LEGO To Release Female Scientist Minifigs Next Month

You’ve read — here and elsewhere — about how some influential folks in maker publications have focused much of their attention on the work of males, particularly white males. And this has been a big concern for us here at MakerBridge, because we think that making is for everyone and that those of us who work with makers have both a duty and an opportunity to welcome everyone. I tend to phrase it as, “If a family comes to my makerspace, I want every member to feel like they belong.”

You may have read the gone-viral letter from an elementary girl to the LEGO corporation. She told the corporation of her visit to the LEGO aisle, where all the girl-oriented toys were pink, and the ones for buys, blue. Worse, she picked up on a theme of what male and female LEGO characters did in the kits pitched at both genders, writing:

[A]ll the girls did was sit at home, got to the beach, and shop, and had no jobs, but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs.

If you look at the Toys R Us LEGO Friends page, you can see that she’s pretty much correct. (Who says seven year-olds can’t synthesize?) The pink and purple Friends series generally does feature domestic scenes, the beach, and shopping. (An exception is a theatre kit.)

Thankfully, someone at LEGO was listening. Mental Floss ran a story last month that LEGO is going to be rolling out three — (is that three, THREE!, or THREE? you decide) — minifigs who are female scientists. LEGO girls go to work at last, as a chemist, an astronomer, and as a paleontologist (complete with really cool dino skeleton). The kits should be available in August.

Some questions for you:

  • How real/important/relevant is this issue for you and the young girls in your community?
  • What female minifig would you like to see next?
  • What setting for a female minifig would you like to see LEGO develop?
  • Do you find it interesting that all three of these minifigs have brown hair?

- Kristin Fontichiaro

Cross-posted to the MakerBridge blog

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ALA Presentations: Makerspaces and Badging // No More Eye Candy

Hello from ALA Annual in Las Vegas!

Here are the slides for this morning’s session on Makerspaces and Badging.

For copyright reasons, we cannot post our No More Eye Candy session on visual literacy. You can find a list of links to resources here.

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Saturday Workshop: Int’l Boys School Coalition: Action Research and Maker Learning (Day 2)

From the Innovation Room at the Wilson Library, Montgomery Bell Academy, Nashville, TN. Reads, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work. Thomas Edison."

Alex Quay and I were delighted to continue the conversation with action researchers at the International Boys School Coalition at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville today. We have learned so much from hearing your ideas and seeing your thinking at work and look forward to future conversations as you move through your upcoming months of action research.

Today’s slide deck can be found here. For the materials used during Friday’s workshop, please click here.

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Friday Workshop: Int’l Boys School Coalition: Action Research and Maker Learning

Alex Quay and I were delighted to be with the International Boys School Coalition today for the first in a two-day workshop on maker learning in boys’ schools. Thanks to the action research team chairs, Di Laycock, Brad Adams, and everyone at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville for being such wonderful hosts.

Today’s resources:

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Artist and illustrator Hanoch Piven on creativity

“A big part of being creative is to challenge all the assumptions. You allow yourself to … ask the simple, childish question: ‘Why does it have to be that way?’”

- Artist and illustrator Hanoch Piven


Piven contributed to a cool iOS app where kids can make portraits in his style.

Show maker kids this video and then set them loose on your junk box and see what they can make!

Hat tip: 100 Scope Notes


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MakerBridge & its founder Sharona Ginsberg featured in Publisher’s Weekly!

As some of you know, I’m part of UMSI’s MakerBridge project (site, blog, Twitter), which connects librarians to maker ideas and fellow making librarians. We’re thrilled that our project founder and coordinator Sharona Ginsberg was featured in Publisher’s Weekly this week! From the article “ALA 2014: Hands On”:

Librarians know a thing or two about getting their hands dirty. Sometimes it’s in ways they’d rather not discuss (cleaning messes, ahem), but more often it’s in the name of learning. And these days, learning at the library is very much about making things …

Sharona Ginsberg, the driving force behind MakerBridge, a resource-rich website designed to help librarians learn more about makerspaces, agrees, noting that libraries today “are changing the public image of what a library is and what it’s for.” She believes that more communities are getting interested in the maker movement in general and that the “library offers an opportunity to collaborate.”

In the broader view, maker culture is driven by people who want to make a difference by creating solutions to a range of everyday problems, and offer a response to the spread of consumerism and a “disposable” culture. “We used to repair something when it broke,” Ginsberg says. “We didn’t just throw it away.”

Ginsberg got on board with the movement a few years ago when she was earning her MLIS [my note: actually, an MSI!] at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. “I did a practicum working in a 3-D lab and got really interested in exploring makerspaces and maker culture,” she says. She built a pathfinder on the subject as a class project. Soon after, Ginsberg recalls, “I saw a lot of interest, but not a lot of know-how” …

“Makerspaces don’t require huge amounts of space, technology, or capital investment,” Ginsberg says. “Anytime you give members of the community the opportunity to do something hands on, you’re creating a makerspace.”

While librarians’ opinions vary on what exactly constitutes a makerspace (some believe its key focus is technology tools), the broader idea of making means that the range of definition is infinite…

Just as libraries’ collections and programming are tailored to specific audiences, their makerspaces also reflect the needs and interests of the surrounding community. Knitting groups, gardening classes with seed-swaps, and the ability to check out a power tool, musical instrument, or electronics kit, are all library services that can be considered part of the larger idea of maker culture …

The article also discusses historical examples of making in libraries, as well as an extended section on Ashley Spires’ Kids Can Press title The Most Magnificent Thing, which is the best picture book on the mindset and value of prototyping I’ve seen.

Congratulations to Sharona, to Publisher’s Weekly, and to featured commentator Barbara Stripling for emphasizing that making is much more than technology. Thank you also to the team at the U-M 3D Lab who gave Sharona her first experience with 3D printing and similar tools (it was her practicum for the information literacy class I was teaching). Further thanks to the U-M School of Information for hosting the MakerBridge project and for being the kind of place where 3D printing can be explored as a facet of the information literacy landscape. I work in a swell place.


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Making as a Family: Two New Reads and a Classic

Earlier today, I was handed a battered copy of Brandenberg and ALIKI’s What Can You Make of It?  This 1977 Greenwillow “Read-Alone” book tells the story of a family of mice. What the father mouse considers junk (empty egg cartons, juice cans, milk cartons, toilet paper tubes, spools, old magazines), other family members insist upon keeping. And so it takes extra moving vans to get all of their trash-or-treasures to their new house, upon which they fill the garage and — bonus! — now have a bunch of must-keep packing boxes. Long story short, the “rubbish” becomes the materials a crazy day of making. Spoiler alert: the family uses their new creations to put on a circus, complete with monkeys made of spools, oatmeal canister monkeys, and lots of boxes for stage decor. It’s a joyous book about the pleasures of using what we already have to create what we want, and then to pool those creations into something that brings community pleasure and enjoyment. It also epitomizes a belief about makerspaces that has crystallized for me during the past year, when I have found myself saying often, “I want our makerspace to be a place where all members of the family feel welcome.” (Hmmm … did read What Can You Make of It? in 1977 and store up this idea all this time?) If someone had visited my family home in 1977, they would have seen a lot of this kind of making going on.

Sound like fun? Two new books can help establish this idea of a family of makers, either at home or in a school, library, or community center setting.

Mark Frauenfelder may be best known as a founder of Boing Boing and editor in chief of MAKE magazine, but kids may soon know him as the author of Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter Projectsa collection of guided projects designed for a parent and child of any gender to do together. The projects are a bit difficult for a kid below the age of 9 to do independently, so they’re perfect for lazy Saturday afternoons spent pooling a parent’s skills with a kid’s ambition. But you could end up with a handmake rocking chair, a new skateboard, or a musical instrument.

Families with children under 5 might prefer Rachelle Doorley’s Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors, based on the blog of the same name. Doorley, an art educator, has turned her family’s dining room into a studio for her two young children. Her book talks about great materials to have on hand, what to put within arm’s reach of a child (and what to do with your child instead), and art and science concepts that can be explored via “provocations” (interesting objects and materials left out) and household ingredients. While Maker Dad will guide families through the creation of projects designed by the author, Tinkerlab is more focused on creating space, culture, and climate for child-centered creating. Scattered throughout the book are interviews and influences from Doorley’s Palo Alto community, including interviews with staff from Stanford’s well-known Bing Preschool, its (of which her husband is a leading figure), and excerpts from the work of renowned arts educator Eliot Eisner. If you’re a member of NetGalley’s digital galley service, Tinkerlab is still available for request!

What other books have been influential in your family’s making?

- Kristin Fontichiaro

Cross posted to the MakerBridge blog

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Making: More State Fair, Less Science Fair

Graphic that reads, "Making: More State  F air, Less Science Fair"

I’ve been spending much of the extended weekend in DIY land. The pleasure of DIY home improvement is that your hands are busy, which gives your mind time to think. And boy, I’ve been thinking.

One thing I’ve been marinating on, especially after the IMLS Focus meeting, is whether or not my vision for makerspaces is bounded by coding or STEM. Like many other people, my initial thinking fell along those kinds of lines. This year, we explicitly articulated STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) as a goal, and that was a move in the right direction. I started saying that I wanted our maker culture to be the kind of experience that everyone in a family could come to and feel welcome.

Today, as I was puttering about, it hit me: I want making to be more like a state fair (a place where creation of all kinds is welcomed) than a science fair (STEM-only). At a state fair, multiple kinds of productivity are on display. Whether you raise vegetables or sheep, can vegetables or make jam, draw pictures or make quilts, run competitively or show your horse, entertain or be entertained, display your stamp collection or your needlepoint, there are lots of entry points for folks at a state fair (including science!). The Minnesota State Fair is a great example of this wide breadth of activities, if you’d like to see more.

What do you think?

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4T Virtual Conference: Small Bites: Research in K-5 Classrooms

Logo for 4T Virtual Conference,



What a week! Today at 4:30, I’m giving a webinar on research in elementary grades. You can view the slides here and register for the free conference (which continues for a few more days!) here.

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Michigan Library Association: Makerspace Culture in Libraries

Title slide from my "Building Makerspace Culture in Libraries" keynote for Michigan Library Association


Hi, everyone! I’m keynoting the Michigan Library Association’s Technology and Trends workshop today and am excited to be continuing yesterday’s IMLS conversation about learning in libraries by talking more about makerspace culture in libraries.

Resources for today’s talk:

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