Learning in the Making: Observation Machines

Looking for something fun to make at home? Each week we are collecting and curating resources around a topic and this week the topic is looking closely at nature. We’ll be building observation machines — from materials you have at home — to illuminate objects from nature in new and surprising ways.

Have you ever looked under a microscope to see parts of the world not visible to the naked eye? How about through a telescope to gaze at objects far away and out of reach? Each of these technologies — we call them “observation machines” — helps you look closely at and explore the complexity of the world around you. Observation machines illuminate new and different aspects of the natural world and can heighten your sensitivity to its art, beauty, and design.

Follow along below with Justin, a Lead Maker Trainer at Maker Ed, and guest educator Carolina as we livestream building machines to look closely at objects we found in nature.

To make your own observation machine, you will need: 

  • Anything transparent or see-through, such as a plastic bag, a plastic water bottle, thin paper, a magnifying lens, net, or sheer fabric.
  • A source of light: this could be a flashlight, small LED, a lamp, or the sun shining through your window.
  • Cardboard or another firm material, like foam.
  • Tools for connecting & attaching, such as tape, glue, binder clips, or clothes pins.
Learning in the Making: Observation Machines
Project Guide in English
Guía de proyecto en Español

Looking for additional inspiration? Check out these ideas:

We want to see your projects! After the livestream, we encourage you to post your observation machine on Twitter or Instagram. Tag us @MakerEdOrg with #MakerEdAtHome and #LookingClosely

Learning in the Making: LIVE! is an online video series designed to support educators and families with accessible hands-on learning experiences. This work is part of our focus on supporting remote learning in various environments. (To learn more, read this blog post about our work during shelter-in-place measures in 2020.) 

Each week, we are hosting a live making activity on our YouTube channel and sharing related resources on our blog. 

We are so excited to support hands-on learning as educators, caregivers, and young learners shift to distance learning, and we need your support! Donate today so we can keep going. 




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