Makerspace 3.0

Here we are gearing up for our THIRD year of making at Walter Hays!  Our makerspace parent volunteer team was working hard over the summer to bring some major upgrades to the space.  Andy built an AMAZING custom workbench which offers a lot more work and storage space.



We cleaned up the space and added some cool new sewing tables to hold our sewing machines!


We’ve heard good things about these new Singer Heavy Duty machines so have added a few to the space.  Less waiting in line for sewing machines now!


This year we are trying something new to help get the first graders accustomed to the space.  The Makerspace will only be open to first graders for the first week. This will allow us to have a little more bandwidth to teach them how to use the tools and show what materials are available before they have to share the space with the bigger kids.  We will also have open hours for parent volunteer orientation.

We are looking forward to a new year of exciting projects, cooperative learning, and creative thinking!! We need all the help we can get in order to stay open, so if you are available to volunteer occasionally during lunch hour (1140-1245) please sign up here!


Dads that Sparkle

Tim and Kurt literally brightened up the day with a load of wooden bird houses, pens, paint, and glitter!!  The kids had a blast, and boy did those bird houses sparkle!!

Kurt and Tim will probably be sparkling for at least the next week too, as they were covered in quite a bit of glitter themselves!

Thanks Dads!

First Grade Bots

We turned some first graders into robots! 

We found an amazing website that provides great screen-free activities to demonstrate computer programming concepts.  We decided to test out a version of the Rescue Mission activity on one of our first grade classes. We used the four square markings already on the playground as our basic game board.  We then added a few more lines with chalk to get a 4 x 4 grid and chose a START and an END square.  We split the kids up into groups of 3.


There were three roles in each group: 1) programmer 2) tester and 3) the bot.  The programmer wrote the “program” as a list of arrows telling the robot to go straight or turn.  Once the programmer finished writing, the tester would yell out each “line of code” to the bot and the bot followed directions.  If the bot got stuck, oops we found a bug!  Fix the code and try again.

It was challenging for some kids to think about which way to draw the arrows to properly guide their bot to the END square, but eventually, after fixing a few bugs all the kids got a turn to create a successful program.  Then we decided to add a few challenges…

We drew in obstacles and exercise challenges on some squares.  This meant that our programmers had to consider different routes to avoid the monsters or the tar pits.  Or some programmers might purposely land their bot on a square that requires them to do 5 jumping jacks.  Things started to get a little silly towards the end, but overall it was a fun way for the kids to learn a little bit about programming from a different “unplugged” perspective.  (It was also a good way to get some wiggles out at the end of the day!)



IMG_4829We had a great STEAM Fair tonight!  Lots of students of all ages working on projects from a fishing pole that sets of an alarm when you get a bite, to a calculation about the future US population, to unique instructions on drawing circles and other shapes.

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The PALY Robotics club also made an appearance.  They brought a couple of very cool robots to demonstrate for the kids and they were a big hit!


We all had a great time exploring science, technology, engineering, art, and math.  We were so very impressed by the work these young kids put into their projects and could see they were proud to share what they learned!

Put a Bow on it

Walter Hays hosts an annual book fair and has a fun tradition of holding a PJ pizza party on the last night of the fair.  The kids come to the book fair for dinner and story time and shop for books.  Last year we added to the fun by setting up a folded paper book mark station.  This year we decided to help spread the zero waste holiday message promoted by our local government and encourage kids to wrap gifts with reused and compostable materials.  We also made some super fun flippy sequin bookmarks!

We all order a lot of items online these days.  This means in addition to the product showing up at our door, we also receive a ton of cardboard, packing paper, catalogs, and bubble wrap.  Instead of tossing it or recycling it right away, we stored it up for a few weeks and figured out how to use those materials in lieu of fancy holiday wrapping paper.

Our Zero Waste Gift Wrapping Station had:

  • four reused paper choices including: brown packing paper, white packing paper, magazines, and newspaper,IMG_4433
  • biodegradable jute landscape twine for “ribbon”,IMG_4427
  • gingerbread man cardboard box cut out gift tags, IMG_5843
  • homemade catalog bows, funny bubble wrap toppers, and natural “bows” like rosemary sprigs, pine cones, and leaves.


The catalog bows came out really neat with this tutorial.  We cut strips of catalogs with a paper cutter and pre-folded them into little loops (to make it a little easier for the kids to put together).  The kids then layered the different sizes together with glue dots and kazam– a one of a kind bow!


The kids had a blast and came up with some very unique and lovely creations.


Flippy Flappy Sequin Bookmarks

At the Walter Hays annual book fair we set up a flippy sequin bookmark station.  We were able to gather small remnant pieces of flippy sequin fabric from fabric stores around the area.  We pre-cut fabric rectangles (2.5 x 6 inch) and cardboard bases ( 1.125  x 5.75 inch).  The kids used this super sticky fabric tape to securely wrap the fabric around the base.  Super simple–but super sparkly.  The bookmark station was all the rage and the kids made over 150 of these bookmarks!



Thing 1 and Thing 2

IMG_4090The 5th grade graduating class of 2018 used their hard earned fundraising money to buy two 3-D printers for the Makerspace!  These two printers have been working overtime this year trying to keep up with demand.  The kids love to watch their project print out one layer at a time.IMG_4190So far this year most kids start out by downloading a file from  They then have to slice the file and save as a .gcode file and transfer it to the printer.  Some projects require some special modifications like temporary supports or different platforms.  We are still working on teaching the kids how to recognize these requirements and add these details to their file before printing.

We’ve had a couple of small group workshops to teach kids how to use tinkercad to design their own unique 3-dimensional file.  We are hoping that more kids will try out this software and bring their imaginations to life.

A Tisket a Tasket, a Small Ohlone Basket

The third graders at Walter Hays spend some time studying the Ohlone tribes native to the bay area.  One traditional activity during this lesson is to have the kids weave their own baskets.  The Makerspace team helped make this happen this year!

We start with flat reed and round reed.  We cut the reed in manageable chunks and soaked it for 1-4 hours before weaving.


Volunteers prepared the “starts” (seven flat read spokes woven a few rows up with round reed) to give the kids a short-cut straight to the weaving.


We came up our own creative way to finish the baskets.

We ended up with baskets of all shapes and sizes.  I overheard a few kids talking about how their baskets were so high quality that they were pretty sure they could sell them on ebay…

We set some of the extra supplies out during the lunch makerspace session and kids from other grades were also interested in trying to make a basket.  Small baskets this size are a fun, satisfying project for elementary kids.


Mini Monsters

We’ve had some regular visitors from Ms. Kitajima’s first grade class this year.  One of our first projects were some felt monsters.  We used a laser cutter to pre-cut the felt into monster shapes and a tiny hole punch to pre-punch some holes around the edges.

Then we gave the kids some needles, thread, buttons, and felt bits to customize their monsters.  Once they were blinged out the kids started sewing around the edges and stuffed them with polyfill stuffing.

Unfortunately, we learned that most first graders cannot tie knots or thtapestry needlesread needles.  So during the next session we focused on teaching the kids to perform these tasks independently.  We determined that tapestry needs (size 18-22) are the best to use with felt projects and young kids.  The needles are sharp enough needle threadersto get through the felt easily, but not so sharp that we get a lot of poked fingers.  The eyes are also very large, allowing us to use a tapestry needle threader which are a little easier for the kids to use and a little more durable than the standard thin wire needle threaders.


We had some pretty cute creations come out of this class!


Child Labor

Last spring we talked the fifth graders into participating in an experiment. They were studying the industrial revolution, which included some discussion about assembly lines.  We created our own real live “factory”, “hired” two 5th grade classes as line-workers, and trained some parent volunteers to act as foremen.

This was our goal: create 50 foldable, wood campstools with canvas seats — without cutting anyone’s fingers off.

We based our project on these instructions from Lowes, but broke them down into 16 specific individual stations including 5 main skill sets:

  • ironing
  • sewing
  • sawing
  • drilling
  • final assembly

We created individual written job descriptions for each student and prepped a few pieces at each station so we could start all stations on the line at the same time.  This was our first time piloting this project so, predictably, some of the stations moved too fast and some too slow causing bottlenecks in the line.  Even through the ups and downs the kids stayed surprisingly engaged and on task.  Time flew by as they each spent over an hour at one station doing a single repetitive task like drilling holes, sawing 45 degree angles, or stitching a hem on a canvas seat.  At factory closing time, we were a bit short on final product (we produced less than half of the goal).  I think the kids would have put in some overtime if we let them!

The finished products we did have were far from perfect, each had their unique touch of wonky-ness, but it sure was cool for the kids to see a stack of completed stools that they had each played a role in creating. We eventually helped the kids put the rest of their camp stools together so they were each able to take one home.



During this great hands on experience the kids learned about teamwork, process flow, accuracy, consistency, proper training, and effective communication.  They also got to try some new tools that many kids had never touched before like a drill press, iron, sewing machine, miter saw, and power drill.  Overall it was a lot of work to set up, but a very successful and satisfying learning experience and we hope to try it again with another class.