advocates for the maker Movement in schools. We strongly believe that students need to be challenged and use the language they learn in authentic and meaningful situations to promote deep learning. Helena  was teaching her teens four group a unit in their coursebook that talks about invisible ink and had a great idea. Why not making the ink with them? She was set to organize this maker activity in her classroom for nineteen teenagers, but she did not stop there. We organized a science fair in the resource center, and the idea was to bring eight different challenges for students in brown bags; each bag had the name of the materials and what they were supposed to build with them, but no instructions on how to do it. Then, students had to write a how to manual using the language in the unit (going to) for a digital show and tell. They took photos of their inventions and recorded the tutorial using the app ChatterPix. It was just amazing to see how much language production and  interaction took place. For a better idea of this maker activity watch the video below.

My Robot Can Talk!

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Photo 04-11-14 10 49 10
The Maker Movement is relatively new here in Brazil, and I believe it has come to stay. Maker activities arouse curiosity and connect the mind and the body to highten the experience of learning. Curious students seem to have more energy, and they are more willing to participate and take risks. However, eighteen years as a full time English teacher has taught me a few things, and I do understand people when they say that our schedules are too tight, and that we do not have any class time to waste. Planning an activity with the maker movement in mind might take more time because it requires a combination of creativity and practicality, but the pay off is the time it saves as students are much more responsive, exercise creativity, and create a bond with the subject matter, classmates, teacher and institution.

In our school, we are modernizing our resource centers by making them more dynamic and enticing to students. Our idea is to have programs that teach about entrepreneurship and innovation, which are important aspects of the American culture and English language. And, also help teachers redesign their practices by offering them a learning space they can take students to and  that inspires creativity.

Last week, Ellen Cintra, a teacher at Casa Thomas Jefferson, was talking about robots as context to teach students the modal verb can. The Maker Movement is also about learning together, and that’s where all bi-national centers and English schools find opportunity to collaborate and make English teaching more meaningful, innovative, and relevant. Teachers can not settle for teaching only language because we have now the chance to work together and help students believe they can be makers who can create things to improve the world around them. Watch the video below to understand what happened in the resource center and see how engaged students were.


Get the maker Movement Started with Kids

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Bubble week is an event to get the Maker Movement started in your school or institution.

We  heard of this activitity in Manual do mundo, and we decided to divide the workshop in two sessions.

Students were invited to freely play with the bubbles using the toys and they got a flyer telling them what to bring for the second meeting. We had the activity in an open, common area in school where all students could easily see and interact. Monitors and school staff were ready to interact with the children in English. One of the monitors was handing out flyers and talking to kids and parents.

For the first meeting we prepared:


Bubble machine

A cut in half tire of plastic pool large enough to fit a hoop inside



For the second meeting,  we recorded a tutorial in which a teacher explains the science behind the mixture.

We had 4 stations

1 – One mentor helps kids do the bubble machine – You might have a handyman among your staff eager to help.

2- One mentor teaches the kids how to make he toys

3- One mentor helps the kids make the mixture and shows the questions

4- The librarian has the tutorial and shows it to students – he/she might record students’ summarizing the pieces of information to post on the school’s website.

bubble questions5 bubble questions3 bubble questions2 bubble questions1

Tips to help you get organized

Deliver each phase twice so that you reach Mondays/wednesdays and Tuesdays/Thursdays groups

Schedule the event for a time when you have lots of students waiting for class, or waiting for their parents

Make sure you choose a place where the floor is NOT SLIPPERY

For phase two, have 4 staff members involved

Have fun, and let us know if you need any help.


Sharpen Presentational Skills

By | 21st Century Skills, English, Sem categoria | No Comments



Nowadays, information is everywhere, and learning is also a click away. With enormous amount of possibilities within anyone’s range, it’s high time  libraries redifined their roles and became lively, interesting, and colllaborative learning spaces. The public that comes to a resource center might be looking for an opportunity to learn different skills and socialize. In English schools, students come to have an experience; they come to learn how to communicate for fun, and for business. Modern libraries within English schools might offer students the chance to boost their digital skills, and offer them the chance to become competent users of the target language in different settings. If you are interested in running a workshop at your institution that aims at sharpening your audience’s presentation skill, this post might come in handy.

What we give you:

Lesson plan - varied multi media plan to wow your participants. Students will watch a catchy video on how to present like Steve Jobs, dive into interesting resources that will trigger lots of interaction, and plan their own presentatiopn using the tips explored throughout the lesson. Teachers guide

What you’ll need:

Invite your students via social media, posters, and formal invitation in their classrooms

Choose a time that you believe students will be able to come (before or after class)

A teacher to deliver the session

English speaking librarians to interact with participants

Ipads, computers, or participants own devices to connect to the web



The Marshmallow Challenge

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Casa Thomas Jefferson will offer an amazing makerspace to the community in our Asa Norte branch, and we will also offer students opportunities to participate in maker activities in all our branches. We are deeply commited to sharing with the teaching community in general our workshops, ideas, and easy step by step procedures.  That`s why everything will be posted online so that you too can start the maker movement in your own institution.


The Marshmallow Challenge

How to get organized: We learned about The Marshmallow Challenge from watching this TED Talk. In groups of four, students are given 18 minutes to build the tallest structure possible using 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, 1 yard of string, and a marshmallow. They do not need to use all the materials, but the structure needs to hold the entire marshmallow on top.

  • Think of the best time to hold the challenge in your school (when there are students around waiting for class, or waiting for their rides).
  • You’ll need  a teacher to deliver the instructions, and the staff at the library to interact with students in English.
  • Decide on the best place to hold the event.
  • Prepare posters to display around school prior the event and/or send e-mails to the families letting them know about the event.
  • Decide how many sessions you will have.
  • Check how many kits you’ll need.
  • Prepare the kits

We tested with a very creative group of teachers  and they did pretty well!


By doing this simple task, groups learn how to communicate, collaborate, and each individual might draw some conclusions about how he/she reacted to the challenge. This activity could be used also in the beginning of a term, or any time you need students to realize how important it is to work in groups to achieve learning goals. Feel free to ask us for help, we will be glad to share our experience with you to help you get started.

Magnetism Mystery Bag Challenge

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Kbrown bag 2Kids love challenges. They NEED to have space to tinker, play around and fail to become resilient and motivated to learn.  I was reading a blog post about how to unleash children’s creativity and the brown bag challenge, and I decided to adapt it to teach my English language learners.  In many course books, we have topics like the wilderness, hot and cold, or surviving as a springboard to teach second conditional sentences. What if we had a different lead in to arouse curiosity and gear our class into a dynamic environment using some principles of magnetism?


Tell students that they are lost, and challenge them to invent something using some of the items in the bag to help them out. But, tell them that they will have to do it in groups, it’s NOT a competition, and that they will have only six minutes to play around. Monitor students, and give them some tips when they get stuck.

e.g. What would you really need if you got lost?

What would happen if you hanged the magnet?

What would you need if you wanted to make a compass?

brown bag 2

What is in the bag?


Craft sticks and/or tongue depressors

compass rose

Small ring (donut) magnet


Masking or electrical tape



Paper clips



Old Mantras

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In a recent article in O Globo, the philosopher Edgar Morin talks about education in Brazil and how the system should not ignore children`s creativity in the learning process. According to him,  information is everywhere and teachers’ roles need to change. Learners should look for the information themselves, and teachers should question the ideas and help learners develop critical thinking. He also criticizes teaching models that separate areas of knowledge  because by doing so, we hinder students` comprehension of the world. To tackle real everyday problems one needs to think holistically and grasp different content from different areas of knowledge. In Brazil, we have had progressive educators who could envision a school that involved learners and aroused curiosity. Paulo Freire, was in favor of experiential learning and inspired many educators worldwide with his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Another educator who had lots to share on this topic was Anísio Teixeira, and we still have schools in Brazil that follow his principles. However, f we look at our educational system in general nowadays, we see that we have a long way to go if we want experiential learning to become mainstream. In a TED talk, Paulo Blinkstein expands on the FabLab@schoolproject. To ilustrate his idea, and he shows a photo that  represents what an iPhone would look like if it had been designed by most educational reformers. He argues that we need to choose what to give up in terms of content if we are to make room for personalization and experiential approaches.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 8.54.07 PM I was talking to a teacher in a public school here in Brasilia, and she made a very relevant point.No matter how critical we may be of the education given at Brazilian schools, if we look at our curriculum today, we might come to the conclusion that most of its content should be there anyways. However, students need to perceive the relevance of this content, and we need to change the way we deliver classes. We need to make room for innovation and critical thinking, and we can not teach these important skills in the traditional environments.

I was planning a Portuguese class last week trying to imagine how I could make it more interesting and hands on. The lesson I was supposed to teach dealt with a text that had many short sentences in two different paragraphs. The questions that followed were designed to make students inductively notice the grammar structure (all sentences in those paragraphs had only one verb), and what was the writer`s intention when he chose that construction. The lesson looked interesting, but I needed to add a hands-on activity to engage my learners. I had about 20 minutes of class time, and instead of asking students to make the controlled manipulative grammar exercise that followed in class, I asked them to tell me a bit about their classes at school and how they felt. I asked them to use the same structure to write short texts that depicted their reality and, in groups, share their work, and make a short video using their phones. The pay off was that students engaged and participated in class a lot and were ready to talk about their lives and how things could be different for them. There is room for personalization and creativity, so the biggest challenge we face  is how we  use  great ideas from progressive educators to design classes that are student centered and have these principles become mainstream.

photo credit: Môsieur J. [version 9.1] via photopin cc

Itching to Learn

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If  someone asks you to talk about a great class you had when you were a kid, what would you say? When I read this question on a blog post today, I realized that everything that I could remember involved making, getting my hands dirty, and collaborating with peers. So, why don’t we have classes that are more experiential and trigger deeper learning?  It is crucial our children realize that what they learn can be put into practice, and they can use the content they deal with in class to invent and transform the world around them. What separates people who simply have an idea from those who make their dreams come true is the ability to come up with creative ideas. Whether using technology or not, students should feel they will put what they learn into practice and become  eager to learn the content. One way of allowing students to get creative has to do with programming for three main reasons. First, its important children become active creators of technology, not just users. Second, learning programming nowadays is free, easy and fun for kids at many different ages. Third, the child starts to believe he/she too can have dreams and make them come true. One of the apps that is worth exploring is called Scratch. It is a a free programming language developed by the MIT Media Lab that allows students to create their own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. It comes with the special bonus of involving kids to learn important mathematical and computational skills. There are tutorials, and lots of project ideas out there to get inspired from. Here is the official site for more on Scratch in case you decide to give it a try.

You Can Learn Anything

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I`ve always had the feeling that we could learn anything. When we are very young, we can learn as many languages as we are exposed to. If we practice enough we can develop skills that might be extremelly useful to our society and community. So, why don`t we start promoting learning spaces that trigger curiosity and motivate people to come to inspiring solutions to the too many problems that our world face today? I was watching a TED Talk by Paulo Blikstein and something he says makes us think:

I wonder what would happen if instead of waking up everyday and going to school to learn another formula, kids would  go to school to invent something new, everyday a new invention, a new idea? And I wonder what would happen with the country that would do it first.

It rests upon the shoulder of our kids to solve the problems that our world face today, and there are many educators willing to make a difference and innovate. So, it is the perfect time to join efforts, establish partnerships to guarantee that our children go to school and get inspired and empowered to think differently and become very creative people to face the challenges of a fast-changing world.

Maker Faire

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New York will host on September 20th and 21st the Maker Faire, which is  is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth. It`s a great place to go with your family and friends to celebrate this wonderful festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and experience first hand the core of  the Maker movement.


The Maker Faire is a place where manufacturers, technology enthusiasts, crafters, educators, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students and commercial exhibitors gather to share what they can do and learn. The most fascinating part  is that this event gives people the opportunity to see themselves as more than consumers; the projects  make us believe that we can all be makers, we can all be productive and creative, and our world is what we make of  it. On the site we can meet the makers and get a sense of what to expect, take a look at the program and schedule, get organized for the event by browsing by topics, download the app, and much more.

Happy making!

Why Learn Coding?

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Have you ever been amazed by how well a young child can grasp how to use a tablet or phone? In the video above, a very young girl seems to have grasped a lot already. What she does so well at such a young age shows what Seymour Papert and Paulo Freire say when they mention the importance of unleashing the latent learning potential of students by providing environments in which their passions and interests thrive. The true  reasons for advocating the use of computers in schools are not technocentric. Actually, the reasons that resonate with me are truly practical. Take my kid for instance, he was totally into Minecraft, and he learned how to make wonderful things within the game that were valuable for his community. He learned how to record his screen, edit, and put a blog together to share his ideas. His construction of knowledge  happened really well and he built, made, and publicly shared his content. I simply do not see the same happening when it comes to school. Another thing to consider is that David also learned about mining, chemistry and even physics. Are we sometimes depriving students of the fun behind learning when we ask them to sit down quietly and listen? Do they actually learn or sit there quietly wondering what they need all the information for? I was telling a friend about schools in the US, Australia, and England teaching kids how to code, and she asked me the following question:


Do all the kids become programmers?

For me, learning to code is learning to think in a new way; It`s also helping kids visualize that they can learn how to control the computer by speaking its language. Nowadays, coding is for everyone, and it teaches creativity, cooperation and persistence. For some learning coding apps and the pleasure of unleashing the inner will of kids to learn, click on the image below.


On Maker Movement and Motivation

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Educators know that students perform better when they are motivated and cognitively engaged. We also know that we should avoid lecturing, and should motivate our learners to be active participants in the learning process. The big question that poses on many of us, delivering classes on daily basis, is how we can plan lessons that will connect our students to content that they might not have experienced, never been interested in, or don`t perceive as something useful in their lives.
In the book ‘The Art of Changing the Brain’ James E. Zull argues that educators can use knowledge about functions of the brain to enhance pedagogical techniques e.g., increasing reception of information by enhancing the sensory aspects of teaching materials; taking advantage of integrative mechanisms by allowing time for reflection; maximizing the adaptive functions of the brain by challenging students to be creative; using action areas of the brain by providing activities to confirm and extend learning. Teachers need to recognize that motivational-emotional systems of the brain modulate cognitive functions and that attempts to force students to learn in ways that violate brain mechanisms are likely to be counterproductive.

Paulo Blikstein, in his article - Digital Fabrication and Making in Education says that there are calls everywhere for educational approaches that foster creativity and inventiveness, and that the ideas behind the maker movement are at least a century old. Digital fabrication and “making” are based on three theoretical and pedagogical pillars: experiential education, constructionism, and critical pedagogy.  Paulo Freire criticized school’s “banking education” approach and the decontextualization of curriculum. So, students’ projects should be  connected with meaningful problems at a personal or community level. Seymour Papert, who worked with Jean Piaget for many years, shares Paulo Freire’s enthusiasm for unleashing the  learning potential of students by providing environments in which their passions and interests thrive. Papert pioneered the use of digital technologies in education, and some of his motivations are very similar to Freire’s. Papert’s Constructionism builds upon Piaget’s Constructivism and claims that the construction of knowledge happens very well when students build, make, and publicly share objects.

Schools that create environments where students are challenged and supported to achieve a goal they value might become a place where students feel the need to go to. Educators who work in institutions that embrace the maker movement might find the task of planning effective classes on daily basis an easier one just because  students may be genuinely interested and eager to learn.