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 thingiverse.com.  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.




IMG_4147Did you know…

Deconstruction doesn’t actually mean “demolition?” Instead it means “breaking down” or analyzing something. 

While we sometimes have to remind students of this small distinction, the “Deconstruction Station” is a busy spot in the Makerspace room.  From laptop computers, to old printers, fans, typewriters and coffee makers…excited students gather round a table full of items that most of us hardly think twice about as we toss them into our recycling bin.  Some kids spend a whole lunch period trying to remove a couple screws from a typewriter as they progress from trying to remove it with their bare hands, to pliers, to the correct type of screwdriver.  Some will work alone quietly and others work in big groups and celebrate together as one part after another is freed from an old appliance.  Our kids are learning so much about how mechanical items work, what’s inside of a computer, how tools are used, and how parts can be used in other projects.  So the next time you have to replace a broken appliance, don’t despair, bring your broken or obsolete item into Makerspace and consider it an investment in a future engineer!




“This is the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life!” 

What was this 4th grader talking about you ask?  The newest iphone? A new video game? An electric scooter?

No, she was referring to our recently acquired 1926 Singer treadle sewing machine!


We didn’t know if the kids would be interested in this old fashioned, manual machine… but sure enough, kids were following us with eager eyes even as we carried it into the room during the morning arrival period.  The kids immediately wanted to take a peak and see how it worked!


We tried to consult the torn and tattered 92 year old instruction manual to figure out how to thread it and loop the old leather belt properly around the wheels, but it still wasn’t quite working for us.  Luckily we were introduced to Richard Douglas (former owner of Douglas Fabrics, alumni of Walter Hays (circa 1935), and all around sewing machine wizard).  He explained all the parts, tuned up the machine, and got it humming just like new.  These old machines were really built to last.

Richard Douglas

It takes a little muscle to get it started, and requires a good rhythm to keep it going, but it sure is enlightening for our regular sewing machine users to catch a glimpse of how their great grandmother would have sewn a pillow!




It’s fun to see the interest these kids have in old fashioned manual tools like typewriters, cassette players, and adding machines.  With today’s technology we are often separated from the mechanical details of machines by a layer of microchips that don’t allow us to visually observe how things work.  Every once in a while it is nice to go back in time and experience the clicking and the whirring of these old machines.

Treadle On!




Meet the Nibbler


Andy Choi (AKA Emma’s Dad) saw this cool idea and created this super cool, and super safe cutting tool for the kids in Makerspace.  The kids fondly refer to it as “The Nibbler.”  It’s a very noisy machine, but the kids are getting a kick out of cutting all sorts of things, including thin metal, wood, cardboard, and even fabric. We describe this new tool as a hole puncher on steroids.  A nibbler is normally used to cut sheet metal by nibbling away at the material; you see more powerful versions used a lot in auto body shops.
The nibbler we’re using is powered by a standard drill.  The functional end is a nut and bolt-like assembly which is more or less kid proof, since fingers won’t fit inside the cutting area.  The scrap shavings are collected in a neat little drawer as the kids work. If you thought the Ginsu knife had a lot of uses, wait until you see this.
Stop by Makerspace to check it out!

Bright Lights


Last week we 3-D printed very simple flashlight parts and provided a set of visual instructions for the kids to build their own flashlights. Some of the kids follow the instructions, some of the kids intuitively figure it out, and some put it together three different ways before they finally get their flashlight working…all are important ways to explore and learn!  The kids have already built about 40 flashlights and we are going through our button batteries quickly!  If you would like to donate batteries, or any other supplies, please check our Amazon wish list.