We don’t have time to be inventors.

Google the word “make” and what do you see?  This was my search results:


The first thing you see in my Google Search is the definition.  Words like construct, build, and bring about, are the defining characteristics of make.  However, it depends who is using the word ‘make’ on whether we give value to the word or not.  Think about it.  If someone says they work construction and build(make) houses, we assume they struggled in school.  If someone says they are a homemaker, we give them that look of ‘oh, you are just a homemaker’.  But if someone says they are an engineer or actor, then the word ‘make’ is of great value. “I make movies.”  “I design[make] rockets.”  Can you hear the ooh’s and awes?

I am not denying the actor and the engineer are makers of great proportions.  But, I am challenging the perception the construction worker and the homemaker are ‘less than’.  All four occupations are valuable and require a different ‘make’ skill set.  Yes, the engineer can design a rocket for NASA but can he get 2 kids to school (on time, dressed, and with their homework), go grocery shopping with the 2-year-old, clean the house, do the laundry, pick the kids up from school, get to soccer practice, make dinner, check homework, baths, bed, and a 100 other things with hardly a thanks?  Possibly, but the homemaker is pretty amazing too if you ask me!

We have to stop devaluing ‘making’ in our society unless it comes with a big paycheck.  Sylvia Martinez & Gary Stager in their book, Invent to Learn, say, “Not all projects have to be high tech. The goal is to stretch personal boundaries and venture out of comfort zones” (2013. p.207).   On a plane trip a few years ago, I watched the movie, Joy, about miracle mop inventor, Joy Mangano.  Click on the picture below to hear Joy’s perspective on making.


If you notice in the 35-second video, Joy uses a variation of the word make four (4) times. She has built an empire on making things from everyday materials; like a mop using yarn. Just imagine what children can do if they are allowed to create and make anything they can dream of?  That is the same idea in the book, Invent to Learn.  We need to give students time to make whatever they can imagine out of materials in the room.

Research reveals tinkering supports relevant skills for academic and scientific work and, given repeated opportunities to tinker, students develop a natural tinker mentality (Mader & Dertein, 2016).

A popular game in my house is Minecraft-logo56.  When my sons first bought this game, I was shocked at their fascination with it.  Everything is square shaped and the graphics are very rudimentary as far as XBox games go.  But my husband, three sons, two of my daughters-in-law, AND my two grandsons will play this game for hours.  Until reading the book, Invent to Learn, I didn’t understand why.  But I get it now!  The game is a free space, with an unlimited amount of possibilities, materials, and adventures that are just waiting for them to explore (Farber, 2017)!  They learn how to gather materials to make sandstone, to build all kinds of things.  They grow crops and make food to survive.  They are problem-solving and thinking critically the entire time they are playing the game.  When they play together, they are creating houses and sharing resources.  It is amazing!

The benefit of this game is the 21st-century skills they are learning and the focus on the four C’s.


Are you still not sure tinkering is a worthwhile activity?  Consider this: Thomas Edison was a famous tinkerer.  It took him over 6,000 plant materials and 1,000 tries to make the filament for the incandescent light bulb (Teaching Lifelong Learning, 2017)

So, cast your fears aside and jump into the tinkering of education!  If you are unsure how to begin tinkering and making in the classroom, with limited resources and a fear of total chaos, I want to suggest Minecraft: Education Edition found at https://education.minecraft.net/.


tinkr quote



Farber, M. (2017, December 1). Learning by Tinkering. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/learning-tinkering.

Mader, A., & Dertien, E. (2016, September 09.). Http://epde.info/epde2016/. Retrieved from https://www.utwente.nl/en/eemcs/educational-quality/teacher_development/Results/publications/tinkering/made2016-tinkering-as-method-in-academic-teaching.pdf

Teaching lifelong learning through tinkering. (2017, July 07). Retrieved from https://academicpartnerships.uta.edu/articles/education/lifelong-learning-through-tinkering.aspx


Image Sources









Its time to use your brain and play with the cardboard!

“When we abandon our prejudices and superstitions in order to create the conditions in which anything is possible, teachers and children alike will exceed our expectations” (Stager, 2015).

Anything is possible motivational poster in abstract frame with quotes.

Famed fashion designer, Vera Wang, was planning her wedding in 1989.  She could not find a single wedding dress she liked.  She had not designed a wedding dress before but she was a fashion designer.  So, she began to sketch, edit, sketch, edit, until she had a design to make a prototype.  From the prototype, she determined her final tweaks before creating a beautiful wedding dress for her wedding. The following year, she opened her own bridal boutique and has become one of, if not the best, wedding dress designer in the world.

This is an example of Design Thinking.  Design Thinking is a process being defined and implemented in educational classrooms.  Just like Vera Wang, students conduct research and determine what the problem is.  From there, students ideate.  This phase of design thinking is where Stager’s “making” goes into effect.

Gary Stager, in his book, states kids need time to freely make things, tinker, and be creative without constraints (Stager, 2013).   This stage allows students to be creative in ways others may not have thought of yet.  This is where I would live if I could.  Just create item after item after item.  How fun would that be?

When the making intertwines with ideate, it is to find a solution to a problem.  However, Stager insists students need time to just tinker and play.  This open space is a blank canvas for young minds to ponder all possibilities, and develop something out of raw materials.

—moving beyond the general expectations or activities modeled in the Tinkering Studio to do or create something completely different (Bevan, Gutwill, Petrich, & Wilkinson, 2014).

We have lost the value of play.  I recently interviewed a gentleman who grew up in Trinidad.  At the age of 12, he was forced to quit school and get a job to help support the household.  Even before that, everything was about work; cleaning house, doing laundry, cooking, etc.  He was never allowed to play or be a kid; just work (ECAR, personal interview, October, 2018).


So, next time your students want to play instead of following the lesson, pull out the box of scrap material, the popsicle sticks, and the cardboard boxes and let them loose.

“I was relieved to see in the videos [of tinkering in the museum and in classrooms] how students were setting goals for themselves, asking deep questions, interacting with the facilitators and responding to their feedback (Bevan et al., 2014).


In next week’s blog, we will continue our exploration of Design Thinking.


Bevan, B., Gutwill, J. P., Petrich, M., & Wilkinson, K. (2014). Learning through STEM-rich tinkering: Findings from a jointly negotiated research project taken up in practice. Science Education,99(1), 98-120. doi:10.1002/sce.21151

ECAR, personal interview, October, 2018.

Stager, G. S. (2015). Outside the skinner box. Independent School74(2), 26. Retrieved from https://nnu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=100170099&site=ehost-live&scope=site






The Insanity of Teaching!

“Kids of the same age aren’t all alike when it comes to learning any more than they are alike in terms of size, hobbies, personality, or food preferences” (Tomlinson, 2017. p. 1).

I love this quote from the book, How to Differentiate Instruction!  Have you read a more accurate statement?  I mean, why do we expect our students to all learn the same way?  I have three sons and none of them are alike in favorite foods, clothes, or personality nor do any of them excel in the same subjects in school!

As educators, we come to know our students and their strengths and weaknesses.  A student may excel at math but struggle in language arts.  Yet, when we are creating our lesson plans for the week, we seem to dismiss these variations as non-factors.  In research conducted by Hatixhe Ismajli and Ilirjana Imami-Morina, in which 30 instructors were surveyed, 27.50% responded that lesson planning based on learners’ interests is not very important (Ismajli & Imami-Morina, 2018).  Additional research reveals a majority of teachers perceive differentiated instruction to be time-consuming, individualized, and unrealistic for a class of 30 plus students (Tomlinson, 2017).

Differe is not

The idea of differentiated instruction completely intrigues me.  I am a person who likes to live outside the box and color outside the lines.  I dislike routine so much that I don’t even get ready the same way every morning!  God made each one of us unique and we need to celebrate and acknowledge our individuality!  But, as much fun as it is to celebrate individuality, we also must adhere to state and federal guidelines.  We have standards, assessments and requirements we must accomplish in order to evidence our productivity in the classroom.  The misconception of state standards is that differentiated instruction detracts from meeting the requirements because it is not the same for all students; quite the contrary.  Many states expect teachers to differentiate within their teaching profession to meet the needs of their elementary and secondary students (Jackson & Evans, 2017).

Differe is

Differentiated instruction considers different learning styles and levels of readiness before creating lesson plans (Tomlinson, 2017). Click on the video below.

Video Graphic

So, next time you sit down to create your lesson plans for the week, consider your students and their individuality!  Make a list of students’ names and next to each name write a few characteristics for each of them in relation to your observations in the classroom.  Consider how you can tap into their strengths and interests to engage with the subject matter.  Think about areas of improvement for each of them and one thing, just one thing, you can do in one lesson to help each of them.  It is scary; I get it!  But we need to change our instruction in order to change our students’ results.


I don’t know about you, but I feel being a teacher is not for the faint of heart.  Its hard work and requires us to wear many hats.  But remember why you chose education as your profession.  For me, it was because there is nothing like watching a young mind struggle to understand something new and then watching that cute face light up and seeing a big smile appear and at that point I know….yeah, she got it!



Free2Care. (2010). Learning styles. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQYW6vYSGXs.

Ismajli, H., & Imami-Morina, I. (2018). Differentiated instruction: Understanding and applying interactive strategies to meet the needs of all the students. International Journal of Instruction,11(3), 207-218. doi:10.12973/iji.2018.11315a

Jackson, N., & Evans, L. (2017). Self-reflections on differentiation: Understanding how we teach in higher education. Networks: An Online Journal for Teacher Research,19(1). doi:10.4148/2470-6353.1012

Tomlinson, C. A. (2017). How to differentiate instruction in academically diverse classrooms. Alexandria, Va: ASCD.

Images obtained from the following sources:





Do I do Cooperative Learning or Collaborative Learning? Wait…What? Aren’t they the same thing?

As I journey through the education field, I have become confused by the terms collaborative learning and cooperative learning.  Wait…aren’t collaborative and cooperative synonyms?  According to dictionary.com, cooperative is “working or acting together willingly for a common purpose or benefit,” and collaborative ischaracterized or accomplished by collaboration”  Collaboration is defined as “to work, one with another; cooperate, as on a literary work.”  I don’t know about you, but that is about as clear as mud!  

But as I continue to read articles, textbooks, and watch videos on these two types of learning, I think I have struck on the critical difference.  Cooperative learning is a teaching strategy focused on students, of different skill levels, working together to learn a concept and better understand the content.  Collaborative learning is an instructional approach where the students work together to complete an end product or solve a problem.  In essence, cooperative is about the process of learning and collaborative is about the process creating an end result.  The NEA website also gave me some great information regarding cooperative learning.

Cooperative learners must each contribute to the discussion in some way to enhance the learning of the group and are graded individually.  Cooperative learning requires smalls groups to share their knowledge but not create an end product or devise a solution. Well, unless it is in math or chemistry!

cooperative chart.jpg

There are so many long-term benefits of cooperative learning.  As a person who avoided group activities like the plague, I can tell you the repercussions of that followed me into adulthood.  My ability to work in a team was minimal.  My speech was weak and lacked coherency of thought.  I had an emotional intelligence of a 2-year-old.  It was awful!  I also struggled with competing with my colleagues instead of valuing them or seeing how we can help each other.  I feel had I spent more time understanding working in groups with a cooperative learning environment encouraged by the teacher; I would not have spent so much time struggling as an adult.  Cooperative learning encourages sharing, speaking, processing, synthesizing, evaluating, listening, and a whole host of other attributes needed to survive life!

If you are considering cooperative learning in your classroom, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Can I handle a chaotic classroom?  Cooperative learning requires a classroom become several small groups.  Each small group will be sharing information with each other, helping each other, talking, laughing, discussing, and maybe even arguing, about the content.


Am I organized for a cooperative learning experience?  Creating groups in your classroom takes some analysis of each students’ abilities in the subject content you wish them to learn.  You will want a mix of high-level learners with lower-level learners so they can synthesize the material together.

I am excited to learn more about cooperative learning and collaborative learning.  Thanks for journeying with me!

Imgur. (2017, November 09). Steps of cooperative learning. Retrieved from https://imgur.com/gallery/ompJm.

NEA. (n.d.). Research spotlight on cooperative learning. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/tools/16870.htm

Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dictionary.com/


How do kids learn?

Do students learn by doing or by reading? By talking or by listening? YES!


When I was an undergraduate students, some 20+ years ago, I was made aware of a school in Indianapolis, Indiana named The Key School.  This school fascinated me because its entire curriculum was based on Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  Video explaining Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  I loved this concept so much as I have always felt everyone is “intelligent” in their own way.

My college was on a 4-1-4 schedule and so for my 1 month course, I proposed an internship in Indianapolis at The Key School.  The proposal was accepted by the Education Department and the Administration and away I went!

I spent time observing all of the rooms but was mainly stationed in the 2nd grade classroom with Kathy Sahm.  I was involved in curriculum planning, teaching, and even a meeting with Harvard representatives who came on behalf of Howard Gardner to discuss the multiple intelligence curriculum.

While this school, the teachers, and the students were amazing, there are three things that continue to stick out in my mind, even now, all these years later.

  1.  Students succeed in all subjects when they experience success in one subject every day.
  2. Students’ backgrounds, economic status, nor home life determine their success.
  3. Teachers who work together and share together can accomplish great things for their students.

The Key School daily schedule involved students attending a class in each of the 7 areas of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (author note: Gardner has added an 8th intelligence since I visited this school).  Students attended music class every day.  Students attended physical education class every day.  Most schools treat these subjects as “extras” and only provide limited time for students to participate in them so they can have more time on math, science, and writing, for example.  What does this schedule and method of teaching say to the student who excels at the piano but struggles to talk, read, or complete addition problems?


In their book, Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, authors Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager express concerns with this same issue.

“The message is clear in many classrooms that there is only one way to approach learning.  It’s taken on face value that science is analytical, math is logical, art is creative, and so on.  Contemplation is time wasted and there is only one way to solve problems.  Children hear these messages loud and clear – ‘This subject isn’t for me,’ or worse, ‘School isn’t for me” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 37).

We must learn to embrace a student’s natural bent, i.e., intelligence, and utilize it to help him/her succeed in school.

Why now am I writing about a school and theory over 20 years old?  Because I feel we have lost this basic concept in education.  With the restrictions placed on teacher through policies, assessments, and time, teachers are unable to teach to all students.  We have become an educational system where teachers are forced to teach to the standardized tests to survive and to channel students to college.  We have become a culture so focused on technological advancements we have forgotten about the students who God created to do other vital functions in our society. Click on video to play.

Rowe Testifies

As I continue in my MED program, this burning desire placed in my heart over 20 years ago has been rekindled.   How can I connect with each student who’s nautral intelligence is…[one of the 8 intelligences defined by Gardner]?  I do not have an answer but l appreciate you journeying with me as I wrestle with this notion and see what God has in store for me!

Next week, we will talk about my second point, Students’ backgrounds, economic status, nor home life determine their success.


8 Intelligences – Theory of Multiple Intelligences Explained – Dr. Howard Gardner.(2016, April 02). Retrieved from  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2EdujrM0vA&t=3s

Checkley, K. (1997, September). An update on the key school. Retrievedfrom http://www.ascd.org/publications/classroom-leadership/sept1997/An-Update-on-the-Key-School.aspx

Pearson, D. (2018, February 02). Teaching fish to climb trees. Retrieved from https://theyorkshiredad.com/teaching-fish-to-climb-trees

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn making, tinkering, and

     engineering in the classroom. Torrance: Constructing modern knowledge press.

Multiple intelligences in my mind. (2013, October 30). Retrieved from https://peltjournal.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/multiple-intelligences/