How Xena: Princess Warrior started something beautiful and great

The Steward School hosts a Visiting Innovators Program that’s brought in some interesting people this year.  Gary Stager visited earlier in the school year followed by Dr. Margaret Wertheim, who is known for her science writing, the Institute for Figuring, and the crocheted coral reef project, a project which emerged from an evening of sisters crocheting while watching Xena: Warrior Princess and Christine Wertheim‘s simple statement, “We could crochet a coral reef.”

Both of the Visiting Innovators Programs at Steward started with hands-on MakerFaire-like events for all ages.  The maker event preceeding Dr. Wertheim’s session offered the opportunity to make squishy circuit coral reefs, crochet parts of the Steward School’s coral reef and more.

Steward's crocheted coral reef in progress

Steward’s crocheted coral reef in progress

The hands-on event was followed by a talk by Dr. Wertheim with activities for kids in another room.  (Do you know what it means to offer activities for kids and to host events that appeal to all ages?  It means a lot.)

Dr. Wertheim talked about the origins of the crocheted coral reef project, the power of community-driven art/projects, what happens when you have a “science person” and an “art person” collaborate, and gender and technology.  The short session really encompassed a lot of themes and issues that run through this whole maker movement, #makered, and STE(A)M.

Participatory Projects and Community

The crocheted coral reef started over 10 years ago and quickly took over the living room of the Wertheim sisters’ living room.  The reef eventually made its way into exhibits all over the worldSatellite reefs soon popped up all over the world too.

Part of the Steward School's crocheted coral reef.

Part of the Steward School’s crocheted coral reef.

The satellite reefs like the Colorado Department of Youth Corrections reef, the Latvian Schools coral reef, and the Irish coral reef are made by community members with diverse backgrounds.  Some are scientists, crafters, artists, students, and prisoners.  All have their names included in the exhibitions around the world and in the crocheted coral reef book.  It was this insistence on including the names of all participants that was especially interesting to me.  Ownership can be empowering.

crocheted coral reef at the steward school

crocheted coral reef at the steward school

Since attending the workshop, I’ve made several references to “Xena Princess Warrior Moments.”  Wonderful things come out of downtime and those low pressure moments spent with people who compliment and energize us.  Big ideas grow from those “I wonder…” and “We could make….” moments. Right now I’m very interested in being more sensitive to those in my life as well as helping students more attuned to those ideas that may seem trivial or small.  It so happens that I’m taking a Visible Thinking class with a few colleagues.  The class has provided many strategies for making one more aware of one’s thinking.  I’m looking forward to unpacking what I’m learning and how it pairs with inquiry, research, and #makered.

Steward School jelly

Steward School jelly

 

 

 

To the exploration of rabbit holes!

Today is the official start to the spring semester.  I meet with my senior seminar class for the first time tomorrow, and I’m really excited about the potential of the unknown.  It’s a new group of students with new interests and ideas.  That’s exciting stuff.

Bits and bobs for makers

Bits and bobs for makers

We’re starting with a design challenge that I picked up from a middle school teacher at The Steward School.  The students will be designing and making a paper airplane, which must remain in the air for at least 6 seconds and travel a straight path before landing.  They can only uses scissors, paper, and staples.  To make it even more interesting, each team has a $40 budget.  Paper is $1, each fold is $1, cuts are $2, and staples are $4.

Part of the design challenge has them documenting what they already know, what they need to find out, what goes well, what doesn’t, etc.

Students will be maintaining their own domains again this year through Reclaim Hosting.

I’m hoping that this design challenge, though small, will set the tone for the spring.  My goals are for the students to discover rabbit holes, have fun in that discovery, and provide detailed documentation of the explorations.

It’s going to be a good group of students, and I can’t wait to watch their ideas unfold over the next few months.