Teacher Kristi Hall held up a hairdryer and blew a short blast at the first- and second-grade Oceano Elementary students seated around her, eliciting a round of giggles.
“Is it cold air or hot air?” Hall asked. “Hot air,” the students called out together.
“This is going to be the first tool we’re using this year,” Hall told the class as she demonstrated how to make a drum using a plastic cup, plastic wrap and tape.
The students were learning about sound, and Hall — a part-time teacher who holds “maker” classes on Fridays at Oceano Elementary School — devised this project to explore how different materials create different sounds.
Hall’s role in Oceano is new this year, as Lucia Mar district administrators try a new program in three schools, including Judkins Middle School and Arroyo Grande High: to expose students to more “maker” activities, which encourage hands-on learning, creative thinking and problem solving using science, math and technology.
“Make lessons are about cultivating inventors, creators, problem solvers, and diagnosticians, as well as kind people that can work together,” Hall wrote in an email a few days after the activity. “The lessons are focused on kids interacting with materials that are possibly new to them, using basic tools to create and modify things, and collaboration between students, helping them to build vocabulary and have as much conversation as possible and find joy in working together.”
At Judkins, yearbook and leadership teacher Steve Long teaches an elective class called “exploring technology and problem solving.” Last week, students were using Pivot Animator, a software program, to create short animations.
At Arroyo Grande High, teacher Mel Cozby’s maker class involves woodworking, sewing and electronics, including Arduino, an open-source electronics platform.
“Some kids have never used a tape measure or hammered a nail,” said Cozby, who also teaches computer-aided drafting. “Kids are taking apart pallets and making furniture. We’ve taken computers apart. It’s the real world.”
At Oceano Elementary, Hall first showed the first-graders how to make a drum using a plastic cup, with a wooden popsicle stick as a drumstick, and a maraca out of a plastic Easter egg.
Then she demonstrated a more complicated drum for the second-graders, incorporating the use of string, a hot glue gun, and beads to create a different kind of sound.
Hall stressed cooperation among the students, asking them to help each other with the project before turning to an adult for help.
Their classroom teacher, Caroline Inouye, said the maker activities encourage cooperation and enhance the science program that she teaches in class.
“Thinking and problem-solving skills are being used in a hands-on approach,” she said. “The collaboration piece is huge.”
Nearby, Josie Lewis, 6, shook an orange maraca festooned with a heart-shaped sticker.
“It’s fun that we get to make them because we get to do them ourselves,” she said.