Piedmont Makers

To Promote & Inspire K-12 S.T.E.A.M. Education


School Maker Faire April 23!

Piedmont Post – February 2016


Posted on Feb 1, 2016

by Larraine Seiden

With the PUSD Facilities Master Planning process well underway, Piedmont Makers has been eager to see how the new facilities plan will integrate science, technology, and art/design together to support S.T.E.A.M. programming, arguably a cornerstone of 21st Century learning. We believe flexible spaces that support project-based learning and making, in dedicated spaces and also integrated into classrooms, are essential to keeping our schools competitive and relevant.

First, let’s consider the makerspaces at the middle school and high school. For new construction at the high school, we can look to the Nueva School’s recently built iLab which is centrally located on campus among regular classrooms. Looking beyond the shiny 3-d printers and laser cutters, the space looks like a nice garage with cement floors, modular work furniture, and lots of accessible storage space around the perimeters of the room.

For adapted space, as is proposed for PMS’s wood shop space, we can look to the nearby public K-12 Lighthouse Charter School. Their robust maker program started with a high school robotics class, which grew into a maker track. Each year, that program culminates with students exhibiting their projects at the big Maker Faire in San Mateo.

At Lighthouse, existing classrooms have been modified to accommodate the program that has grown up teacher by teacher. Even the Kindergarten room has a maker corner with real tools. The classrooms-turned-makerspaces simply feature modular everything, enhanced electrical systems, and cords that retract to the ceiling when not in use.

Neither of these scenarios has to be expensive, but they do have to be thoughtfully designed.

Two main drafts of a facilities master plan are currently being considered. You can see the slides at http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us. We are encouraged to see that the district and architects are dedicated to creating more flexible spaces that support project-based learning, including makerspaces. However, we feel both draft versions miss a great opportunity to integrate across disciplines and can do more.

In the current plans, which will be presented to the School Board on February 10, art and science classrooms are separated across campus from each other, with a proposed wet/dry makerspace on the second floor near the art studios.  This makes collaboration difficult and inadvertently works to further compartmentalize art/design and science/engineering.

If the makerspace is to support truly cross-curricular projects, it makes sense to physically place it among the subjects it will serve most directly.  At this draft stage, we should be thinking outside the classroom box. With the proposed new performing arts theater and a thoughtfully designed makerspace or innovation lab, we have the opportunity to move creativity (in many forms) front and center.

Besides locating the new PHS makerspace in a S.T.E.A.M. building or corridor, what could it look like? Could it have a ground level orientation toward the quad? Could it have windowed garage style doors or sliding walls that could open to a canopied exterior?  This could effectively expand the workshop’s footprint and facilitate large group projects.  Such an intentional orientation could invite further cross-disciplinary pollination from the humanities, social sciences and the entire school community.

School facilities play a big supporting role in defining the education program. In response to the seismic shifts in the professional world, education is going through its biggest transition in a century. Let’s use this facilities master planning opportunity to make some “bold moves” and envision what Piedmont’s 21st Century education could be.

Read More

February 2016 Newsletter


Posted on Feb 1, 2016

All -

Happy February!  Below is a quick summary of upcoming Piedmont Makers / S.T.E.A.M. related events for your calendar.

Animation! Tech Social - Friday, February 5 6:30-8:30pm - Piedmont Middle School Multi-Purpose Room - Please join us for an exciting event featuring Katherine Sarafian, the Oscar-Winning Producer for Brave at Pixar Animation Studios.  Please bring devices loaded with animation apps, notebooks, pencils, clay – whatever you want to create moving pictures!  $5 tickets available here (which covers pizza dinner, drinks, & facilities).

Call for Makers for 3rd annual Piedmont USD School Maker Faire now live! - Submit your project for the 3rd annual Piedmont USD School Maker Faire – Saturday, April 23, 11-3pm!  The PUSD School Maker Faire is a celebration of K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts/Design, and Math (S.T.E.A.M.) education for the Piedmont community.  Last year, we showcased over 80 projects from Beach, Havens, Wildwood, PMS, and PHS students along with community and outside makers.  Deadline March 30.  Submit your project here.

Extreme Flying Things! Makerspace - Sunday, February 28 1-4pm - Piedmont Middle School Shop Rm. 125 – Get ready for launching air rockets, paper airplanes, and more!  Tickets will be available later this month.

S.T.E.A.M. Expo Parent Information Night - Wednesday, February 3 7-8:30pm - Ellen Driscoll Auditorium @ Havens – Please come to hear the elementary school science teachers present the new tri-school S.T.E.A.M. Expo coming on April 6!  The traditional science fair has been reimagined to showcase your students’ interests and passions in many disciplines.

Facilities Master Plan presentation to Piedmont School Board - Wednesday, February 10 7pm - Piedmont City Hall - The final PUSD Facilities Master Plan is scheduled to be presented at the February 10 Board of Education Meeting.  Our February 3 Piedmont Makers column in the Piedmont Post on the master plan is available on our website.

READMont “The Martian” - Wednesday, February 10 7-8:30pm - Piedmont Center for the Arts / 801 Magnolia – Please join our two excellent PHS chemistry teachers as they field questions about the book and demo some chemical reactions based on scenes in the book!

Have a great month!

Read More

Piedmont Post – January 2016


Posted on Jan 7, 2016

What is a makerspace? At it’s simplest, it’s a place where you can make things. It can be your dining room, your garage, or any physical location for making any kind of creative project. Many of us work on projects alone, but within a community, a makerspace becomes a hub for learning and sharing. It is sometimes also known as a hackerspace, fablab, or in Piedmont’s case, it’s the middle school woodshop in room 125. That is where Piedmont Makers have been holding monthly Makerspace events for the last year.

The events at the Makerspace have included a wide range of creative pursuits like basic circuitry, rocket building (and launching at Moffett Field), sewing wearable LEDs, working with Arduinos, learning to solder, and most recently, holiday making.  Last fall, Makerspace went on the road to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire and hosted a Bling Bar where visitors could design wearable light up circuits.

This year brings a whole new lineup including 3D Printing in January, Extreme Flying Things in February, Arduino and Raspberry Pi Day in March, and building a Rube Goldberg-inspired contraption in April. The events are for everyone – from the curious to the experts – and are very hands-on.

The Piedmont Makerspace is an amazing resource for the school district and the community. It has grown beyond its original function as the middle school wood shop and is now home to all the Maker electives. The tools in the shop are a legacy of the wood shop, but more could be added to introduce students and community members to newer fabrication tools like 3D printers, laser cutters, and more.

Quite a few local schools have makerspaces, including the Lighthouse Charter School and Park Day School in Oakland, Brightworks in San Francisco, and Castilleja School in Palo Alto. These are just a few of the many schools across the nation that have been developing educational programming and have dedicated spaces for project-based learning and making. Having toured a few of the makerspaces in our area, including commercially operated places like TechShop, we have observed that their appeal is primarily due to their variety of tools. Beyond that, they work best when they are designed to be flexible work spaces–think modular furniture and storage–and are backed by a strong program.

The Piedmont Makers group is eager to see updates to the middle school shop that would better serve today’s students. It makes sense to first consider the school curriculum and community programming needs so the new equipment would be put to good use. That’s why our vision for improving the Makerspace starts with support of our teachers and district as they develop STEAM and maker curriculum.

We are fortunate to live in a community that is so supportive of Makers and that counts many experts, entrepreneurs, and creative people among us. The best thing about the Makerspace program is that it is a place where we can meet each other, work on something together, and get inspired to try something new. Join us this year at the Piedmont Makerspace events to see what’s going on! See PiedmontMakers.org for schedule.

Jane Lin
Architect and Educator
Urban Field Studio

Read More

January 2016 Newsletter


Posted on Jan 3, 2016

Welcome back!  Below is a quick summary of upcoming Piedmont Makers / S.T.E.A.M. related events for your January calendar.

Friday, January 8 6:30-8:30pm - Board Games! Tech Social - Piedmont Middle School Multi-Purpose Room – This will be a low-tech tech social.  Bring board games, musical instruments, and S.T.E.A.M. kits received as holiday gifts that you’d like to try assembling!  A ticket is $5 ea. (which covers pizza dinner, drinks, & facilities)!  As usual, you are welcome to bring any games and maker activities – come hang out & play with friends.  Tickets available here.

Sunday, January 24 1-4pm - 3D Printing! Makerspace - Piedmont Middle School Makerspace – Local teacher Bob Krause (Head Royce, Redwood Day) will mentor a 3D Printing session at the Makerspace.  Bring your ideas, Chromebook/Laptop, and install Tinkercad for some 3D Modeling fun.  3D Printers will be on hand to print examples.  After the Makerspace, you will be able to upload your design to a 3D Printing service and have your design printed and shipped to you.  Tickets will be available later this month.

Tuesday, January 26 7:30-9pm - “How Science Education is Changing” Speaker Series - Piedmont High School 7:30-9pm - Dr. Elizabeth Stage, Director of Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, and Dr. Suzanna Loper, Middle School Curriculum Director at the Hall’s Learning Design Group, are national leaders in Science education. They will discuss the Next Generation Science Standards, and both why and how Science curriculum and instruction is changing.  Tickets available here.

Tri-School STEAM Expo Kickoff - Tri-School science teachers will be kicking off the planning process for STEAM Expo this month.  What is a STEAM Expo?  A STEAM Expo is a place where students can explore their interests in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.  Beach piloted the format last year to great success and this year all three elementary schools will have a combined event this year on the afternoon and evening of April 6 at the Piedmont Middle School.  To learn more (and if you want to start thinking about a project with your student), check out the planning and entry documents here.

READMont “The Martian” - The 2016 selection is NY Times bestseller, The Martian, by Andy Weir (recently released as a movie starring Matt Damon). In this engaging sci-fi novel, an American astronaut is left behind on Mars and must rely on his knowledge of botany and engineering to stay alive on a hostile planet.  Weir has crafted a dramatic yet funny survival story which is very popular with high school students and an excellent vehicle for showcasing STEM concepts (science, technology, engineering and math). Come to the community event onWednesday, February 10th at Piedmont Center for the Arts. At this event, our two excellent chemistry teachers will field questions about the book and demo some chemical reactions based on scenes in the book!

Firecracker Math coming to Piedmont - Firecracker Math  is a non-profit 501c(3) organization providing after school math for kids K-8.  If you are familiar with Math Circle at UC Berkeley, it is a similar program with smaller classes. Each class has approximately 8-10 kids and cap at 12.  After-school math classes will be offered at Kehilla Community Synagogue (near Beach Elementary@ 1300 Grand Ave, Oakland), starting this January 18.  Their January schedule and enrollment info can be found here.

January Board Meeting THIS Thursday 1/7 8pm  - If you are interested in helping out make Piedmont Makers and want to help plan the upcoming K-12 School Maker Faire in May, please RSVP to piedmontmakers@gmail.com.

Have a great month!

Read More

December 2015 Newsletter


Posted on Dec 6, 2015

All -

Here’s a quick summary of December activities including Tech Social and Makerspace events Friday and Sunday.

December 7-13 is Computer Science Education Week - Piedmont Unified School District is joining the largest learning event in history: The Hour of Code.  For more information see http://hourofcode.com/us for details and continue coding at home with Star Wars, Minecraft, and Frozen-themed activities.

Friday 12/11 – Coding! Tech Social - PMS Multi-Purpose Room 6-9pm - The theme is Coding and we will have three tracks for 1) Kids who want to code 2) Hour of Code hands-on help 3) Parents who want to help their kids learn to code.  Featured speakers include Havens technology teacher Terry Smith andPiedmont High School Computer Science teacher Nathan Mattix.  $5 ticket per person includes pizza, drinks, and cookie!

Sunday 12/13 - Piedmont Makerspace Holiday Making! - PMS Shop Rm. 125 1-4pm -  Make your own ornaments, print your own wrapping paper, and create a snow globe–a great idea if you haven’t completed your gift list!  $5 ticket per student for materials and to reserve a spot.

Monthly Piedmont Post column - Board member Larraine Seiden now writes a monthly Piedmont Post column highlighting Makers events and topics.  Check out her most recent column on creative confidence on our website.

Have a great holidays!

Read More

Piedmont Post – December 2015


Posted on Dec 2, 2015

by Larraine Seiden

Creative confidence. I’ve been thinking about these two words a lot lately. I mentioned it in this column last month following the screening of Most Likely To Succeed, when I asked if we think schools have a responsibility to build creative confidence and competence in our students.

Do you consider yourself to be creative? Do you believe creativity is something you are born with and only certain people like artists and designers have it? As a visual arts teacher I run into this pervasive mindset all the time, surprisingly even with elementary school children. When I teach the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain course to adults the fear is palpable on the first day. But fear of what? Fear of drawing?

In the book Creative Confidence: Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All by the brothers Tom Kelley and David Kelley, founder of IDEO and Stanford’s d.school, the authors devote an early chapter to fear of failure. They look to the world of juggling and new students’ fear of “The Drop.” They describe a popular class on juggling that doesn’t start with keeping three, two, or even one ball in the air. It starts with dropping three balls over and over again to immune students to that inevitable event. The students learn quickly that this is simply part of the learning process.

Do we educators and the systems we work within address our students’ fear of failure and use it to build confidence? Or do we avoid challenging projects so they don’t experience so-called “failure?” How do we make failing a valuable experience? These questions are on a lot of our minds, educators and parents alike, as evidenced by the topic “The Gift of Failure” by Jessica Lahey, at last month’s Education Speaker Series.

They’re also on Piedmont Maker and parent Jason Meil’s mind following a visit to Piedmont Middle School last month. Meil, a design executive, took a team of Method experiential designers into Jamie Van Kleeck’s ASB leadership class. The designers were interested in getting student input on what an engaging “maker” experience would look like to them.

After a series of warm-up exercises, the design team had groups of students brainstorm potential projects and explain why these types of projects excited their imaginations. High up on their lists was the desire to solve big, real problems and to invent something new. Not surprisingly, they preferred unusual experiences and feeling inspired. They expressed interest in inventing new things, but didn’t know how to do that. When asked what the last thing they made was, after a long pause one student quipped, “breakfast.”

The designers noted many of the students expressed fear of failure and only wanted to do things that they knew they’d be good at. They shied away from choosing things that would be hard. Meil and the designers wondered if the students had had enough “making” experiences to feel confident about it.

What’s so important about making actual stuff? Last month, I got to spend a day thinking about this question with Agency by Design—a subgroup of the Harvard School of Education’s Project Zero. The group works closely with several Oakland schools to apply findings from Project Zero’s research to Maker-centered learning.

In small groups, we dove into object-oriented problem solving around the real problem of the drought. Early activities included a quick build to loosen up, followed by some “reverse engineering” and diagramming of drought related objects such as sprinklers. Playing with these objects really got our wheels turning.

By the end of the day we had to define our problem to solve, make a prototype, and present both in a two-minute pitch. The participants agreed that making our prototype was key to galvanizing our ideas. Besides that, the design experience was thought-provoking, energizing, and fun.

Reflecting on the Method team’s experience at PMS, I wonder if our students have internalized the message that creativity is ancillary to leadership? If so, how have they gotten that message? In Creative Confidence, the Kelley brothers point out that “As schools cut funding for the arts and high stakes testing becomes more pervasive, creativity itself is devalued, compared to core subjects…” They are also quick to note that creativity isn’t the sole provenance of the arts and it isn’t only for artists.

To that point, CEO’s of all stripes have cited creativity as the number one desirable trait for their leaders. As part of the current LCAP process, Piedmont Makers envision encouraging professional development in design thinking for teachers across disciplines and grades. While visual and performing arts educators have many proven creativity tools in our box, (and we love to share them!), design thinking provides a framework for growing creative confidence and competence in any subject area.

Come out and build your creative confidence with Piedmont Makers this month:
A holiday-themed Makerspace is on Sunday, December 13, from 1- 4pm in Room 125 at Piedmont Middle School. Make your own ornaments, print your own wrapping paper, and create a snow globe–a great idea if you haven’t completed your gift list! Reserve your spot with $5 student tickets (includes materials fee).

The next Tech Social is all about coding! Join us on December 11th at 6:30 pm in the PMS Multipurpose Room. We are participating in Hour of Code and will have activities and information for kids and parents about how to get involved in coding activities. Pizza dinner is included with the $5 entry (buy tickets here).

Read More

November 2015 Newsletter


Posted on Nov 3, 2015

Here’s a quick summary of November Piedmont Makers activities including our Minecraft Tech Social THIS Friday.

Friday 11/6 – Minecraft! Tech Social – PMS Multi-Purpose Room 6-9pm – The theme is Minecraft and there will be three tracks for 1) Players 2) Modders 3) Parents and other noobs. Come to watch, bring your laptop/iPad to play, or learn how to mod. We will also have parent-focused talks on how to support your child’s Minecraft play, all about Minecraft servers, and learning coding through modding. $5 ticket per person includes pizza dinner, drinks, and cookie!

Sunday 11/15 – Learn to Solder! Makerspace – PMS Shop Rm. 125 1-4pm – After a very fun Makerspace at East Bay Mini Maker Faire last month, we will return to the Piedmont Makerspace this month and Learn to Solder! We have two kits we will build at the Makerspace & you can take home: 1) For beginner or elementary students, we recommend the Makey Robot Learn to Solder 2) For intermediate or older students, we recommend the Simon Says Learn to Solder project. Purchase tickets and kits in advance here.

Site Visits for PUSD Facilities Master Planning – Please attend upcoming school site tours to provide input to the architects on the importance of Maker / STEAM / Project-based learning spaces on our campuses: PMS: Nov 2, 3:30 pm – 5 pm; MHS: Nov 5, 3:30 pm – 5 pm; Havens: Nov 12, 3:30 pm – 5 pm; WW: Nov 19, 3:30 pm – 5 pm; Beach: Nov 30, 3:30 pm – 5 pm; PHS/MHS: Dec 1, 3:30 pm – 5 pm.

Design Thinking at Elementaries - The Elementary School Principals recently kicked off a design thinking exercise to design the 2016-17 Instructional Calendar. The Design Team was made up of teachers, administrators, staff and parents and the process began in April and immediately focused on the needs of the end-users, the students. Sessions were facilitated by a Stanford design school graduate and interviews were conducted with students, teachers, administrators and parents. Findings were synthesized over 3 half-day sessions this fall, ideas were prototyped, tested and feedback was gathered and further synthesized. In the last meeting, 7 clear design principles were outlined and a smaller group was identified to draw up alternative schedules before the end of 2015.

November Board Meeting – If you are interested in helping out and want to attend the November board meeting, please RSVP to piedmontmakers@gmail.com.

Read More

Piedmont Post – October 2015


Posted on Oct 21, 2015

by Larraine Seiden

Last month Piedmont Makers hosted a screening of the Sundance featured education documentary Most Likely To Succeed (MLTS). A lively question and answer session followed between the audience and a panel of community members including Superintendent Randy Booker, City Council member Teddy King, PHS sophomore Lena Fleischer, and Piedmont Maker board member Larraine Seiden (yours truly).  The panel was expertly moderated by Next Lesson CEO Dion Lim.

The film looks back at the origins of the conventional school model, a system that was primarily conceived to serve the needs of industrialists in the late nineteenth century. They needed obedient workers with skills in the 3 R’s and they needed a lot of them quickly.

Fast forward to today where most information is a click away, as are rote tasks. In 2010, IBM conducted a major survey of over 1,500 Chief Executive Officers from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide.  The CEO’s cited their belief that “creativity, even more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision,” is the most desired trait to be successful in today’s complex world.

Although the MLTS film crew visited dozens of schools, they chose to focus on two American high schools. This suggested a spectrum with one typical school in Colorado at one end where the students say they are more motivated to ace the tests than to be able to apply and use what they learn.

At the other side of the spectrum is High Tech High in San Diego and it is the main story of the film. Content instruction and memorization is replaced by knowledge building through long-term, student led projects.  These projects culminate in a well-attended performance night for the community.

At HTH, there are no bells or periods. Classes are all day.  All teachers are seen as designers who work in pairs that are cross-disciplinary.  The featured projects were elegant and inspiring though they (the film makers and teachers) point out that that is not always the result for every project. At HTH, failure as such is seen as a legitimate learning vehicle.

Many schools are doing some form of what HTH is doing, but not to the extent they do. The school was founded in the early 2,000’s and it was built from the ground up to support this type of authentic project driven learning. Beyond the flexible work spaces, power tools, and technology, the schedule was also designed to support deep thinking which doesn’t usually happen in fifty minute classes.

The big questions for our community which were reflected in the questions posed to our speakers panel is: Where is PUSD on this school spectrum, where do we want to be, and what do we need to do to get there?

I doubt few people envision PHS as a place with few or no AP classes (gasp!), little discipline based content instruction, and no bell schedule. But do we expect our schools to build creative confidence and competence in our students?

MIT admissions does and now requests an optional portfolio that highlights significant visual, performing arts, maker or other creative projects. Who do you think will get their attention: the student who took six AP’s and scored fives, or the student who worked on a team to create an app that pairs college mentors with underprivileged high school students? Given the needs of the professional world, especially in the Bay Area, I have to think other schools will soon follow MIT’s lead.

It’s a great time to ponder these questions along with our administrators and teachers. Currently, there is a district wide facilities review under way. Architect and administrator led tours of school sites are happening over the next few weeks (check the Portal for times).

At PMS there is the old wood shop, which is evolving into a makerspace to support tinkering and project building during the school day and outside of school such as during Piedmont Makers weekend Makerspace events. Should the high school also have a dedicated “maker” space that is truly cross disciplinary?  Should all of the classrooms also be flexible to support group and project driven learning within disciplines? There are great examples of these types of spaces at schools throughout the Bay Area. PUSD doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we do have to know what we want.

At the elementary level, the tri-schools are engaged in a year long design thinking process led by a Stanford d.school expert to re-think the structure of the school day, among other things. They realize that the current schedule doesn’t always support opportunities to “go deeper” as the Common Core standards require.

The schedule question is much more loaded at the high school level, but given the changing professional landscape, it merits consideration. Besides adapting physical spaces, how can the school build in time for students and teachers to engage in true collaboration and authentic project making?

Fortunately, your students don’t have to wait for the results of the facilities review to get tinkering! Join Piedmont Makers for the next Tech Social–MINECRAFT theme on Friday, November 6th at 6:30pm in the PMS Multipurpose Room. There will be a server available for players to use leading up to and during this event.  We will have social time, a pizza dinner, milk, and cookies.  As usual, bring whatever else you’d like to share!

Register in advance register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/piedmont-tech-social-minecraft-tickets-19247193875 so we make sure to have enough pizza!

Read More