Make Cycle #5: Storytelling with Light

Storytelling with Light

Light Projection Box


Welcome to the fifth Make Cycle in the 2014 Making Learning Connected Collaboration! We are the Maker Jawn Initiative from the Free Library of Philadelphia and are excited to introduce ourselves and learn with this community! This week we’re inviting you to think about how you can tell a story using light. We thought this would make a great transition from last week’s Hack Your Writing Make Cycle. We’ll be deepening the conversation by moving it towards using light in general, taking projects out of our notebooks, and connecting with stories in our wider communities.

Who/What is Maker Jawn?

makerjawnThe Maker Jawn Initiative at the Free Library of Philadelphia is a team of artists, engineers, designers, and thinkers who work in libraries. We are united in our dedication to mentoring non-dominant youth in creative technology at Philadelphia neighborhood libraries. We are also proud to be part of the YOUmedia nation, a network that grew out of an IMLS/MacArthur planning grant focusing on reinventing libraries and museums for teens.

Maker Jawn experiments with creating replicable, scalable spaces and programs that prioritize the creativity, cultural heritage, and interests of diverse communities, embedded directly within the fabric of the library. We cheer-lead latent enthusiasts by providing resources, tools, and an encouraging space. Programming is geared towards for interest driven projects that develop skills, build persistence, and open up new trajectories. We currently offer daily youth Maker programming in ten libraries across Philadelphia.

Teaching the Maker Mindset

Rather than prescribing specific step-by-step instructions to complete a project, we expose youth to tools and materials, and encourage them to engage in playing and tinkering, with their peers, alone, and with Mentors (members of the Maker Jawn team). Creativity is always the priority. The goal is not only to embrace technology, crafts, and fine art, but to cultivate a nimble perspective towards problem solving, and identify cool solutions and intervention. We try to communicate to youth that technology should be embraced as a tool, rather than an end in itself. At the end of the day, we’re more excited about how you can tell a story with an iPad, not how many iPads you can get in circulation. Technology is secondary to having an enriched environment with supportive, caring adults that facilitate multiple levels of entry points and engagement.


Makers at Work!

Connected Learning on the Library Floor

We realized while developing programming that we had already been following many of the principles of Connected Learning. Our approach is to encourage youth to identify their own personal interest in using technology creatively. When youth have opportunities to create and share something that has personal meaning, they are much more likely to engage in a project, develop skills, and see things through to completion. Storytelling often serves as an entrypoint—wanting to record an original song, make an animated self-portrait, or create a lit-up poster for an event motivates youth to explore and master new tools. Working on self-designed, personally-relevant and expressive collaborative projects encourages them to engage at a deeper level, and discover things that they would not have come to on their own. It introduces them to a way of examining the world and their own lives on a more critical level, while being able to respond to rapid change and develop innovative solutions. By taking the interests teens come in with and combining them with the interests they will develop through working with peers, mentors, and the materials around them, we’ve also found that this has helped broaden their academically-oriented senses.

As a team, Maker Jawn has a lot of conversations about who gets to be an educator. Daily we observe teens teaching teens, teens teaching mentors, mentors teaching library staff, as well as mentors teaching mentors. Acknowledging this democracy of knowledge sharing is powerful, and enables us, and the teens, to drop any sense of hierarchy. It also establishes everyone as a learner. This brings up other questions about the spaces that we occupy: what is the role of the library now in a community? What sort of place should a library strive to be? We see it as a place of learning that begins with the people in the community, that reflects directly the community’s needs and interests. This makes the process of engaging with the community (whether it’s through maker activities or conversation) truly democratic and participatory.

Pretzel keyboard with Makey-Makey

Pretzel keyboard with Makey-Makey

Make With Me! Tell a story with light

Using some sort of light source, and any materials of your choosing, we want you to tell a story.

Some tools we have used in the past for this project include LEDs (we source them through Amazon), coin cell batteries, and various arts and crafts supplies. We like to use recycled, found materials as much as possible, and occasionally our prototyping lab looks like a thrift store exploded.

We like to use recycled materials not only because they’re cheap, but because there’s less at stake for a learner to risk if they ruin an old pizza box, as opposed to an expensive construction kit. Our activities are designed to be not only low-cost, but low-barrier to entry.

Not the lab at its worst

Not the lab at its worst

Inspired by Squishy Circuits, we’ve often been able to rope participants into engaging immediately with play doh, a 9-volt battery, 10mm LEDs, and alligator clips.

Circuits you can squish

Circuits you can squish

We introduced 70 college-bound students this summer to different kinds of zines, including the 1-page, single-sided zine.




Popups and Dioramas

After learning how to fold an 8 page book out of a single sheet of paper this 8 year old girl made a story about her sister as the “light” in her day.


“My sister light up my day” by Charity

Did you know that Wednesday, July 9th was Hack Your Notebook Day? Learn more about Paper Circuits, mentioned in Make Cycle #4).


Copper tape circuits

Check out glowdoodle, designed by Eric Rosenbaum (also creator of MaKey MaKey) at the MIT Media Lab. Another similar resource is long exposure photography, which the Exploratorium covers well in this link.

long-exposure photography

Long-exposure photography

You could also just design an object and tell a story in an entirely different way!

Design an object!

Title me!

Places to share

Here are some handy links that might help you with your sharing and connecting:

If you make your story offline please post an image in one of these spaces. Sharing is vital part of the Make Cycle.

Live Events

On Tuesday, July 15th, from 7-8 p.m. EST, join us for a Make with Me Event where the Maker Jawn team will lead a Make and support participants on reflecting on the stories and learning pathways they’ve been forging through CLMOOC so far.

On Thursday, July 17th, from 7-8 p.m. EST, our #clmooc Twitter chat will reflect on our learning and work in the context of a discussion about libraries as informal learning spaces, through the context of the maker movement.

Need more information?

Enjoy everyone! We’ll see you on G+ and Twitter!

The Maker Jawn Team (as represented by K-Fai Steele, Goda Trakumaite, Sari Widman, and Shanise Redmon) @makerjawn

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