Join us for Ruckus Parade!Club and Honk!TX in March

Caitlin Macklin is back on the blog with a cool invitation for your kids. Caitlin plays many roles in the Austin community, including those of founder and teacher at Radicle Roots Community Schoolhouse, trombone player in marching bands, parade enthusiast, and, most recently, new mom!

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Here at Radicle Roots Community Schoolhouse, we’re gearing up for Parade!Club 2015, and you’re invited! This will be our third year to put out the call for families with children of all ages to be part of the Honk!TX excitement. Come march in the parade with us!

Honk!TX is one of our favorite Austin festivals. Twenty-some community brass bands descend on the neighborhoods around town to play for free! Come out and participate in the transformation of our public places into joyous celebrations of community and music.

This year we are the Ruckus Parade!Club. Since we moved off 9th Street last June, we have become the Radicle Roots Community Schoolhouse, aka RRCS, which we pronounce “Ruckus”! See below for more about the Schoolhouse name.)

To join the Ruckus Parade!Club, follow our Vimeo channel and like us on facebook so you will not miss any of our video installments or Club announcements. Your family prepares for the big day at home by making cool costumes and parade crafts (our colors are RAINBOW, so be as colorful as you can!), and learning the parade songs we will sing and dance to.

Another way to participate is the Parade!Club Open Shop. The illustrious Austin Tinkering School will be hosting this crafternoon on Sunday, March 8, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Bring raw materials to make your own costume, musical instrument, flag, or ribbon dancer. Participate in the creation of giant street puppets. Play games and get to know other families. RSVP here. It will be a blast!

Then join the Club for PARADE DAY on Sunday, March 29, 2015, at Pan Am Park! Line up at 11:00 a.m. sharp; parade rolls at 12 noon. Show up in your hand-crafted finery ready for a jaunt through East Austin led by the combined forces of the Yes Ma’am Brass Band and the Hey Lolly Brass Band. So fun!

WHO:  Parents with kids of all ages
WHAT:  Ruckus Parade!Club: make costumes / crafts to be in the Honk!TX Parade
WHERE:  Pan Am Park
WHEN:  Sunday March 29th, 2015 line up at 11am sharp, parade leaves at 12noon
WHY:  Reclaim public space for joy and music!

This call is open to one and all, so pass the word along to anyone you want to dance in the streets with. YOUR KIDS are the main source of creativity for this spectacle, so go all out! Get together with friends for a Vimeo watching party, host a costume crafternoon for your school, or come up with dance routines to the songs with some neighborhood kids.

Parents need to accompany their children during this family event; strollers and wagons are welcome to assist little legs. The parade is a mile and a half long or so—that’s about two hours.

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More about the Schoolhouse

Last June, we said goodbye to our original East Austin home on 9th Street and loaded up bikes, trikes, and trailers to relocate the Schoolhouse. In our new spot at 3310 Red River, we’ve become Radicle Roots Community Schoolhouse! We are sharing the space with the incredible and creative after-school and summer camp program Spilled Milk Social Club. That means we are better able meet the needs of working families by offering on-site after care. We already strive to keep tuition as low and accessible as possible. We are excited to have plenty of room to grow in this beautiful building, and we look forward to this new chapter in the life of our learning community.

You may have noticed the spelling of our new name. We do embrace methods that are a departure from the traditional schooling model, though we wish that learning through direct experience, participating in community democracy, and being led by the innate curiosity of children were not radical ideas. However, we’ve adopted the biology term for our appellation:

rad·i·cle noun \ˈra-di-kəl\
1: the smallest part of the seed that becomes the root.

One of the things this means to us is that we guide our students to seek within to discover their passions, talents, gifts, and interests during Self-directed Learning. If you’d like to find out more, we’d love to show you around during a parent tour, happening every Wednesday until March and alternate Wednesdays after.

See you in the streets!

Caitlin Macklin

A new home for Austin Tinkering School!

Kami Wilt runs both the annual Austin Mini Maker Faire and the year-round Austin Tinkering School, where there are big changes afoot. Kami joins us on the blog today to share the good news.

Kami Wilt at Austin Tinkering School

Kami Wilt at Austin Tinkering School

As some of you may know, Austin Tinkering School recently ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to create a kid-friendly, community-oriented, centrally located Makerspace. A space like this doesn't exist in Austin yet, and it seems necessary (and awesome!) for a growing, vibrant, Maker city like Austin.

Lucky for us, the Kickstarter was a success, and we were able to raise $23,000! After months of looking and, truthfully, feeling a little worried that even with that handsome chunk of change we might not find a place that met our needs, we managed to secure a fantastic spot that is going to allow us to bring many more great tinkering experiences and adventures to kids and adults than we have before.

Introducing the new Austin Tinkering School:

1122 Airport Blvd.

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This place is ideally located in East Austin and is just two minutes away from Hausbar Urban Farm, Canopy, Blue Genie, Splinter Group, a playground at Govalle Elementary, and scads of awesome East Side artists and artisans we can go visit whenever we want. It has a HUGE backyard! It also has AIR CONDITIONING! I'll tell you, $23,000 sounds like a lot and it definitely is, but when you start looking at places, you realize you might have to give up on some things, like temperature control or an easy-to-get-to location.

And since we didn't know how long it was going to take us to find a new place, we decided to build a nice new outdoor workshop at Austin EcoSchool, so now we have a South Austin hub as well! We offer a Friday program there for homeschoolers and alterna-schoolers, and will be running summer camps all summer long at both locations, along with lots of great classes and workshops for kids and adults.

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2015 is a brand spankin’ new year with so many tinkering adventures ahead! Can’t wait to have you all over to the new digs. Check us out at austintinkeringschool.com.

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Kami Wilt

The Austin Maker Ed Meetup

Mike DeGraff is a former high school math teacher currently working with secondary STEM teacher programs across the country as part of the UTeach Institute. He is passionate about education and extremely interested in the role of the emerging maker culture in schools. As a new guest contributor, Mike is here to invite Alt Ed Austin’s readers to the first in a series of Maker Ed Meetups on Wednesday, August 6, 7–9pm at the TechShop in Round Rock. Join the group and RSVP for the event on the Meetup page.


Making, the heart of the growing “maker movement,” has become one of the most exciting developments in education. You could barely attend a session at last year’s SXSWedu conference without hearing about it. Even the White House is into it.

Part of what makes it exciting is that making is so accessible and is starting to happen everywhere. Right now, for example, Make magazine and Google + are hosting the third annual virtual Maker Camp (July 7–August 15), where anyone with a computer or access to a library can participate in making cool stuff. According to the Maker Camp FAQ, “many of the materials you need for the projects are likely already available in your home.” This means we’re not talking about projects that need to be done at a place like TechShop with extensive equipment.

Speaking of TechShop, it is AWESOME! If you are an educator, you should seriously check it out. It has the tools for you to build anything you can imagine (even battery-operated human exoskeletons).

In fact, you should make plans to be there Wednesday, August 6, at 7pm for the very first Austin Maker Ed Meetup. There will be amazing maker educators showing off super cool stuff like the MaKey MaKey (banana piano? why yes!), stop-motion animation, and a mini nerdy derby. It’s open to makers, educators, and anyone else interested in this movement.

The Austin Maker Ed Meetup is a result of my interest, and then immersion, in maker culture over the past few years. I am a former high school math teacher with an interest in project-based/inquiry-based/constructivist approaches to education. As I got into maker culture, I found that it resonated with my understanding of and beliefs around how people learn and how schools can support hands-on learning.

I finally jumped in with both feet after attending the World’s Maker Faire 2013 in New York City. I saw a lot of people already making explicit connections between education and the maker movement, most notably the Maker Education Initiative (launched in 2012) and the associated space at the Faire dedicated to these efforts.

I came back from that event eager to get involved with the maker education activities in Austin, but I wasn’t sure how. So in true maker fashion, I began doing instead of just reading and thinking. I reached out to the maker organizations in Austin, like the Thinkery, Austin Tinkering School, Austin Mini Maker Faire, TechShop, and others. Not surprisingly, maker folks were willing and excited to show me all the things they were doing in the realm of education.

We’ve met several times over the last year as a loose collection of people with a shared interest. And we put together an Educators’ Lounge at the Austin Mini Maker Faire last May, connecting with a ton of educators with similar interests. Lots of great discussions and connections took place, some prompted by open-ended questions we posted:

The meetup at TechShop is our effort to continue those discussions and strengthen the connections between makers and educators. We’ll have cool stuff to share and do, with the hope that educators will be introduced to new ideas that can have a positive impact in their classrooms. However, the power of this group will not be what it shows educators, but in the exploration and connection between two overlapping groups: makers and educators. What making looks like in our schools is just now entering the national education discussion, so there’s plenty of room for experimentation and innovation.

A lot of this national discussion is about the specific tools and resources of the maker culture, such as 3D printing, CNC machines, laser cutters, and other innovative technology. I think all of this stuff is worth the discussion; it’s amazing. But what excites me most is not the flashy new tech, but the connections to the progressive education movement, which has been around since the late 19th century, and other current research-based practices. Some examples include an emphasis on understanding over rote knowledge, a focus on critical thinking, learning by doing, and personalized education based on students’ individual interests.

The tech will come and go (and hopefully come again after kids destroy and rebuild it into new stuff), but this approach to learning seems much more accessible, targeted, and individualized. I hope it will prove to be the most influential aspect of the maker movement on education.

Mike DeGraff

Maker Ed awesomeness at the Austin Mini Maker Faire

Giveaway alert: A family pack of Austin Mini Maker Faire passes is up for grabs, plus free tickets for professional educators and a special discount code for homeschoolers! Read on.

I love the theme of this year’s Austin Mini Maker Faire, as expressed in the beautiful posters designed by Kat Townsend: We are all makers. Even more exciting for me (and the reason Alt Ed Austin is a proud sponsor of AMMF 2014) is its brilliant demonstration of another theme: We are all learners. We are all teachers.

Underlying its well-deserved reputation for outlandish fun in the tech, craft, art, robotics, and sustainability arenas, the heart of Austin’s annual maker extravaganza is education. At a time when our traditional school systems are deep in crisis, the Faire serves as a showcase for learning experiences as they should be: hands-on, interdisciplinary, learner directed, multi-age, naturally engaging, noncompetitive, playful, and focused on using critical thinking skills and imagination to address real-world problems.

With the generous support of our special area sponsor, WonderLab, we have expanded the Maker Ed section of the Faire in a big way and added some extra perks for educators. Here’s what’s in store:

Free admission for professional educators! Just show some proof that you are an educator at check-in. 

Special 20% discount for homeschooling families. Buy your adult and child tickets in advance using this code: AHS20OFF 

Educators’ Lounge. This year we’re giving teachers and other education professionals a comfy place at the Faire to take a break and meet new colleagues. We’ll also facilitate some quick and fun ways for educators to trade ideas about incorporating making into their learning environments and overcoming maker ed challenges. As a thank-you for participating in the Lounge, we’ll have some great teacher-oriented swag bags. Many thanks to supervolunteers Mike DeGraff, Claudia Pepper, and Laura Minnigerode and these sponsors for making all of this happen: Five Elements Furniture, SparkFun, Texas Instruments, and UTeach.

Three huge tents devoted to Maker Ed. Fairegoers will experience a dizzying array of hands-on activities and demonstrations presented by schools and other educational programs from pre-K through college levels. Anchored by AMMF sponsor Skybridge Academy, these edu-makers will give Fairegoers opportunities to sharpen their wilderness survival skills, practice the fine art of bubble making, learn how a couple of local high school kids have built a 3D printer, and much, much more. 

More edu-awesomeness outside the Maker Ed tents. Some of our event sponsors are bringing exhibits and activities so big they’ve claimed their own chunk of AMMF real estate:

  • In the ever-popular Austin Tinkering School pavilion, kids can make their own racecars and try their luck in the Nerdy Derby, or hang out in the Open Shop, deconstructing electronics and creating their own marvels with all kinds of interesting building materials.
  • The Thinkery’s Kid Zone will offer multiple STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) activities for young makers. Its hand-built trebuchet will be flinging things the old-fashioned way throughout the day.
  • On the outdoor stage, kids of all ages will be amazed and edified by the Mad Science show. Grownups will learn to safely wow their friends and enemies with the fiery arts at Tim Deagan’s Propane 101 for Artists and Makers. And everyone, I mean everyone, will have a blast at Steve Wolf’s multi-award-winning Science in the Movies show. Check out the performance schedule and plan your day at the Faire!
  • Inside the Expo Center arena, beyond the planetarium, aerial dancers, and the gajillion fascinating craft, tech, and arts exhibits, you’ll find a workshop space where you can learn to program a Raspberry Pi, ferment your own vinegar from table scraps, make a perfect hula-hoop, or turn your small business dreams into reality. Reserve your space in a workshop today!

This is only the tip of the iceberg, people. I’ve highlighted the overtly educational features of the Faire, but no matter how you choose to spend your time at AMMF, you’ll learn something. Jump off a tower into a giant marshmallow with the Stunt Ranch crew, find out how an intrepid professor is sustainably living in a dumpster for a year, or pedal like you’ve never pedaled before at the Austin Bike Zoo’s Interactive Wonderland and Carnival. I guarantee you’ll come away with that unmistakable feeling that we are all learners, we are all teachers. And for sure, we are all makers.

Giveaway!

You have a bunch of ways to enter this random drawing, with up to 10 chances to win an AMMF family pack of 2 adult and 2 child passes. If you’ve already bought your tickets, be sure to let your friends know about this opportunity to attend the Austin Mini Maker Faire for free! Enter by midnight Thursday, May 1, and we’ll announce the lucky winner right here in a blog update on Friday morning. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UPDATE: Congratulations to giveaway winner Suzanne H.! We look forward to seeing you and your family on Saturday. And thanks to everyone who entered the drawing. You can still buy discounted AMMF tickets in advance (through 10am Saturday) here.

Anniversary Week Giveaways: We have winners!

Many thanks to everyone who entered our two-year anniversary giveaways this week and helped spread the word. We've notified all our winning entrants by email. Great big heaps o’ gratitude to the wonderful businesses and organizations who made it possible by contributing all the items we're giving away.

The entry process and randomized drawing went ever so smoothly thanks to the free app known as Rafflecopter. And the winners are . . .

Friendly Chemistry curriculum:
Kristi C.
STEAM3 Interactive Playground passes:

Stacey L. and Andee K.
Toybrary Austin 6-visit Stay & Play punch card:

May T.
Austin Tinkering School set of 3 Tinkering Challenge Boxes:

Monica P.
Smudge Studios art workshop gift certificate:

Jan B.
The Universe Trilogy children’s science books:

Jody H.

For those of you whose names were not drawn, here are two virtual hugs of consolation:

  • If you register for STEAM3 by Dec. 31 using the special code ALTEDATX, you’ll receive an extra $10 off the special earlybird price on the complete conference, interactive playground, and VIP party.
  • All entrants in the Friendly Chemistry giveaway are eligible for a 25% discount off the purchase of a student textbook. Just email Joey & Lisa at friendlychemistryinfo@gmail.com, tell them you came from Alt Ed Austin’s giveaway, and you’ll get a special code to use at checkout.

I look forward to sharing many more alternative learning resources and opportunities with you in the coming year!

Teri

Giveaway: Set of 3 Tinkering Challenge Boxes

I love a good mystery, so I’m excited to the point of goosebumps that our friends at the Austin Tinkering School have donated a set of three mysterious Tinkering Challenge Boxes in honor of our Anniversary Giveaway Week. Here are the clues provided on the outside of the boxes:

Each box contains 1 (one) random assortment of odds and ends, and 1 (one) building challenge designed to test your mettle, creativity, and ingenuity. ALL ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.  You may use tape or glue (not provided). HAPPY TINKERING.

These would make excellent holiday gifts for the young inquiring minds in your life. Each is different, and you could win them all! Pick one or more ways to enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This drawing closes at midnight on Thursday, Dec. 12; we’ll announce the winner on Friday the 13th. If you’ve missed our other 2nd Anniversary Week giveaways, you have through Thursday to enter those, too. Thanks for your support!