Question: Ideas for a DIY + Maker class for 6th graders

Kmckeown is asking a question about general
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by Kmckeown | August 22, 2018 17:58 | #16982


I've committed to teaching a series of introductory seminars on DIY and Maker ideas to a small group of sixth graders at a school with limited resources. There are no curriculum goals. Just the need to inspire curiosity and know what is possible.

I'm considering rolling in an environmental monitoring component into the class.

The school, in Salt Lake City, is adjacent to a river with some pollution issues. We could build some baby legs to collect plastic pollution then building a few community microscopes to study our findings.

Do you have other project or curriculum ideas?

Are there other affordable and easy to use Public Lab products we could utilize?

I have a design background and moderate maker and woodworking experience (and personal tools). I have no experience with electronics. Also, I'm not a teacher.

The class will meet for an hour once a week for 8 weeks.

We have access to a set of laptops, a simple offsite 3D printer and a high quality offsite laser cutter.

Thank you for your help


Hi @Kmckeown -- your seminars sound great! I think that the microscopes and Babylegs would be a great fit for something like this.The 3D printer and lasercutter should especially come in handy if students are interested in customizing or modifying any of their tools (the microscope is a great place to start if you want students to start exploring their own improvements/hacks/etc-- there are some interesting questions about set-up, orientation, light sources, etc that I think kids would be pretty great at finding answers to).

We also have a simple sensor called a Coqui, which is easy for people who are brand new to electronics to assemble (there's no soldering, coding, or computing, just components that can be assembled according to instructions), and it can be customized with some very simple tweaks.

The aerial mapping kits have been used with younger people quite a bit (balloons are great if you have access to helium, want to stay at a reasonably low altitude, and are working on a day with little to no wind, while kites are a lot of fun to learn to fly and can be flown much higher). It's easy to set up an inexpensive point and shoot camera to take pictures of the ground, and then you can use the photos to create maps and learn a little more about their environments.

We've also used our Infrared cameras and filter kits to investigate plant health-- using the DIY kit to convert an inexpensive camera to an IR camera is a pretty straightforward activity that others have used in the classroom as well.

Also, we LOVE it when students share their work with us online, so if you are interested in having a place where your students post about their projects and research-- we're all happy to jump in to answer questions, provide feedback, suggestions, support, etc.

If you want to speak directly with anyone at the store, you can reach us at I suspect that others will also be able to hop in with some good suggestions about Public Lab (or other) tools/methods that might be a good fit for your students.

Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to seeing what kind of projects you put together!

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+1 for the coqui! I just adapted it for a 2h lesson with 14-17 yr olds. I think it could work well with 6 graders provided you had enough time to go slowly, and at their level.

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For example, one hour is pretty tight. If you introduced and started building the coqui one lesson, and finished building and tested water sources another lesson.

Another thing I would suggest for monitoring is using the Riffle, Mayfly, or something similar to graph the conductivity of a water source over time -- especially if you can get two, and put one in a river above a road crossing -- and another one below the river. The kids can be involved by looking at the arduino code and making decisions on how to customize it, and also reading the data and figuring out what it says.

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