In our work at the Bubbler, we regularly promote a “maker mindset” with our participants and educational partners. Having a maker mindset means you can roll with the unexpected, fail and try again, and take on new experiences. Maker activities with new skills or challenges help us build this into character and make us strong thinkers.
This all sounds great to tell someone else, but living a maker mindset is hard! Especially when we’ve had so much success in our comfort zone. This winter, two of our school partners in Madison Metropolitan School District asked for our help supporting new challenges in their spaces to make their dream projects come to life.
We faced these new endeavors with more than a little apprehension - the prospect of failing in front of middle schoolers is intimidating! - But It was time to walk our talk! And in the end it was worth taking that uncertain step forward. With some new tricks up our sleeves, some new software mastered, and some amazing results, we got to see the direct benefits of that Maker Mindset… And we had a lot of fun too!)
We’ve worked with Library Media Specialist Nancy Engle and REACH teacher Sara Milewski at Glendale elementary school long enough that they trust us to be great at everything... But their winter request - sound and beat making with 4th & 5th graders - was entirely new to us.
Having worked primarily with teens in audio recording, Bubbler media instructor Rob (Rob Dz) Franklin was a little nervous. “Um, how big are 4th graders???” Rob asked in the planning stages.
An elementary school crowd meant we needed to rethink what software program we should use as our usual go to - Apple’s Logic - was too advanced. Sara and Nancy’s students had access to Garageband on their school iPads, but little experience to use it purposefully.
Rob took the challenge in stride. Creating a workshop using Garageband “smart” instruments made creating beats accessible. After some initial bumps - 4th graders are wiggly and LOVE buttons - kids were layering drums, basses, and guitar loops into their own beats by the end of an hour.
“They were able to create some amazing music!” Sara told us, “We’re excited that they feel like they really know how to use Garageband now and can keep creating more complex music during REACH class.”
Rob spent four afternoons in a row at Glendale, seeing all of their 4th & 5th grade classes. “He definitely created a buzz around the school” Nancy told us, “after 2 days, word was out! The other 4 classes couldn't wait to work with him.”
The feeling was mutual. “Yeah, 4th graders are pretty cool” Rob smoothly told us at the end of the project. No sweat. We’re excited to be bringing beat making to mini makers again soon!
Finding our Podcasting Voices
Each winter, 7th graders in Ms. Anderson's classes at O’Keeffe Middle School host a cultural fair for their classmates and families to attend. It is the culmination of a month of work in English and Social Studies and gives students opportunities to share their family’s cultural traditions. Part of the project has always been a writing assignment, but library media specialist Mindy Grant and 7th grade teacher Annie Anderson approached us with a new idea to enhance a long standing tradition. Could we help them record podcasts?
Youth Services Bubblerarian Rebecca Millerjohn took on the challenge to figure it out. “The biggest piece was the editing software - we really needed an accessible option so students would be able to edit and polish their podcasts - add sound effects and music - on their school chromebooks.”
Mindy and Rebecca explored options and found Soundtrap - an online program with great educational licensing options. “And then we learned by doing,” Rebecca told us. She made her own 3 minute podcast, recorded a story, tinkered with sound effects, and searched for royalty free bumper music while building a resource bank for the O’Keeffe students. With help from Rob Franklin to set up the mic systems and fine tune her audio editing, the Bubbler was off to O’Keeffe.
We were amazed at how quickly they took to the project, and how willing the students were to work through the learning process with us.
“Through this project, our students found their voices.” Mindy told us. “Students were very engaged in bringing their personalities into their productions. There was a lot of laughter and excitement as students recorded and rerecorded, building confidence in their voice and story.”
Mindy was empowered through this experience. With the portable audio boxes set up in the library for more recording space, the project was visible throughout the school.
“Students from other classes were drawn to the energy around the recording setup, and many were disappointed that their class wasn't doing that project.” But with the new knowledge of Soundtrap, great examples, and the prospect of borrowing our equipment, Mindy is excited to expand podcasting to other grades this spring.
On the last day before winter break, parents at the culture fair were astounded not only by the product that their student was able to create, but also by the impact the traditions they have carried for their kids. We were astounded by these young voices too and you can listen to some of the results with the QR codes listed!