Maker Movement

How a Maker Faire Can Boost your Makerspace

By | Food for thought, Maker Faire, Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Sem categoria | No Comments

The first visit to Maker Faire NY, if you are a makerspace supervisor can be quite overwhelming. Trust me OVERWHELMING INDEED. Everything strikes your attention and becomes a must-have. In time, your heartbeat becomes normal again and you can start to focus again. Hopefully, you will be able to keep focused and make the most strategic decisions for your space. MFNY’18 offered a world of options, activities and special experiential workshops. So, here we listed a few suggestions to help you rise to the challenge.


Have a Plan

Set your main areas of interest and focus on them, but ALWAYS keep your community in mind. What worked well for us this weekend was checking the innovative fast prototyping machines (3D, CNC, and laser). Visiting the Solidworks booth we learned about their new app for kids and how to set a classroom environment.

Get inspired by the drop-in stations

We are often involved in delivering maker activities to large groups at the entrance level. Make sure you take a lot of photos, get your hands dirty, and talk to organizers to learn from them the subtle tricks to make the experience just right for your audience. These stations are simple but can add value to your library activities or even more complex practices.

Think carefully about what you will take home

Buying maker kits at the fair is a unique opportunity. There is a great variety and very often the prices are inviting. That is precisely why you should think of how you will use the kits. Consider using them in stations/groups that help students better understand a concept and make sure you get kits that are both reliable and robust.

See some photos here.


Make Education Forum – Highlights

By | English, Maker Faire, Maker Movement | No Comments

“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.





10 Tips to Get Your Makerspace Started

By | Classroom, Maker Movement, Problem Solving, Sem categoria, teacher training | No Comments

Makerspaces are ideal places to grasp what happens when learners work directly with manipulative media- clay, scratch, circuitry, legos, movie editing apps, etc. to interact, create and share.


About the Maker Movement

The maker movement is hardly something new.  It’s been around in the U.S.  for over a decade now with big resemblances to shop classes, traditional art education, and progressive education. With an important focus on soft skills, such as collaboration, problem-solving, sharing, learning together, experimentation, and iterative processes, the making at the heart of this resurgence in educational settings is unique in many ways.

First, we need to distinguish making from Maker-Centered Learning.  In the book Maker-Centered Learning – Empowering Young People to Shape their Worlds, the writers state that Maker-Centered Learning (MCL) goes beyond acquiring maker abilities (coding, digital illustrating, video making, drilling, fast prototyping, etc.) or discipline-specific knowledge and skills. It’s about building character, gaining creative confidence, knowing how to collaborate with others and being resourceful when confronted with challenges. The resurgence of making in educational settings is about opening a space in school where kids gather to create, invent, tinker, explore & discover. It’s also about having students learn from one another and create visible representations of their learning – be it a stop motion video, an animation or a game with scratch, a 3D print project, a circuit, a rocket, or a sand castle.  MCL provides people with tools and ideas to rethink educational settings. But how to start? How to harness the power of making in my classes? What tools to get? What do teaching and learning look like in these so-called MCL environments?


Tips to get your makerspace started

1. Any space can become a makerspace

Do not wait, you have lots to learn and you’d better get started. The easiest way to start making connections to the classroom is to get as many people involved as soon as possible. At Casa Thomas Jefferson, the initial approach was to bring the movement to libraries. Before the dedicated space for making –  CTJ Makerspace was inaugurated, teachers, librarians, students, and the community started experiencing with tinkering and  the idea that a school library is a place for collaboration, active learning, engagement, discovery, and surprise.

  When you start a makerspace in a library you send your community the message that the way people learn has changed, and that the school is learning together. Just find some room for a table and encourage tinkering, play, design and engineering challenges and open-ended exploration. Start with low cost and low tech challenges in a space where people feel welcome, challenged, and eager to learn how to make something of value to themselves or their community.

2. Realize early that it’s about building communities and having a maker mindset

Network, visit other makerspaces, read, share, challenge yourself to learn new abilities and be resilient. Participate in maker workshops and observe closely how the sessions are delivered and learn what teaching and learning feel like in action. Bring makers, enthusiasts, hobbyists, engineers, partners, teachers into a creative space with easy access to manipulative media. Look for partners and together find ways to offer the community a space to connect with ideas, tools, and people to fix, create, hack, and make new things. Most importantly, do it together with people who believe that the educational system needs a radical change and that we can help improve it.

3.  Remember it is about the learning experiences, not just the technology, the tools or the physical space

A makerspace can be anything from a table full of craft supplies to a space with 3D printers, laser cutters, and power tools. However, in time you will become more adventurous and willing to experiment with the possibilities of fast prototyping within educational settings. Put yourself in a position in which you will need to learn from tools, the internet, students,  experts, and community members. Again, visit educational makerspaces to learn about how educational narratives are designed, what people are making, sharing and learning. Worry about which tools and machines to get once you have become more familiar with the concept.

4.  Understand maker-centered educational roots and connections

John Dewey‘s work emphasizes learning by doing.  The philosopher understood knowledge-making as a dynamic process that unfolds as learners are engaged through reflective, iterative interaction with the practical demands and challenges of doing things in the real world. Two educational theories that connect directly to MCL are constructivism and constructionism. Jean Piaget argued that knowledge is constructed via the interaction between the learner’s conceptual schema and their experiences in the world to which these schemata are applied.  At the core of MCL activities there is a strong focus on tinkering and figuring out solutions to challenges, and both processes start with one’s own ideas and the inclination and sensitivity to opportunities to shape these ideas through direct, experiential action.

Seymour Papert, considered by many the father of the resurgence of making in educational settings, holds in his view (Constructionism) that learning happens at it’s best when learners work directly with manipulative media. Lego bricks, clay, coding apps, fast prototyping machines, or even recyclables.  Papert made clear the relationship between constructivism and constructionism, the important emphasis on making tangible projects, and the inclination to sharing what one makes with a wide audience throughout his work.

In a maker-centered classroom, facilitators encourage students to work together to solve challenges and derive inspiration from one another’s work.  Peer learning and the work of Lev Vygotsky, relates heavily to MCL, for he promoted the idea that all learning is social. His concept of proximal development is highly applicable to the variety of peer learning that happens in a maker-centered class. Although peer learning is not a new concept, it is important to note that for MCL, peer learning is crucial either because learners genuinely know a lot, or because the efficient distribution of skill-instruction requires it, especially in case you have a large group who needs to learn a maker ability in order to perform the task and the fastest way to disseminate knowledge is by having students teach one another.

MCL has strong connections with Project-Based Learning (PBL). Both MCL and PBL are interest driven, may use expert knowledge and skills, are frequently collaborative, use learning technologies from paper-and-pencil mind maps to a variety of digital and analog tools, and students are expected to create tangible products that make the learning processes visible.

But the differences are worth noting

  1. MCL might not be as well structured as PBL is. That is, for MCL, the learning experience might start with simply tinkering, opening a toy, or observing a system or product so that the inquiry questions emerge from student’s interactions with materials. MCL brings opportunities to build a maker mindset and build a tinkering attitude towards learning – a playful, failure positive way to approach challenges through direct experience, hands-on engagement, and discovery.
  2. MCL is not a well structured instructional approach as PBL is. PBL has a set of criteria which are often used to frame an entire curriculum. It might be the case with MCL, but for the most part, it weaves in and out of varied learning contexts.

5.  Create a  shared view of what MCL should look like in your school and build a bridge to your curriculum

Perhaps the best way to start implementing ideas into the classrooms informed both by progressive learning theories like John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Seymour Papert, and Lev Vygotsky and educational approaches like peer learning and PBL is to start thinking about the new words and jargon that we are using when we talk about MCL. Project Zero suggests a  symptoms-based approach to point out characteristics that suggest what qualifies as a maker-centered experience but do not strictly define what the essence is or is not. In other words, a MCL experience need not include the full set of characteristics associated with such experience to qualify as one; rather, exhibiting a majority of these characteristics in any configuration suffices. Makerspaces are ideal for asking questions, prototyping ideas and learning by doing. We take inspiration from the book Maker-Centered Learning to attempt at drafting our own definition of  MCL to guide us into designing MCL activities for our institution so that we have a single tool to validate practices, build confidence and competence, and strengthen our internal expertise.


6. Experience inspirational learning communities

7. Explore Apps and Tools for creators

8. Research, implement, reflect, tinker, and improve your practice

9. Belong, make sense, be brave, proactive, and build in yourself creative competence and confidence to make things happen

Read about CTJ Makerspace maker workshops specially designed to connect people,  foster the maker capacities of looking closely at products and systems, exploring complexities and finding opportunities to improve things around us.

10. Be generous and share your learning path.

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.


Mkaer Summit 2018

CTJ Maker Summit 2018 – A Professional Development Experience

By | American Spaces, Maker Movement, teacher training | No Comments

On the 24th of January, CTJ Makerspace held the first Maker Summit for our American Space educators. OUR ULTIMATE GOAL was for teachers to feel truly inspired and motivated to take risks in adopting a Maker mindset, that is, we wanted teachers to feel motivated to use Maker activities in the classroom, as well as to feel capable of effectively integrating them in their classes so as to boost language practice/production. We wanted the Maker Day to be a memorable collective experience and that teachers felt empowered to innovate in their classrooms and to be the drivers of positive change in our school culture.

The first step toward maker-centered education is to “teach the teachers.” And what better way for teachers to learn than by becoming students for a day? That was the idea behind the 2018 Maker Summit. Equipped with some of the latest technology, teachers had to figure out how to manipulate the likes of virtual reality apps and glasses, Osmo Words kits, stop-motion videos apps, green screening, and Design Thinking. Educators got firsthand experience of the challenges, insecurities, and benefits that their students may have with interactive, exploratory, creative learning.


After the event, the facilitating team sat together to discuss feedback from the involved teachers. Upon reflection, a series of important conclusions arose, the most important of which are:

  • It is paramount to be prepared to adapt activities in case technical issues occur, and not to let potential failures dismantle the whole project. In short: you always need a plan B!
  • In the mindset most of us were raised in and are accustomed to, it can be easy to think of discovery-driven learning as unclear and lacking in instruction, of noisy classrooms as messy or out-of-control. Therefore, it is important to keep an open mind and come to terms with the fact that learner autonomy in the classroom requires, also, that facilitators have the skills necessary to harness students’ creative energy for learning.

Overall, the 2018 CTJ Maker Summit was a valuable immersion experience for all involved parties and one that should yield fulfilling results in the near future.

See here photos of this great teacher development opportunity.

Written by Paula Cruz




Prototyping for Disability Rights

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

Casa Thomas Jefferson (CTJ) hosted  (from August 30th through October 19th) a program entitled “Educational Assistive Technology”. The program aims at prototyping for disability rights to empower youth to shape their world and effect change in their community. In this program, visually impaired and non-visually impaired students learned about fast prototyping and how they can use it to find solutions to problems that students with disabilities face. The idea is to place people with disabilities at the center of the creation of solutions, as they test and act as main players in the design process.

This innovative makeathon received financial support from The International Network of Emerging Library Innovators (INELI). This initiative demonstrated that sound program planning can attract the interest of partners committed to improving the Educational System in Brazil and it can also provide access to minorities. INELI’s main goal is to highlight libraries and innovation hubs that create meaningful and feasible solutions to social and cultural challenges that people in Latin America face.

The program itself was divided into a planning stage and three hands-on meetings. Af first, we hosted a preparatory meeting in which visually impaired students, teachers, parents and school administrators got together for an honest conversation about the challenges of teaching the visually impaired. During the first formal meeting, facilitators conducted an ideation session to help the non-visually impaired truly understand the challenge from the viewpoint of those who face it.  At each table, one visually impaired student informed the group about what he/she finds difficult to learn and why. The beauty of the event was that each table narrowed the obstacle down to one  challenge and started ideating to solve that specific problem.

Each group had the support of a skilled facilitator. They were:

  • Marcos Roberto – social entrepreneur and founder of Meviro
  • Fast prototyping specialists from 3Eixos
  • Luciana Eller – student and designer
  • Ana Cristina Alves – therapist and Universidade de Brasília professor

On September 28th, participants brought the first prototypes and the visually impaired tested and provided feedback on their usability. Based on this input, the whole group worked on finding better solutions, using laser cutters, 3d printers, arduinos, etc. – all the tools available at the makerspace. On October 19th, participants should return for the last meeting. Until then, they are welcome to  use CTJ’s  learning hub space to embetter their creations.

Casa Thomas Jefferson believes that running programs that place youth at the center and give them opportunity to think collaboratively and to use tools and resources for a meaningful purpose is what defines our spirit.

All the assistive solutions created by participants, using modern prototyping tools will be shared online soon.

Educational Assistive Technology with CIL 2 - Day 1


Galaxy of Oppotunities :: Galáxia de Oportunidades

By | Design THinking, Empreendedorismo, Evento, Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Sem categoria, Startups | No Comments

A traditional classroom, an open space, or even the school playground could be a perfect fit to a simple, engaging, and life changing learning opportunity.  On August 30th, CTJ Makerspace offered 30 students from Universidade de Brasília access to tools and expertise that are often beyond the scope of traditional learning environments. We offered participants of the Galaxy of Opportunities 2017 a simple, yet engaging experience, aimed at encouraging STEM and  instilling a sense of leadership and opportunity in those who may be future leaders. We carefully delivered a session specially designed to offer an ambience for creativity, collaboration, sharing of ideas, and access to digital and analog prototyping tools.

The session was divided in three parts: discovery, inspiration, and prototyping. In the beginning, participants learned about the maker movement and startups that use makerspaces around the globe to create and develop their products. In the second part, Rodrigo Franco, cofounder of 3Eixos, a company that was born inside CTJ American Space spoke about the advantages of using our makerspace to boost their business. Also, we talked about Meviro, and how being a partner has helped it build a sound assistive technology makeathon methodology. In the last part, participants experienced design thinking to conceive their own startups and used some of the tools available at the space to prototype their products. It was an inspiring session that got very good feedback from participants and organizers.

Galáxia de Oportunidades

Sessão de design thinking durante o workshop “Makerspace : o kick-off da sua jornada empreendedora”, para os participantes do evento Galáxia de Oportunidades 2017.

Uma sala de aula tradicional, um espaço aberto, ou mesmo o pátio da escola, poderiam ser perfeitos para oferecer uma oportunidade de aprendizagem simples, envolvente e, até mesmo, de mudança de vida. Em 30 de agosto, o CTJ Makerspace ofereceu a 30 alunos da Universidade de Brasília ferramentas e conhecimento que muitas vezes estão além do seu alcance nos ambientes tradicionais de aprendizagem. Oferecemos aos participantes do evento Galáxia de Oportunidades 2017 uma experiência simples, mas envolvente, com o objetivo de encorajaro uso de habilidades STEM e instilar um senso de liderança e oportunidade naqueles que podem ser futuros líderes. Ministramos uma sessão especialmente concebida com carinho para proporcionar naquelas 2 horas um ambiente de criatividade, colaboração, compartilhamento de ideias e acesso a ferramentas de prototipagem digital e analógica.

A sessão foi dividida em três partes: descoberta, inspiração e prototipagem. No início, os participantes aprenderam sobre o movimento do fazer e ouviram as histórias de startups que usam makerspaces em todo o mundo para criar e desenvolver seus produtos. Na segunda parte, Rodrigo Franco, co-fundador da 3Eixos, uma empresa que nasceu dentro do CTJ American Space, falou sobre as vantagens de usar nosso espaço para incrementar seus negócios. Além disso, falamos também sobre a Meviro, e como ser um parceiro do CTJ Makerspace ajudou a construir uma metodologia para desenho de oficinas de cocriação e prototipagem de tecnologias assistivas. Na última parte, os participantes experimentaram uma sessão rápida de design thinking para conceber suas próprias startups e usaram algumas das ferramentas disponíveis no nosso espaço para prototipar seus produtos. Foi uma sessão inspiradora que obteve bons comentários dos participantes e dos organizadores.


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.  



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


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

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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

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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










“Maker Day with CIL – Prototyping for Disability Rights”

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Projetos | One Comment

As it happens to any living organism on the planet, some days are just better than others. When you get the chance to collaborate with great people to make dreams come true, motivate young people to learn technologies that can help others, and experience the power of a flexible learning space, its not just any other day at the office. It`s magical.  The history of the fight for the rights of people with disabilities is considerably new. However, nowadays we have some important advances in this area. At CIL 2, a public language teaching institution, there is a great community of people with disabilities – especially those who are visually impaired. CIL has become reference in Teaching English as a Second Language to blind people in Brasília. Despite their expertise, the students still face accessibility problems and lack of assistive technology. Casa Thomas Jefferson proposed to expand CIL’s reach by sharing its makerspace and hosting a program in which CIL staff and students had the opportunity to work alongside experts on fast prototyping. Participants learned how this kind of technology can be used to their own advantage in solving challenges faced by people with disabilities at their school.

The program 

“On Friday, September 23, in observation of “the Maker Week for Human Rights and Tolerance,” Casa Thomas Jefferson Asa Norte held a program for 20 public high school students and  3 students with a visual impairment.  All  students came from CIL 2 – Centro Interescolar de Línguas de Brasília  to collaborate, learn English,  and connect design with social change. Participants worked in teams, first interviewing the visually-impaired student to learn about some of the day to day challenges his or her disability presented, and then brainstormed ways to overcome these challenges.  Finally, they used CTJ’s Makerspace to draft up a design or prototype of their solution.

As a warmer, participants watched the trailer “Great Fight for Disability Rights”, which  documents the making of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to put themselves in the shoes of the visually impaired. The head teachers, who spoke only in English with students, used design thinking techniques to engage participants in creating empathy towards the difficulties visually impaired people face, and spot  challenges that could be overcome with a special type of assistive technology.  Students were divided into five groups of four; on each table there was either a visually impaired person or someone who could report from experience.  Participants easily identified with the topic, for CIL 2 has a strong community of people with disabilities.  At CIL there is a specialist who personally provides visually impaired students with sound learning strategies; Daniele Alves de Lemos was instrumental to the program, for she provided CTJ staff and facilitators with important pedagogical tips. Participants worked in teams, interviewing each other to learn about the challenges they face. At this point, visually impaired participants were eager to share their experiences, and participants brainstormed ways to overcome the challenges. The makerspace was bursting with discovery and creativity as students  learned about  manual and fast prototyping, practiced English, connected art and design with social change, and learned about digital artifact creation.


The partners 

The program counted on the support of valuable partners. They were: Four facilitators from 3Eixos, a company founded by students from UnB – the local federal university, who worked against the clock to guarantee participants designed feasible projects; Patrick Ramon, CIL 2 supervisor, who was extremely enthusiastic about the idea and supported students and facilitators throughout the planning and execution of the project; Daniele Alves de Lemos, who is a specialist with CIL and provided all people involved with great input; and Marcos Roberto, founder of, an outstanding accessibility project that inspired the program`s  narrative. The program also counted on the support of the director of the American Spaces project with the American Embassy, and of course, CTJ makerspace staff members who felt first hand the thrill of empowering people to use the space to promote economic and social change.

Participant`s projects

All facilitators had a back up plan (a feasible project) ready to share and inspire participants. One of the projects was a tactile map of the makerspace. However, participants were so touched and engaged that they came up with wonderful ideas of their own based on the real needs of the visually impaired people in the program.

  • 3D printed Tactile Map – central bus station;
  • 3D printed Bracelet – Identification of volunteers in the  school’s accessibility project;
  • 3D printed Tactile Map – from bus stop to school;
  • Arduino Super Cane –  to detect obstacles and improve accessibility;
  • 3D printed Outlet – to avoid electrical shocks.

CTJ makerspace staff members and all facilitators will visit CIL 2 in October to bring the projects and invite all CIL students to be part of our community. We are sure that CTJ will host more and more programs to inspire youth to build a better future.


Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 9.04.09 PM

Earth Day for Makers

By | American Spaces, Maker Movement, Smithsonian | 7 Comments

Earth Day is the annual celebration of the environment and a time to assess the work needed to protect the natural gifts of our planet. Earth Day is observed around the world, although nowhere is it a national holiday. In the United States, it affirms that environmental awareness is part of the country’s consciousness and that the idea of protecting the environment – once the province of a few conservationists – has moved from the extreme to the mainstream of American thought. There are simple ways to engage participants with activities that will help them think about their own actions and consequences for the planet. Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 9.04.09 PM


Leonardo Da Vinci – One of the Most Prolific Makers

By | American Spaces, Maker Movement, Smithsonian | No Comments

This  program  explores the notion that Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the most famous and prolific of all makers. He explored  all facets of scientific experimentation. The maker culture is closer to the Renaissance attitude of Leonardo than of the exacerbated Enlightenment rationalism or mechanistic and pragmatic mentality of industrial societies, for the maker today would be a kind of Renaissance man yesterday: tuned in different areas of knowledge, remixing the findings of one another; no history-social celebrities, but individuals responsible for creating and recreating new ways to produce, interact and communicate ideas and experiences in the world today. The program invites people to explore the life of Da Vinci and think of areas of expertise they  need to boost to  become an active and prolific maker.


Goldberg Machine

By | Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Smithsonian | No Comments

rube_goldberg _small

There are low-cost, simple ideas for STEAM activities that might add a very nice touch to your programs  in American Spaces.  A clear example is building a Rube Goldberg machine - a contraption, invention, device that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion. When kids start making a chain reaction with access to materials and tools like  hot glue gun, soldering iron, and strawbees, they feel the thrill of making something, work collaboratively, and exercise logical reasoning. This engaging activity could be a great hands 0n component for a program on invention and innovation for varied age levels.  Participants generally love including a chain reaction and learn about the American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg (1883–1970).

For this activity we used adapted material from the Smithsonian institution to boost participation and engagement.


Youth Innovation Camp – 2016

By | Maker Movement, Makerspaces, Programação, Smithsonian | No Comments

Youth Innovation Camp 2016 brought together 56 young minds, library staff members, guest speakers and facilitators from varied fields to celebrate learning by doing, build a maker mindset, and think creatively about viable business models.

Many parents and educators agree that there is a surpassing need for informal educational programs that promote learning in science, technology, engineering, arts & design and math (STEAM). There is also high demand for spaces that offer people opportunities to experience learning in innovative, modern ways. Having these needs in mind, the camp`s narrative revolved around the themes of coding, prototyping, and creativity, and campers were immersed in the makerspace collaborative environment to learn about the possibilities, tools, and technologies available.


The first day started with campers getting inspired by President Obama`s speeches about coding, by Leonardo Da Vinci and his prolific approach to making and inventing, and by Michelle Obama`s and her talks on eco-literacy. We had a maker showcase, during which, students made something with their own hands and were very excited about having access to hot glue guns, scissors, motors, LED lights, soldering iron, 3D printers, and a plotter machine. The second activity was also a big hit among campers. With high-quality Smithsonian material, they learned about Rube Goldberg machines and had a blast grasping varied concepts in a very supporting atmosphere.

On the second day our guest speaker – a local young entrepreneur who devotes his time to working with assistive technologies for people with disabilities – wowed campers with his latest project,  Campers were challenged to work on product design, prototype, slogans and pitches. Later, they drew logos to have them printed out in the 3D printers.

The chef Diego Rhoger impressed campers with his experiments in the kitchen. Kids learned how to handle knives like chefs and turned healthy ingredients into surprising dishes by using basic concepts of molecular gastronomy. Right after this yummy day, campers went back to work on their products` visual identities and marketing strategies, getting ready to sell their ideas. Youth Innovation Camp is becoming a reference for creative minds willing to engage in meaningful, relevant, informal learning opportunities.


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:

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 5.10.16 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 5.10.22 PM
Two light sources on, acting as the key light and the fill light

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 5.10.30 PM

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.


Contação de história maker

By | Maker Movement, Português, Projetos | No Comments

Existe algo mágico quando um grupo de crianças sentam confortavelmente para compartilhar uma leitura. Quando as contadoras são Larissa Victório, pedagoga que trabalha como membro do time do American Space Casa Thomas Jefferson, e Cynthia Frango dedicada professora da mesma instituição, o resultado é mágico.

Para a sessão de março, a dupla contou a história Collin Colors, e envolveu os pequenos em um encantando  mundo colorido. Elas sempre pensam em atividades para dar asas a imaginação e criar ambiência para a pratica do inglês, mas desta vez elas resolveram bolar uma atividade para surpreender as crianças. Usando um kit Makey Makey, exploraram a plataforma Scratch e criaram um projeto para encantar os pequenos leitores.

Confira o tutorial abaixo para criar a sua storytelling in the making também.

Por que usar o kit Makey Makey em bibliotecas do século 21?

MaKey MaKey foi inventado por  doutorandos no Media Labs do MIT. E Além de uso pra lá de divertidos podemos destacar como principal característica a acessibilidade: não é preciso saber programação, eletrônica, sequer o que é uma placa de circuito impresso para criar projetos interessantes e ficar curioso para aprender mais.


Vloggers Attitude – Smithsonian/Maker Activity

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

Cardboard boxes, scissors, aluminum foil, collaboration and creativity. That`s all  participants needed during the program Vloggers Attitude. People got together to discuss issues related to diversity, and learn about photography.

The idea behind ​​this program is a maker story worth sharing. The Resource Center staff at  the South Wing branch decided to run a program targeted at teenagers who already have vlogs with considerable number of hits and talk about themes that revolved around human rights, tolerance, and diversity. The goal was to encourage participants to create their own vlogs about their opinions on this matter s.

With the imminence of filming for this project came the idea / challenge, with few resources, set up a studioo to offer vloggers an option within our space.

So, we made a  D.I.Y. studio and made it available for everyone. Many people are already having fun taking pictures at the resource Center. To open the program ,the facilitator used beautiful photos that represented ethnical diversity from the  Smithsonian magazine. Vloggers exchanged ideas, discussed how to make interesting vlogs and shared their most popular ones. Participants left the library with a challenge. Post a video on the same topic of the conversation: diversity.

Participants  were invited to use the studio and learn about the art of photography and film by participating in talks and demonstrations delivered by some experts among CTJ staff members. All the talks, and studio, off course, totally open tho the community. Interested in making your very own studio? let us know on our facebook.

IMG_20160405_155439883_HDR IMG_20160405_160457337

IMG_20160405_160515284 IMG_20160405_161523209





Brasília Dribbble Meet Up

By | American Spaces, Maker Movement | No Comments

 Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 7.53.28 PMBrasília Dribbble Meetup is one of the many self – organized get togethers around the world, where designers, fashion designers, engineers, architects,  hobbits, enthusiasts, and makers of all kinds meet to connect and strengthen local communities. The event was held at UnB – Brasilia`s Federal University  and aimed at fostering creativity among participants and sharing projects related to  STEAM topics among UnB`s students.

Casa Thomas Jefferson`s Mobile Makerspace and Protipe – Unb`s very own makerspace held a maker showcase together and invited participants to talk about innovation at the Casa, interdisciplinary projects, and the  range of activities that might be held at CTJ Makerspace – a dedicated area at Asa Norte Branch soon  to be inaugurated. See more of global network platform Dribbble, and more of CTJ Mobile Maker  showcases


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Para Amplificar

By | Maker Movement, Makerspaces | No Comments

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Para discutir o uso de tecnologias na educação e trabalhar competências digitais por meio de ferramentas Google, o Seminário Amplifica já reuniu muitos participantes em São Paulo e Curitiba, e se organiza para mais dois eventos (Belo Horizonte e Curitiba).

Durante o evento, incentiva-se a reflexão sobre novas possibilidades digitais para práticas pedagógicas e workshops com atividades mão-na-massa que envolvem o uso de ferramentas do Google. Além disso, os participantes também desenvolvem atividades dentro de  makerspaces.

Para o evento em Sampa, o criador do site Tinker Lab Brasil, Glauco Paiva, Lab Educação e o Makerspace móvel da Casa Thomas Jefferson marcaram presença e criaram atividades que facilitam o desenvolvimento de pessoas capazes de colaborar e trabalhar juntas em possíveis soluções para os problemas do mundo moderno.

Em Curitiba, a CTJ encantou os participantes com um Maker Showcase ,oferecendo atividades acessíveis, sustentáveis e fáceis de adaptar para diversos contextos educacionais. Criamos atividades para que os educadores pensassem em projetos transdisciplinares que estimulem a descoberta e a experiência na interseção das artes, ciências, matemática, design e tecnologia (STEAM).

Nosso cardápio de atividades do fazer oferece experiências com:

Google Cardboars – com papelão e um celular pode-se  explorar, em contexto educacional, os aplicativos que tornam o celular numa tela 3D para visitar  museus, galerias, ou vários  locais pelo mundo usando a ferramenta gratuita  Google Street View.

Osmos – esse kit maker pode ser usado para trabalhar estratégias de aprendizagem digital, coordenação motora, vocabulário e números.

Makey Makey – desenvolvido no MIT, esse recurso é uma forma divertida e amigável para introduzir pessoas ao mundo da programação.

Circuit Boards – esse kit incentiva participantes a abrir brinquedos quebrados para aprender sobre circuitos.

3D Doodlers – explore maneiras de engajar alunos em aprendizado divertido e dinâmico. Alunos podem criar logos, objetos funcionais, monumentos, ou arte.

Interessado em AMPLIFiCAR? Chegue mais detalhes sobre os seminários aqui.

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Mosquito Trap

By | Maker Movement, Smithsonian | No Comments

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Make a Difference

BNCs that are part of the “Achieving 21st Century Skills” project have been planning activities that address important issues and challenges the world faces nowadays. This educational project for youth, that began in September 2014, promotes learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Design, and Math (STEAM fields) through the steadfast contemplation and application of curated content from the Smithsonian Institution.

Brazil has reported a nearly 50% jump in cases of dengue fever over a three-week period in January, a worrying finding. With that in mind, we planned a program to raise awareness on what citizens can do to fight Mosquito-Borne Infections.

At Casa Thomas Jefferson, we kicked off the program by showing the animation ‘What Are Mosquito-Borne Infections?’ to explain how diseases like dengue are transmitted. We also used a set of “Did You Know” questions about dengue to raise awareness of the need to eradicate the insect without harming the environment. As a follow-up, participants made a mosquito trap to take home. Our team prototyped the trap to make sure it worked well and placed a few throughout the school to motivate people to come and learn how to make their own. If you are interested in running a similar program, see more on the project’s wiki page.




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 –

BIGBITS_Circuit boards_Handbook

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

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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)

Design Criativo

By | Maker Movement, Português, Programação, Smithsonian | No Comments


O American Space Casa Thomas Jefferson trabalha em parceria com a Embaixada dos Estados Unidos e outros Centros Binacionais no Brasil para implementar o projeto  “Achieving 21st Century Skills”. Além de trazer o movimento do fazer (importante conceito da cultura americana) para dentro dos centros, o projeto tem também o objetivo de criar sinergia entre os departamentos cultural e acadêmico, Resource Center e EducationUSA. Muitas vezes, temos nos American Spaces exposições que tratam de assuntos como meio ambiente, preservação, tolerância, etc. Esses temas estão relacionados à missão dos Estados Unidos no Brasil. As exposições e eventos culturais que já acontecem nos American Spaces podem ser oportunidades interessantes para estimular pessoas a participarem do movimento do fazer, colocar a mão na massa e sentir-se parte de uma comunidade dentro da escola para aprender uma habilidade nova e interagir de maneira autêntica e divertida. Veja abaixo um exemplo de como uma exposição de arte se tornou ponto de partida para uma atividade ‘maker’ (extracurricular) em um American Space.


As artistas Hermidia Metzler e Marrcia Mazzoni exibem o trabalho “Metamorfose da Matéria” na Galeria de Arte da Casa Thomas Jefferson e se propõem a trabalhar junto com a comunidade no programa “Criação de Soluções”. O programa tem o objetivo de abrir espaço de estímulo à criatividade por meio de encontros para apreciar arte e, assim, abrir discussões sobre desafios do mundo moderno e criação de objetos funcionais ou decorativos usando o que se tem, em vez de se comprar tudo pronto. O “Criação de Soluções” seria o primeiro programa, mas a ideia não é fazer somente um encontro e, sim, reunir um grupo para aprender em conjunto de forma bem prática. Os conhecimentos vão desde técnicas básicas até as mais diferentes e elaboradas – de acordo com o interesse e motivação do grupo. Bordado, origami, batik, crochê, customização de roupas, macramê e circuitos vestíveis são alguns dos tópicos previstos, sempre contando com a parceria de artistas que geralmente expõem na galeria. Além de aprender as técnicas, os participantes mais iniciantes nesse universo vão ganhar uma nova forma de olhar para o mundo, buscando dar outro significado aos objetos ao seu redor e até ver beleza em itens que poderiam ser descartados. Os que já desenvolvem projetos nessa linha vão ganhar um espaço de convívio e de troca com outros amantes dos trabalhos manuais. Experts e iniciantes são bem-vindos e esperamos que todos possam aprender muito uns com os outros – e estimulados por artistas e facilitadores.

A Oficina – passo a passo


5’ – Conte uma historia sobre a viagem de cientistas do instituto Smithsonian para Curaçao e o mar de plástico encontrado por eles para trabalhar a conscientização das escolhas de produtos para consumirmos e de como descartamos lixo. Ocean Trash: Marine Debris From Shore To Sea

15´ – Incentive os participantes a visitarem o site Ecosytem on the Edge para calcularem o impacto que suas escolhas de consumo causam ao meio ambiente.

2 horas – Oficina Mão na Massa – Momento para usar a criatividade e usar sucata para criar produtos bonitos que realmente despertem o interesse do público em colaboração com artistas e/ou makers locais.





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,    


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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Maker Movement under the Microscope

By | Maker Movement, Makerspaces | One Comment



On a post entitled “Yes We Can.  But Should We? The unintended consequences of the maker movement”, Allison Arieff raises interesting questions about the maker movement that need to be addressed. Allison eloquently talks about the maker movement and the risk of causing more damage to the environment than good. According to her, we’re in a period where almost anyone has the tools to make almost anything, but there are doubts whether we are making the right things or too many of the wrong ones. She also mentions the   misconception about what 3D printing does and does not enable. It allows us to delight a four-year-old by pulling a mini Darth Vader toy out of thin air, but the 3D printer consumes about 50 to 100 times more electrical energy than injection molding to make an item of the same weight. She also highlights the reverse environmental offset, counteracting recent legislation to reduce plastic use through grocery bag bans.

However interesting her ideas seem to be, the Maker Movement stresses the abundance of low-cost standardized products. Their distribution is a massive strain on our environment,  so what should we do about that? Most people are so distanced from the experiences of fabrication that we are losing the knowledge of materials and making. Many of us in developing and developed countries live with the limited choices of buying new or doing nothing just because we believe we cannot make anything of value. Our environment needs us to have a new relationship with making: critical thinking, backward-looking kind of making in which people really rethink, reuse and feel they are able to make things for themselves.

It’s high time people all over the globe became skilled creators and producers while also being wise and critical consumers. More of us should be able to repair and make things ourselves instead of just throwing things away . If we see ourselves as makers and are given the chance  to develop new ideas and solutions to local problems, we might end up reusing things others would simply get rid of. As the Maker Movement evolves, more and more people engage. One can only hope that we make the right things, and that we all live to make and make to live!




Paper Month

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


May brought a lot of color, excitement and hands-on learning to our ‘Resource Center’. We started the month hosting a local artist called Falk Brito who taught our Resource Center team a bit of origami art. With properly trained staff, our resource centers received students, families and community to create beautiful flowers and cards for dear mothers. The school was very colorful and lively with students interested in learning the ancient art of origami. During the next three weeks, the center offered varied activities that encouraged the exploration of the renowned Smithsonian museums network content, curiosity and collaborative work. The calendar of extracurricular activities was disclosed in our social networks and shared in our schools so that everyone could enjoy the extra-curricular learning opportunities and practice the English language in different contexts. Here’s a short description of some of the activities of  Paper Month.

A Night and A Day at the Museum – Participants were invited to virtually visit  the ‘Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’ and use an Apple kit called Osmo to draw something they found at the museum. This activity was very well received by all who attended and many people were delighted with the designs that they could do using the Masterpiece application (chosen by Time as best invention of 2014).


How Things Fly – Students, families and communities explored some games about flying on The Smithsonian Airspace Museum site and learned about aerodynamics and aviation. To put the knowledge into practice, participants made their own paper airplanes and used the ‘launcher’ to fly high.



Makey Makey (Hip Hop) – With Makey Makey kits, developed at MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, students learned about hip-hop and learned how to close circuits with graphite and paper and make music!

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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.


Christmas in the Making

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Building a maker mindset in schools motivates people to become makers, give it a try and take things apart to try to do things that even the manufacturer did not think of doing. While technology has been the spark of the Maker Movement, it has also become a social movement that includes all kinds of making and all kinds of makers, connecting to the past as well as changing how we look at the future. Teachers who embrace the movement witness how students learn from others, what zone of development is in practice, and how important it is to foster collaboration and creativity.

Read below about making in class from a teacher`s perspective.

SONY DSCHelena Galvão -It´s the end of the semester, and we begin to say good-bye to our groups. At Casa Thomas Jefferson, we have the opportunity of having our Kids groups for a whole year; we get to watch our students’ development closely, which makes us (teachers and students) eager to show their families how far we have come. For that reason, at CTJ, we throw an end-of-term party on the last day of class. We prepare for weeks, we practice songs, we make a portfolio, and we tidy our classroom to get ready to showcase our English skills. After singing songs and showing pictures, there is usually a lot of time left and, as a teacher, we like to enjoy that precious time to involve family members and students in a meaningful activity to wrap-up the semester.

Having that objective in mind, we came up with an idea for an arts and crafts activity: making a snow globe, but we didn’t want to simply give instructions to be followed. Having a maker mindset to guide us, we thought of giving family members and students a set of different materials (paper, popsicle sticks, sequins, glue, glitter-glue, cotton, ribbons, etc.) for them to decide how to make their own original Christmas tree. Of course we didn’t leave them in the dark, we gave them a whole sort of visual references to spice up their creativity. There was a catch though; they had to construct a tree that would fit inside a glass globe. At this point, we didn’t explain why the tree had to fit the globe, but they soon started to realize what they were about to make.

The kids approached the tables with the materials shyly, whereas their family members didn´t approach them at all. We had to invite family members to join the kids who were, at this point, sorting through the big amount of options they had. Some had an idea and followed through with it; some had to tweak their ideas in order to make them work; some had to start again, for their first idea hadn’t worked out; some had to make the tree smaller; but all of the teams were able to accomplish the task.

It came as no surprise that the teams managed to give up their reluctance and shyness and finish their trees; the biggest surprise was that the teams started blending and helping each other. It started because of two little kids who didn’t have any family members around, and it went on because a mother had a baby on her lap and someone needed to help her kid. Fact is, I turned around to close the first snow globe and when I turned back I saw about twenty people working together and sharing.

In order to accomplish what I had hoped for in this end-of-term party, I had to plan in advance carefully, but the best part of the party was definitely the unexpected outcome of challenging people: the community feeling that makes them share. Well, if that is not Christmas spirit, I don’t know what is.

Brown Bag Challenge – Rocket Cars

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rocket cars

As libraries around the world become more dynamic learning spaces, our classrooms and resource centers must offer participants opportunities to engage in collaborative, hands-on, interdisciplinary activities. To create new learning spaces you could make the bags and display them on a shelf for people to tinker with, use them for classroom activities, or create events in your institution to build a maker mindset.


Rocket Cars

In this challenge students get the materials on the label and race against time to finish the task in twenty minutes or less. To promote more practice and engagement, you could ask them to record tutorials or do a show and tell.

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.


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.

We Learn by Making Stuff

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The maker movement has been growing and everyone hears an anecdote being told, reads an article, or sees a photo. I became curious and started reading about the movement and how these hands-on type of activities would benefit students by enhancing involvement and motivation to learn. Whether we teach children, teens, or adults, we can easily achieve our pedagogical goals by tapping into students’ needs. So, we teachers bring realia, videos, IPads, and other resources to engage students. All of that enriches the learning experience, but a curious educator should keep exploring. What if learning became less theoretical and more experiential? What if we had more activities in class in which kids participated joyfully and stayed excited about them long after they walked away with something they created? Some of the promises of the maker movement resonated with me, and last weekend, Carla Arena and I  ran a maker workshop with eight kids to see for ourselves what would happen. We found a very interesting tutorial by Glauco Paiva in Tinkerlabbr, and put all the stuff we needed together (most of the things was in our tool box, and we opened up broken toys for the motors).

When kids arrived, we were organizing the place, but they did not seem curious at all. They just played a bit and turned on the TV. When Bernardo, a kid who is extremely curious and into robotics, but does not seem to enjoy school so much,  arrived, he went by the other ones and came straight to us. He started opening up old toys to see what was inside and playing around with all the items we had displayed on the desk. What happened next was a great experience for all of us. Kids started gathering around the table to check things out. One of the girls screamed, ‘this is not for girls!’. The others replied, “yes it is!” Reactions varied a lot since some of the kids jumped straight into tinkering, others observed, but they all tried. These are the things that I noticed:

  • My lesson plan was not needed at all
  • Learning by tinkering is extremely self-driven and fun.
  • The video tutorial I had on the table was not used much because the kids were learning together.

Today, many students sit quietly listening to a teacher lecturing about  topics they have never experienced or been interested in, and a curious teacher might find ways to enrich his/her practice by having students touch things, learn together and explore.



Daniela Lyra

maker Being there with Dani and watching those kids collaborate, helping each other with no tutorial, no one teaching them, made me realize that, we, teachers are, in general, preachers. That´s why kids turn off. When they have a goal, when they are into discovery and hands-on activities they are engaged, they are ready for trial and error, they are learning and ask for help only when needed. Kids are totally self-driven. During our informal session, they made mistakes, they worked together, they corrected those mistakes they initially encountered. Some were faster, some slower, but everybody, in their own rhythm, got to the end, successfully accomplishing their main goal of making their $1.99 robot walk. Even though we know that, we are still pouring information in the hope that they will “learn”. Learning is related to action, not to passively listening to the teacher. Watching those kids interact to learn about electronic circuits to make their robots work was a wake-up call to review my own practices. Though I´ve been reviewing them for years, there´s still I lot I can learn and improve in my teaching. Tony Wagner, an expert in residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab, mentions the importance of developing our youngsters´ competencies towards innovation. More and more, we need to nurture our learners´ creativity, spark their imagination in an environment where failure is part of the process of learning and persistence leads to success. In fact, the intersection of curiosity, play, purpose and persistence can help our kids thrive, mastering new concepts that will help them deal with new situations, enhance their self-esteem, stimulate divergent and convergent thinking, and adhere to team work. In our wrap-up at the end of the day (we are teachers, after all!), after our kids had a “robot fight and race”, we asked them what they had learned. Bernardo, the junior robotics guru who helped the other kids, was considering possibilities to develop this kind of toy for kids in Africa. We had a lovely discussion with him about sources of energy which could be used to develop a robot. As for Caio, my 12-year old son, he said his main learning of the whole experience was design. Do I need to say anything else to convince you to consider a more experiential approach to your classroom?


Carla Arena

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



Atuais velhos mantras e a sala de aula

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Em um artigo recente no jornal O Globo, o filósofo Edgar Morin fala sobre a educação no Brasil e como o sistema não deve ignorar a criatividade das crianças no processo de aprendizagem. Segundo ele, a informação está em todo lugar e o papel do professor precisa mudar. Os alunos devem buscá-la, e os professores devem questionar as ideias e ajudar os alunos a desenvolverem  o pensamento crítico. Ele também critica os modelos de ensino que segmentam as áreas do conhecimento, porque ao fazê-lo, nós dificultamos a compreensão do mundo. Para resolver os problemas do cotidiano, é preciso pensar de forma holística e compreender diferentes conteúdos de diversas áreas do conhecimento. No Brasil, sempre tivemos educadores progressistas que idealizaram um sistema educacional que envolvesse alunos e despertasse  a curiosidade. Paulo Freire, no seu livro Pedagogia do Oprimido,  falou sobre a necessidade de abordar conteúdos relevantes para os alunos . O aluno precisa saber questionar e  aplicar o conhecimento adquirido para resolver problemas da sua comunidade, interagir e expressar a sua visão.

Se olharmos para o nosso sistema educacional hoje em dia, vemos que temos um longo caminho a percorrer para transformar a sala de aula e criar espaços onde os alunos possam ser criativos e expostos a conteúdos de uma forma mais pratica e pessoal. Em uma TED Talk, Paulo Blinkstein  fala sobre o FabLab @ schoolproject e o movimento do fazer. Segundo ele,  a foto abaixo nos mostra como um iPhone seria se tivesse sido concebido pela maioria dos reformadores educacionais. Ele diz que precisamos escolher qual conteúdo ensinar se quisermos dar espaço para personalização e abordagens mais experimentais.

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Eu estava conversando com uma professora da rede pública de ensino  quando ela me disse algo muito relevante. Se olharmos para o nosso currículo hoje, podemos chegar à conclusão de que a maior parte do conteúdo deve ser ensinado, mas precisamos mudar a maneira que ensinamos.

Diversos educadores dizem que a escola ensina de uma maneira muito teórica e que não alcança os alunos. Precisamos abrir espaço para a inovação e o pensamento crítico, mas não podemos ensinar essas importantes habilidades nos moldes tradicionais.

Eu estava planejando uma aula de Português semana passada tentando imaginar como eu poderia torná-la mais relevante e prática. A lição que eu deveria ensinar trazia um texto que tinha muitas frases curtas em dois parágrafos diferentes. As perguntas que se seguiam tinham o objetivo de fazer com que os alunos percebessem a estrutura gramatical (todos os períodos eram simples), e qual era a intenção do autor quando escolheu aquela construção. A lição parecia interessante, mas eu precisava  envolver os alunos. Eu tinha cerca de 20 minutos de aula, e em vez de pedir que os alunos fizessem o exercício de análise sintática  em sala de aula, pedi para que me contassem um pouco sobre suas aulas na escola e como se sentiam. Pedi para que escrevessem em grupos textos personalizados usando a mesma estrutura gramatical  e usassem seus telefones para fazer vídeos sobre seus relatos. Os alunos se envolveram, participaram, falaram sobre suas vidas e como as coisas poderiam ser diferentes para eles na escola. O nosso  maior desafio  é usar as ideias de educadores progressistas para dar aulas que são centradas nos alunos e promovem discussões relevantes para a nossa sociedade.


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

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.

Feira Maker

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Nova Iorque vai sediar no dia 20 e 21 de setembro o Maker Faire. Esta feira é um ótimo lugar para ir com sua família e amigos e celebrar este maravilhoso festival da invenção, da criatividade e ver em primeira mão o que o movimento do fazer realmente significa.

O Maker Faire é um lugar onde fabricantes, entusiastas da tecnologia, artesãos, educadores, amadores, engenheiros, clubes de ciência, autores, artistas, estudantes e expositores comerciais se juntam para compartilhar o que eles podem fazer e aprender. A parte mais fascinante de tudo é que o evento oferece às pessoas a oportunidade de ver-se como mais do que consumidores; os projetos apresentados neste tipo de evento nos fazem acreditar que podemos ser todos inventores, todos nós podemos ser produtivos e criativos e nosso mundo é o resultado das nossas açōes. No site podemos conhecer os ‘makers’ ​​e ter uma noção do que esperar, dar uma olhada no programa , se organizar para o evento navegando por tópicos, baixar o aplicativo, e muito mais.

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.


Entendendo o Movimento Maker

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O Movimento Maker não é nada novo. Na verdade, a cultura do DIY (Do-it-Yourself)/”faça você mesmo”  já existe há muitas décadas. Vários educadores e estudiosos vêm, inclusive, falando da importância do fazer, do experimentar, errar e acertar para o aprendizado. Mais recentemente, a neurosciência, aproximando-se cada vez mais da educação, também tem mostrado resultados por meio de estudos do cérebro o quão importante é para a retenção na memória que nossos alunos tenham uma experiência sensorial, prática, com experiências, co-construindo conhecimento.

Esse conceito de fazedores tem tido cada vez mais repercussão nos Estados Unidos e mundo afora por meio de espaços makers que proporcionam o aprendizado em conjunto em um ambiente de criação com diversos tipos de máquinas, impressoras 3D e objetos para montagem e experimentação. É também no movimento Maker que o sistema educacional tem vislumbrado a possibilidade de desenvolver nas crianças o interesse pelas ciências, matemática, engenharia e as artes, criando, brincando, e trabalhando em projetos de eletrônica, audiovisual, programação, e artes.

No Brasil, a cultura de fazedores começa a despontar em grandes centros com espaços para criação e prototipagem,  como o

  • Rede Fab Labum programa educacional do Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) do MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology – e cada um dos labs se caracteriza como uma plataforma de prototipagem de ideias visando a inovação e invenção e proporcionando estímulo para o empreendedorismo local. É também uma plataforma para a aprendizagem: um lugar para jogar, criar, aprender, orientar e inventar.
  • Garagem Fab Lab, um laboratório de fabricação digital,
  • Pedro Terra Lab, um laboratório de manufatura que explora novas possibilidades em Fabricação Digital e Open Source Hardware.
  • Colégio Liessin, uma escola no Rio de Janeiro que transformou um espaço em laboratório para o desenvolvimento de projetos
  • Colégio Bandeirantes, uma escola em Sâo Paulo que transformou a sala antes usada para aulas de informática no Hub, nome do salão que pode ser usado por qualquer professor, para qualquer projeto. Os antigos computadores deram lugar a laptops em mesas móveis e a bancadas com materiais de costura, tintas, madeira, papéis. 

Se você tem interesse nesse movimento, o primeiro passo é começar a explorar o que vem sendo feito no Brasil e no mundo para entender as possibilidades e como você se insere no processo.