Latest Posts

  • Problems that come with a makerspace, solved

    Below are the problems that I have been struggling with for years. Each one has been a huge mental load and each is on the way to being resolved!

    Problem 1 – Entering class

    I have recently figure out how the daily activities should look. These are what students repeat throughout the quarter at the beginning of the hour and they really matter. I should have the first set of them locked down in a few weeks.

    Problem 2 – Our discussion of difficult ideas

    I finally have a solid plan for the mindset topics, which have come together nicely. By the end of this year, two of the four should be done, meaning I can stop developing systems for them after about 3 years! The students’ project box murals are going GREAT and I finally have a dedicated storage space for the 500ish boxes that will have to live in my room.

    Problem 3: How to teach all the ways to be a creator

    The Creator Types are coming together, and I am confident I can help the classes learn them quickly and go far. This will take a few more years, but I started with the most difficult one and should be done someday this winter without having to design any more systems of documents. This beast is 17 pages of pure project links:

    Problem 4: A forever messy makerspace

    To top it off, the battle with the messy classroom is in the final round. The turning point was spray bottles – they love spraying the tables down and then they have to wipe them off! Dust mops at each table, no machines in the front of the room… it’s almost a nice space again!

    Each week has felt like a slog – all these problems have been dogging me for years and each is getting solved, one at a time.

    Who knew that 5 years of continuous work would pay off?

  • Turtle Art – Getting started in a middle school classroom

    Here is the link to the coolest way to learn coding!

    (You can also Google ‘Turtle Art’ to get there fast)

    Lesson 1 Part 1: Make this first! Understand the basics.

    Lesson 1 Part 2: More blocks and tips

    Lesson 1 Part 3: Hats and writing your name

    Lesson 2: Loops and Patterns

    Lesson 3: Extra Features

    Lesson 4: Challenges and building on the work of others

  • Gaining Steam

    It has been a few months since I was daily blogging… and what crazy few months it has been. This summer, I collected and distilled ALL of the ideas that have been floating around. About 10% of the list was implemented in September and it was like drinking from a firehose. SO MUCH good information, too much in fact. The second quarter started and I smoothed some of the rough patches. All of this was a non-stop sprint, but it was very much worth it. It’ll take quite a while to unpack everything I learned these past few months. I need to start just making a list.

    All in, Innovative Arts is starting to take shape. With each step I take, the path stretches multiple steps further ahead. But I am moving forward faster than ever.

    Now the task is to somehow get enough energy to share what I have learned, lay it out in a meaningful and productive way, so that others can benefit from all this work.

    I’m off to start that list. It will be right at home, next to all the other lists.

  • Prioritizing things

    I loved blogging each night for those hundreds of nights. I want to get back to it but I also have been making sure to decompress at night, be present for family, reflect, and give my brain a break. So until I can work it into my workday, itll have to wait. Each day, I have been juggling all these new activities and creating the content for my students to experience. It is all that I can do to keep the class progressing. Waking up at 3/4/5am to prep for the day is taking all of my excess capacity.

    So the blog is a backburner to prevent burnout. So much else is also backburnered – too much it feels like to me, but I can only do what I can. It’s literally going to take me ten years of steady work to make this class. But all signs are positive, and I have to hope it is worth it someday.

  • Looking at goals with students

    I stumbled into something a while back – students are uncomfortable with expressing high goals or ambitions for themselves. At least in a large group setting, this isn’t even a little surprising.

    I cannot do more than I can do; I can’t coach all of my students individually. But I can reframe those ambitions and goals though. What I discovered is I can share my goals for them and they can ‘try them on’ in a less scary way.

    Here is the second draft of ‘Mr. Johnson’s Goals for us”

    • Find out what you will be happy to create.
    • Learn important tools and skills to make your creations even better.
    • Do some projects or activities that let you practice what you’ve learned.
    • Believe in yourself and be proud of the amazing things you can create.
    • Develop a creative mindset and stay focused on tasks
    • To learn how to be a better creator and to learn from our mistakes.
    • To help you be more creative
    • To improve a project more and more
    • Apply creativity in real-life situations and inventions.
    • See that you can make a collection of projects you think are awesome.

    …I’m sure that I am reinventing a wheel here, but here it is!

  • Coming back fresh

    I had a streak of about 240 blog posts in a row before this past break. I imagined I could be like Seth Godin and make a streak that is many thousands long. A break at least once a year might be in order:

    All my work after the end of the school year made some huge steps and many advancements… but as the ideas came together and all these ideas found their places… it got harder and harder to make any progress. I was often getting confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated. I could make a to-do list but not check anything off those lists.

    Mental work like this is different than physical work. Thinking about my other projects has given me a reset and I can get going again.

    It’s almost as if I need to forget so many of the connections and possibilities that were so thrilling to make. I have to shift away from my idealism and vision for the future, back into the time-constrained mode of ‘what is doable now.’ Working today, I realized just how big of a bite I’ve taken this year. I guess it’s time to get back to work.

All posts and other helpful links.

Joining my community email list – it’s how I share the best new things that I am creating!

If you read this far, thank you. I’d honestly love to hear your thoughts – directly or through social media.

Have a great day!

~Peter, Innovative Arts teacher & Puzzle Shift Create creator


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