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    Why Do You ‘Make It Real’ with Your Students?

    Donald Bell
    Published on - November 29, 2018 by Donald Bell

    Teachers & Parents, Inspiration


    Northern Lehigh students in Slatington, PA, using their newfound Maker Mentality to build a Trojan Bulldog to simulate the Trojan War.


    Recently, we asked last year’s #AutodeskMakeItReal grand prize winner, Mary Frank, an art teacher from Northern Lehigh Middle School in Slatington, PA, why she continues to ‘Make It Real’ in her classroom. Her written response is below. Prepare to be inspired!

    Before you dig in, you might also read the story of how Mary’s students won a whole makerspace full of awesome equipment, including a 3D printer, a laser cutter, and more by entering Autodesk’s Make It Real Challenge.

    And be sure to check out this year’s contest page to learn about your chance to win!!!


    Mary Frank; Art teacher or superhero?


    What inspires you to ‘Make It Real’ with your students?

    Think about how many times a student asked ‘why’ today?

    Was it once? That kid who sits solo at the island desk off to the side of the room?

    Was it a few times, but more in a reluctant, ‘why-should-I’ context?

    Or was ‘why?’ built into every task you presented to your students? Deliberately prompting: Why is something is happening, how is it connected to something else that matters, and what more can be learned. Eliciting questions not only to you, but also to themselves, and to their peers.

    Now imagine if we show our students how to take ownership of their learning everyday with inquiry-driven explorations that reinforce academic resilience and creative problem-solving skills.

    Brains aren’t separated into learning silos, and we shouldn’t limit learners by putting them in silos. We should want our students to ask ‘why’ and ‘why not,’ and then go figure it out because they want to.

    Our schools have a responsibility to expose our students to things they don’t yet know they’ll love. They’ll question and explore the world around them and then become excited about their discoveries and will want to reflect and share.


    How did you become a Maker educator?

    My own journey as an arts educator always cycles through the core content areas. Learning from the past, exploring questions, finding solutions, reading and communicating so that I can start that process over again.

    I was a Maker before makerspaces even existed. Making is fundamental. Humans are curious by nature, and our students are the navigators of their own motivation.

    Making means getting involved, participating, and sharing ideas. Giving away little bits of you while learning and exploring new things; using tools, manipulating with your hands, and moving forward with your head and heart pointed in the same direction.

    People with imagination create the world everyone else sees. I need to make sure that the world I’m showing my students continues to spark their imagination, so they can create new and better worlds for themselves and others.


    These educators from TechBoston Academy in Boston ‘Make It Real’ with their students by combining STEAM learning with cool civic engagement projects.


    What led you to enter the #AutodeskMakeItReal Challenge?

    I know I want to touch the lives of every one of my students, so they can have the best experiences in life, and make a positive impact in whatever they touch beyond the walls of our classroom.


    First print on the new 3D Printer at Northern Lehigh Middle School.


    Imagine if students never asked for more. We’d have an entire population who would be content with whatever was left. That’s not what I want for my students, nor for the future of humanity. The team of students I worked with to create a winning #AutodeskMakeItReal entry has left me. They’ve moved on to high school, and they are going to have so many opportunities come up in their lives, and I know that all of them will be successful because I have instilled within them a desire to learn more and expect more out of their learning.

    They have also served as the catalyst for change at Northern Lehigh Middle School; sparking a Maker Movement, demonstrating how to dream big and ‘Make It Real’ together.

    And all teachers can do this by asking their students to save the world. This is because all students can solve real problems in their lives through imagining, designing, and making.


    Last year’s grand prize winners from Northern Lehigh Middle School in Slatington, Pennsylvania.


    Do you have any tips for teachers or students who are struggling to get started in their contest entry?

    Growth Mindset, 20% culture, Design Thinking, Genius Hour -- explore them. All these thought pathways start by trying. Just start.

    If you’re a teacher, let your students lead. Don’t limit their questioning and curiosities. Instead focus your instruction on their passions and let them innovate. It’s contagious; and if your school is ready, the Maker Mindset will catch on. You’ll see your students will want it; then they’ll invest their focus on it and make it possible. Become the facilitator; give your students hands-on learning by taking your hands off. Assist your kids in the journey, and handle the “grown-up” stuff, like paperwork and being the adult name that gets them into new spaces and opportunities.

    If you’re a student, and your teacher is doing things that allow you to explore and question, and lets you take chances, make mistakes, and get messy, then you’ve already won. Prizes aren’t everything (I mean they are an awesome bonus!) but exercising your mind, creating, and collaborating with your peers is much more rewarding.


    Keep students asking questions and directing their own learning.


    This is your chance to lead the way, to show your classmates and teachers what incredible things you can build together. The excitement will come when your community recognizes the potential you've ignited, the things you can accomplish BEFORE you get any fancy prizes. Never lose sight of that. You win the moment you enter the contest.

    Want to see Mary’s students in action? Check out this awesome local news segment by BRC 13 in Lehighton, PA, about their #AutodeskMakeItReal win!

    Interested in sharing your or your students’ ‘Make It Real’ manifesto via a photo on your social channels? Click on the image below to download the sign - and be sure to use #AutodeskMakeItReal when you post your creation, so we can cheer you on!

    Sometimes it’s fun to think inside the box too! #AutodeskMakeItReal winners from Northern Lehigh Middle School.