Welcome to St. Anthony Makerspace! Our seven top maker tools

this entire post is by Cathy Iverson @catherineivers1  , our amazing library tech!!


This is year one of our venture and it has been a huge success with our students, especially with the junior grades.


This idea was proposed by our Principal, Paul McGuire. I came on board in September after Paul suggested it to me. I did some reading about what exactly it was and started subscribing to some blogs on how to get one up and running. Paul had done a fair bit of research on the start-up process as well as what kinds of activities could be part of MakerSpace. He also joined an innovation committee with other interested educators, “Makers”, tinkerers etc.  Late last fall Paul put forth a plan to collaborate with St-Luke Ottawa, where I am also a .5 library tech., to facilitate activities and offset the cost of some of the equipment/tools we wanted to purchase.  Having me act as liaison between the two schools has worked well and I frequently bring equipment back and forth on Maker days.


the grade one class in the makerspace – they were very excited!

We had space in our LC and decided that no further physical space requirements were necessary for us to do this. Some schools and libraries have designated rooms/spaces and have set aside some of their budget to physically transform a space. We didn’t get too caught up in that, as there was no money to do so and we wanted to focus on the actual “Maker” part.  Paul used our $$ wisely and purchased what he could and used what we had, such as science and math manipulatives, craft supplies, old furniture, existing technology, and other equipment. St-Luke has also purchased some of the same things and when necessary, I will consolidate these things in one school to do an activity.


one of our student teachers working with the grade 5/6 students in the makerspace

Another amazing resource that Paul enlisted was our U of Ottawa student teachers. We were fortunate in that they were of the same mindset and innovators themselves. We could not have achieved this level success without having had several  young student teachers help us get this off the ground, especially at SAN.  So, word to the wise, form some sort of committee to help support you. Parent council, teachers, students, custodians etc.


Whatever you decide to do, try to follow these steps:


  • Research,

  • Spend Wisely

  • Ask for Help

  • Connect activities to the Curriculum (it`s not hard to do)

  • Have fun

Here is a list of what we use in our MakerSpace:




“littleBits makes a library of electronic modules that snap together with magnets to allow anyone to learn, build, and invent with electronics—no soldering, wiring, or programming required. The company was founded in 2011 by MIT Media Lab graduate, TED Senior Fellow, and cofounder of the Open Hardware Summit, Ayah Bdeir.”







“MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything inbetween“


Sphero Robot


An App-enabled robot


Dash Robot


An App enabled robot


“Teach kids how to program with Dash and Dot, toy robots that make coding fun using apps on iPads, iPhones, Android tablets and phones.”



our Lego wall





soon to be one of our new partners when we hold our Maker Faire this week

Raspberry Pi


The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It is a capable little computer which can be used in electronics projects, and for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

Raspberry Pis will be a major part of our maker faire next week – the pis will help our students learn how to program which is where we need to take the maker space.  

Next, – arduinos!





A School Maker Faire




Next week we launch something entirely new for us – our first maker faire. With the wonderful assistance of Reg McCulley, one of our student teachers from the University of Ottawa, and Cathy Iverson, our library technician along with a wonderful, innovative group of makers from all around Ottawa, 80 grade 5 and 6 students will spend the day taking part in demonstrations and workshops using 3D printers, raspberry pi kits, minecraft, circuits, lego and much more.

This will be a day of creation and exploration for the students of three elementary schools which will open them up to the possibilities that making things offer. We have outlined below some of the activities the students will get to take part in.


The ideas come from the presenters who will be spending the day with us. The extra design work here is all Reg’s.


Activity Station A– LED Airplanes



Activity Station B– Bristle Bots and Lego Mazes Bristlebot Kit - Single Pack



Activity Station C– Question Machine with a Light-up Answer




Activity Station D– Minecraft and 3D Printing Station




Activity Station E-Minecraft Master Game Designer






Activity Station E is the only station which requires previous knowledge. Only select this station if you can answer yes to at least two of the following questions:


  1. Have you played Minecraft many times?  

  2. Have you used Scratch before?

  3. Have you used any programming language before? (like Python or Javascript)  

All the students will be able to take part in demonstrations as well


  • Dash Robots 
  • Sphero Robot 
  • 3D Printer Demo
  • Computer Deconstruction 
  • 10 Lego Blocks Challenge
  • CARL Robotics
  • Makey Makey 
  • Minecraft Virtual Reality 

All in the space of one day!  This promises to be a great new experience for all of us!





1:1 Opening stages

Tomorrow we hand out the chromebooks.  Most of our junior students already have chromebooks, but now they will be bringing them home.  Most of our students and parents do not have computers at home or if they do, there is not a machine that students can use on a regular basis.  We are emphasizing that students need to bring them every day just like any other learning tool they use on a regular basis.

Below, I have included the letter the junior teachers came up with that will go home with the machines.

We are really hoping that the access to chromebooks will make learning more seamless.  Work started using Google tools can be continued at home.  Our primary students have received the old iPods originally purchased as part of an ELL pilot program.  My hope is that these machines will go home on a regular basis as well.

Being mindful of the advice I have been reading on 1:1 implement, the next step will be to give the teachers all the PD support they can take to help them with the transition.  Our next session will focus on the Discovery Education Science Techbook which we will consider purchasing a licence for next year to give teachers quality on-line materials that can be used in the classroom and at home.


We have already spent a fair amount of time this year on digital portfolios and Google apps so we are hoping that teachers will have some resources available to make the transition more manageable.

This is an exciting experiment and I have to thank the staff for being so open to the challenge.  My job now it seems is to keep an ear to the ground and find more ways to support the staff in this new and very exciting venture!

Any ideas or comments would be very welcome.

Teacher Letter

Dear Parents and Guardians: 

Your child will be provided with an ACER chromebook or a Samsung chromebook 

to use for the rest of this school year.  The expectation is that each evening this device is to 

be charged and brought back to school for use in the classroom the following day.  It is 

imperative that the Chrome Book  come back each and every day without fail. 

Please be advised that in the event this machine is damaged, another one will not 

be provided.  The machine is to be returned to the school no later than Monday, June 15, 

2015.  In the event that the machine is not returned to St. Anthony, it will be necessary for 

a replacement fee of $308.00 to be paid in full to the school. 

Students are to be using this technology to supplement their learning, practice 

keyboarding skills and complete their homework assignments. 

Please acknowledge acceptance of these terms by signing below and returning this 

letter to your child’s teacher.  Once we are in receipt of your confirmation, your child will be 

assigned a device. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.


I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the above terms.



Making Learning Visible – Connect with parents using social media

These are the notes from a recent webinar that I did.  I wanted to make sure people were able to get the links we discussed during the session.  My first webinar – a very interesting experience!

We started with a prezi that I have used and modified for a few years.  It covers a whole host of communication tools, but every time I ask people what they are most interested in it turns out to be blogging.  Today seemed to be the same.

The importance of blogging with your parent community

I use a variety of blogs for a variety of purposes:

The SAN Script – daily to keep in touch with staff and put out information of interest. http://stanthonycatholic.edublogs.org/

St. Anthony Connects: A weekly blog to the parent community http://stanthonyconnects.edublogs.org/

Both these blogs are Edublogs – http://edublogs.org/ easily my favorite type of blog. It is a WordPress blog with an incredible help desk. I pay around $7.00 a month for each blog and it is money well spent. The assistance from their technical staff is excellent and that is the most important factor for me. There are also lots of great extra features like more templates, special fonts, print friendly button, contact us box and many additional features. When you get a pro subscription you also have at least 50 other blogs you can set up.

Teach Talk – https://paulmcguire1.wordpress.com/ and Principal Musings http://principalmusingsoneducation.blogspot.ca/ that I use to write about various topics in education.

This is from Blogger a great blogging tool to start with

The main importance of blogging is keeping in contact with your community. Better than a monthly newsletter you can put it out as often as you want. Parents can subscribe to the blog or you can send out the link.  With our community, the blog can be translated into several different languages, a really valuable asset in a community with a high immigrant base.

The community blog does things that a monthly newsletter simply cannot do including

  • Schedule for the week
  • Photographs – from the past week
  • Teacher notes – for the upcoming week – a really important feature!!
  • Teacher links to newsletters and blogs
  • Translatable into many other languages
  • You can embed videos for personal messages using apps like Touchcast

Here is a recent Touchcast I put out on the blog as well as our facebook and Twitter Page – just another way to get your message out there!

Social media apps -Twitter,Facebook,Flickr, Instagram


Twitter:  https://twitter.com/StAnthonyOCSB

We have 265 followers following 402 – the Twitter Page is one great tool that we use daily to post photos and updates on what is going on at our school.  We also link our Google Calendar up to Twitter so events get posted twice.


Facebook: We have over 100 likes on our Facebook Page and it is a great way to make the school experience more real for parents.  We post videos, pictures announcements and interesting information for parents on the page.  The most important thing to remember for Twitter and Facebook – post interesting material often.  Focusing on the students is one of the best ways to engage your parents.


Facebook also will give you some really useful statistics on your audience reach.  We reach as many as 120 people with some of our posts!



Instagram – slide 7  


This is a great way to get the perfect moment to the parents.  Parents can sign up to follow Instagram and the photos will show up right in their inbox.  The photos are also posted directly to Twitter.


Challenges of connecting to hard-to-reach parent communities

How do we engage? By making students the center of the story.  We make short videos of sporting events and post them to Twitter and Facebook.  The kids love them so my hope is the students will lead their parents to our sites.  Here is a short one made using iMovie.

Finally, in the dying minutes of the webinar we started to address hard to reach communities.  We had the opportunity to hear Joe Mazza @Joe_Massa a few times this week.  He brought up all sorts of good ideas on how we can engage communities.  I have included a Storify here that encompasses some of the main points in his presentation.

Storify of Tweets: https://storify.com/mcguirp/ocsb-forum-with-joe-mazza

We finished on a great question – how to you ensure the safety of the student?

We address this by obtaining informed consent from the parent. We are careful never to publish the names of students and we do our best not to take pictures of students where parents are uncomfortable with social media.

Here is a sample of a letter we have used – we would love to see other examples of letters schools use.

How can we support innovation?


Yesterday, I wrote this post.  It expressed my frustration over the challenge of being creative and innovative within a large education corporation.  It is OK to complain, but after that, what do you do?  First, the post:

The Death of Innovation

 I write this post because it has to be written.  It will not be inspiring, but I hope it is a bit of a cautionary tale.
There is a real danger in working for a big institution, especially when that institution is a school board.  Educators should encourage innovation, risk-taking and creative thinking.  What happens when the leadership of a school board loses sight of what an educator is challenged to do?

There is always a risk when a small group of people gather power onto themselves and try then to manage a large school district.  They run the risk of closing out dissenting voices and become used to expecting no opposition to their opinions. Their perspectives become narrow and informed by a very narrow base.  They lose sight of the risks and challenges that are so important to be on the cutting edge in the field.

I remember reading Steve Jobs‘ biography.  For me I was most intrigued by the story of Applewithout Steve Jobs.  The company lost sight of its mission and what made them cutting edge.  They began a long slow decline that only stopped when Jobs returned and made radical changes to the corporation.

I believe that all large organizations need to be wary of this.  Large organizations can become complacent and depend too much on the advice of a small group of people.  Organizations begin to be motivated by self-preservation, locking out any ideas that do not fit within their narrow view of the world.

This is an extremely dangerous situation for an organization.  It leads to the death of innovation within the board.  When ideas like 1:1 implementation or innovative forms of fundraising are discouraged you have to wonder what other good ideas are dying around the board table.

I am not sure how to fix a difficult decline in the ability of an organization to innovate, but I do think an organization has to learn again how to take risks and how to accept and welcome dissenting voices.  It has to learn to take away the fear of stepping up and offering something new that might not fit into their corporate vision.

I am sure this is a common problem, many organizations face this.  When it is an educational organization it is imperative that something be done.  Our primary job is the education of children. We can’t be effective and innovative in a culture that discourages change.

Ok, so what now?  once you get over your own frustration what do you do?
I remember years ago talking to Mexican farmers about their frustrations with NAFTA and their inability to compete with cheap American corn.  One solution that was considered at the time was the development of local economic ‘hubs’ where local producers would supply food in exchange for the local goods they needed.  I don’t know if this model ever succeeded, but fifteen years later I still remember it.  It was an innovative economic solution to a huge problem for local farmers.
Maybe the best we can do is look after our own school, our own students, staff and parents.  Try not to worry about the mammoth organization we all work for and do what is best for our own community.  Maybe it’s impossible to be creative as a large organization.
It would be interesting to hear what people think, maybe a #satchat topic?

Asphalt to Oasis – the drive to transform a schoolyard

mural project painted earlier this year by the students of St. Anthony
mural project painted earlier this year by the students of St. Anthony


St. Anthony Catholic School today, just as at its beginnings as the Dante Academy, is a Catholic school that serves a high proportion of children from immigrant families living in the Somerset Street West area of Ottawa.


This is a wonderful school community with students and parents from Asia, Latin America and Africa. The combination of different languages and cultures makes for a vibrant and exciting atmosphere. It is a true joy to work here at St. Anthony.

St. Anthony School was founded as the Dante Academy in 1925. On June 8, the Ottawa Citizen reported on the official opening of the school as follows: “The official opening of the Dante Separate School for Italian children took place yesterday morning, and a special Mass, honoured by the presence of Monsignor L.N. Campeau, representing the Archbishop, was celebrated by Rev. Father L. Larocque at the Church of St. Anthony…” It is very interesting to note that the Dominion horticulturalist, Mr. W. T. Macoun, provided ‘a generous donation of trees’ to celebrate the opening of the school.



This began a long history of establishing a green oasis in the center of Somerset West. In 1998, the school, along with dozens of others, applied to win the “Ugliest Schoolyard Contest,” sponsored by Earth Day Ottawa-Carleton, the Canadian Biodiversity Institute and Nortel Networks. St. Anthony won the contest, which was held to encourage schools to take positive environmental action. By winning the contest, St. Anthony received $5,000 to help plant trees and make the schoolyard greener.  Additional awards were received from the City of Ottawa, the Arbour Foundation and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.


Now, 17 years later, the schoolyard is in need of assistance. Many of the trees planted in 1998 need a good deal of work to revive them. The yard is mostly made up of cracked concrete that is extremely dangerous in the months when it is not snow covered. This year alone there have been several injuries resulting in trips to the hospital for several students.

In response to this need, St. Anthony School has worked with Evergreen to develop a new concept for the yard. The concept plan, draw by Evergreen consultant Andrew Harvey, is based on extensive discussions with the students and staff of St. Anthony School.

concept plan drawn up by Evergreen
concept plan drawn up by Evergreen


The plan calls for the pulling up of much of the old pavement along with the planting of more trees and shrubs. Evergreen also designed the yard in such a way that students would have low-cost wooden structures to play on. Currently, there is no play structure on the yard.


This is an ambitious plan. In the fall, we took part in the Aviva Community Fund campaign – a national competition to raise the money to start work on the greening project. We competed with hundreds of projects across the country and came very close to making it into the finals. The campaign is still visible on their website: https://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf19604


Now it is back to the drawing board. We are still totally committed to building our new yard and we are actively looking for new, inventive ways of raising money. St. Anthony’s Ladies Aid has been very helpful in their support of the project as has one of our local high schools.

St. Anthony is the community’s school and it will ultimately be the community that helps us continue to work of W.T. Macoun and Earth Day Ottawa-Carleton. As our slogan goes, we will turn our Asphalt into an Oasis!