The Teaching Bites Show with Fred & Sharon Jaravata

Because teachers need to prep for their future too. A show about surviving and thriving in our extremely busy and challenging teaching profession. She teaches 4th grade, He teaches K-12 Innovation. And yes, we're married to each other! Reach out to us at and Music by Music & by The Passion HiFi
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Now displaying: April, 2016
Apr 20, 2016

Coming live from Atlanta, GA at the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools Conference! On this special episode, I interview Leigh Northrup from the Cannon School in North Carolina and Nicholas ColeFarrell from the Brandeis School in San Francisco and we discuss what maker spaces in schools is all about and why and how it can be a game changer.

I never met either Leigh or Nicholas in person prior to this conference. Leigh and I only “met” a few times on our Skype planning sessions for our deep dive presentation called “Leading Cultural Change From Within Your School Makerspace.”  Nicholas also presented, not only once—but twice!

Here is our deep dive presentation slides for you to check out!

I think you’ll enjoy this experience as we went to a local bar sitting in the beautiful Atlanta spring weather and chat about their experiences as presenters and attendees and what interesting things they saw and heard and what take-aways they had.  It’ll seem that you’re sitting with us as you hear the ambient sounds around us.

I want to give a shout Howard Levin, our Director of Innovation and Technology at our school, Convent & Stuart Hall, Schools of the Sacred Heart of San Francisco and Sarah Hangawald and Kelsey Vrooman and the rest of the team at ATLIS for making this work.  Big ups to my new friends and peers who I met at this conference. I hope to get their stories on our podcast someday.

Check out the #ATLISac on Twitter for all the tweets that came out of the conference.

ATLIS 2017 will be in Los Angeles, CA so stay tuned at

You can find both Leigh and Nicholas on twitter as @LeighNorthrup and @ncolefarrell



Fred Jaravata: Hey everyone. Fred here. I’m in Atlanta, Georgia for the ATLIS Conference, the Association of Technology Leaders and Independent Schools and today, I have two very cool guests. I’m supposed to have three but I have two right now. We have Leigh and we have Nicholas and I’m going to give them the time to introduce themselves but it’s really cool what they’re doing. They’re doing amazing things and as part of our tagline, we want to help you, you teachers out there to take your teaching to the next level. OK? So let’s start off with the first, Nicholas.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: This is Nicholas here. Although there are only two guests, Leigh and I have the strength of 10 men or 10 people in that way. So really you’ve got like 20 guests here.

Fred Jaravata: Nice, OK. So quick intro, so tell us what you do and – yeah.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Sure. So my name is Nicholas. I’m Director of Technology at The Brandeis School in San Francisco, a fellow San Franciscan like my man Fred and …

Fred Jaravata: But we never met before.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: No.

Fred Jaravata: So it’s great. This is the first time we met.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: We’re internet friends. So this is kind of IRL time for us, which is nice. But yeah, no, we run an awesome technology program and a tinkering and making program there at the Brandeis School and yeah, we’re really excited about me being here and about the work that’s happening and about the work that Fred is doing. It’s really nice sharing our ideas on the podcast.

Fred Jaravata: Very cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: And we’re just setting up a podcasting studio ourselves and we’re podcasting, so it’s good to be on this.

Fred Jaravata: Very cool. And our next guest.

Leigh Northrup: Hi. I’m Leigh. So thanks Fred for letting me be a part of this today. I’m from Concord, North Carolina which is just north of Charlotte and got the really cool opportunity to do a deep dive session with Fred. So we kind of had the coastal connection working with North Carolina and California. But I’m the Dean of Innovation and Technology at Cannon School. It’s a JK through 12 independent school. Been there for 15 years and – did I give my title? I’m the Dean of Innovation and Technology.

Fred Jaravata: Yes, you are. Right.

Leigh Northrup: And I run a big maker space there. So I haven’t always done that. I’ve been kind of the middle school tech guy for a long time. So like any teacher in an independent school, I wear lots of hats, lots of coaching, lots of everything. But really my primary focus right now is getting a really awesome space up and running and doing some cool stuff with kids in there.

Fred Jaravata: And you guys are doing amazing things. I’m watching your presentations and you guys are doing amazing things. It’s making me wanting to take my teaching to the next level.

  1. So you guys presented and Leigh and I, we presented together and actually, you Nicholas, you presented twice at this conference.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, one definitely better than the other. No, just kidding. So yeah.

Fred Jaravata: Tell me about the experience, the whole experience and the title of it. You don’t have to go deep in it, but at least quickly just go over what you did and how it felt.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: For sure. So yesterday, we presented on early maker space implementation and I was like – you know, have to be teamed up with the crew from the Iolani School in Honolulu and …

Fred Jaravata: Iolani in the house.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, absolutely, those students. That school is just phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. They’re doing such exciting stuff there. In a way, it was just sort of like I was kind of the – it was my presentation and then like I spent the rest of the time scraping everyone’s jaw off the floor when they saw Iolani’s work, which is super awesome.

But we talked about really like the approach behind sort of like maker space and some of the pedagogical and curricular aspects of it and then we shared three case studies based on the create-build space we have at Brandeis and then the two spaces they have at Iolani. So it was really nice to kind of get in with them and work on it.

Fred Jaravata: How did you guys connect? How did you guys – was it through Skype?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah. So we hopped on Google chat a few days ago or a Google Hangout. But we’ve been sort of sharing on a Google slide presentation and sending emails back and forth and figuring out what that workload was like. But it was super seamless and we all just kind of jumped in and threw our slides in, put them on a common template and then checked back in every once in a while. They have to work right near each other, so I was kind of the oddball out in California.

Fred Jaravata: Hey, that’s cool. I think one of the things about teachers, we need to collaborate, right? It’s good to collaborate outside and technology has really made us closer that way.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: For sure, for sure. And it was really good to sort of figure out what their workflow was. I kind of had my own ideas of how we would go about it and I think they did too and we kind of met each other in the middle and really worked and it was super cool. Other than the time difference which I think you guys …

Leigh Northrup: Oh, yeah.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: It was tough to kind of schedule that out. But yeah, no, it was a super positive experience and I tell you what, an hour and 45 minutes goes so fast, right? So we were like, “How are we ever going to fill up this time?” and then after an hour and a half, we’re like, “We can have three more hours and still fill the time.” So yeah, there were a lot of great ideas generated at the session for sure.

Fred Jaravata: Awesome. All right, Leigh. We presented together but I’m going to get your perspective and how our job went.

Leigh Northrup: I think it went great and Sarah Hanawald, the Executive Director of ATLIS kind of was selling this to me last year and she’s like, “I really want you to present at ATLIS. I’m going to connect you with somebody really great and you’re going to learn just as much from the experience as you will be able to teach.”

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: And then you got stuck with Fred.

Leigh Northrup: I did.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah, I know.

Leigh Northrup: I’m still mad at Sarah about that. But all kidding aside, like she was absolutely right. The opportunity to connect with somebody on the other side of the United States and be able to share ideas with and not just learn but also have – feel very validated with what I’m doing was very – very close to what Fred is doing and we would have a lot of moments where we were saying, “Oh wow! I do something very similar in our space!” and we just had a lot of fun kind of connecting that way.

So our presentation was actually on leading cultural change through our maker spaces and a lot of maker spaces are going up and people are popping them in and a lot of school leaders are like, “Oh, we need a maker space because the school down the road has a maker space,” and anybody can go out and buy a couple of 3D printers and put some whiteboard paint on the wall and some rolling chairs.

Fred Jaravata: Like today, right?

Leigh Northrup: Yeah. Well, I’ve got a maker space. Now I can put that on my website. But it has to be more intentional than that and that’s what Fred and I were trying to convey in our session was OK, now you have the space or you’re getting a space. But what’s the point of the space? How are you going to help these kids learn in that space and what are you going to actually teach them to do? Because you know what? Just the cool stuff that’s on the table, that you’re using to make or have made, is worthless unless the kid learns life skills through that process.

So that’s where we got going and the session was interesting. I mean we planned it for three months and it didn’t really resemble what we set out to do. But we have always said part of that whole maker experience is being able to adapt to different situations and being able to get into a room and be like, “Oh, I don’t have that material. I need to make this different material. Whatever are we going to do?” That’s what we did in that presentation. We saw the room and we actually just really had a fantastic conversation with several other really awesome educators in our presentation and learned a lot from them and hopefully they got something out of the presentation as well.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: There was a pretty good audience there. So especially there was one person there that was pretty awesome …

Fred Jaravata: Yeah, that’s the one thing. It’s like we share what we know. But what I’ve learned also, it’s also about the – you see the similar things. Everything is familiar. We’re doing very similar things, very familiar things. But it’s like not déjà vu but the other way around, [0:07:52] [Indiscernible]. Have you heard that term? It’s like you’re taking something familiar but seeing it in a new light. So it was just like that for me.


Fred Jaravata: Yeah, probably. By the way, we are at a bar drinking beers. So we’re …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Seltzer, seltzer, we’re all drinking seltzer.

Fred Jaravata: It’s OK. This is the unprofessional development podcast.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: But yeah, no. Again, it’s like there’s that moment and I think you guys experienced that. I experienced it with both of my talks. It’s sort of like not only are you sharing out ideas, but you’re also kind of like, oh yeah. Like other people are saying this too. This kind of validates the work that I’m doing and we had that with my second talk today. We did one on getting things done in education and it was just sort of like one of those roomful of – yes, it’s like a roomful of nods. Just like a bunch of folks are smiling and nodding and like it was the most awesome disruptive classroom where people are just calling out and raising their hand and folks are really like well-behaved at first and they got bold and it was super cool.

It was just like – it was a really fun session that we did and that and folks really kind of were like, “This is what I needed.” Somebody was like, “This is the best session ever!” I was like, “Don’t say that too loud.” But it felt really good to have – like have other folks being like, you know, nobody is really talking about this and figuring out like, you know, that – you know, I don’t necessarily have an answer to these questions. But if we start the conversation, that’s the part.

I feel like in your session, you guys really hit on that. It’s like there is no answer. But we just need to be talking and that to me – when that theme starts coming up, it’s like, OK, the work that we’re doing is pretty righteous for sure.

Fred Jaravata: All right, gentlemen. So guys, what’s one thing or one cool thing that you saw, that you experienced besides your talk at ATLIS 2016? What’s one thing you will take back with you?

Leigh Northrup: I think the emphasis on coding and programming and I use those words a lot in my space and I’ve obviously adopted a lot of those things because all those tools are great. But unless you’re learning how they work and you’re teaching kids how to make them work, they’re kind of useless and seeing – getting a feel for what other people are doing with programming and not just sitting down and coding and making the ball go from one side of the screen to the other, but actual flying drones and making – like doing cool stuff with what we know. It’s not just making LED lights turn on and off. They’re practical application with something that …

Fred Jaravata: Some purpose.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, and that’s like – the plus one on that is that idea of like not only just coding by computational thinking and figuring out how – like what that looks like in a larger context. It’s like we’re – you know, we’re not going to fool ourselves and think that all of our students are going to be programmers or coders. But if they have that familiarity, but they also have done that development in terms of shaping the way that they think about learning and computational thinking. To me that was like what Dr. Stager’s session was this morning. It was like right there and for me definitely, Sylvia Martinez’s discussion, equity and access and women and [0:11:09] [Indiscernible]. That’s such an important conversation to have and like her thanking us as men for being in the room. It’s like yeah, obviously we’re going to be …

Leigh Northrup: It’s a no-brainer.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: This is a completely important thing and it’s our responsibility as technology leaders to start that conversation and to keep that going at our schools.

Fred Jaravata: Right. OK. So how do – now I’m going to go beyond ATLIS and going back to your worlds. Quickly, how do you guys engage your students? How do you motivate your students? How do you motivate them? I think this is one question a lot of teachers want to know. They’re always asking. But how do you do that especially in today’s world?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, I mean I think the simplest – I’m sure Leigh will be with this too, but it’s like just this idea of asking your students questions, right? Don’t just go in and be the – try to be the smartest person in the room. That’s not the job of an educator by any means. So whether it’s like inquiry-based learning, whether it’s – just simply asking them and checking in with students, get – you know, get down on your knee and be like, “What’s going on?” and engaging with students on their level. Like to me, that’s the best way to engage your students. It’s like how is it going? We did this project with the Shadow a Student Day a few weeks ago where I followed an eighth grader around for the day and it was just the most phenomenal day.

Fred Jaravata: Oh, you did? OK, that’s cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: I did gym class. I got changed for gym and I did gym class.

Fred Jaravata: The teachers knew this.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, yeah. Like, you know, teachers would come up and they would be like, “I’m sorry. I’m not Mr. Cole-Farrell today. I’m Nicholas. I’m an eighth grade student. I just transferred here.”

Fred Jaravata: That’s a really cool idea.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: It was phenomenal and it was really an empathy project. But like for the first few classes, our students were like, “Oh, he’s just spying on us.” I’m like no and then the teachers were like, “He’s spying on us.” Like, no, no, I’m just trying to get a feel for what the day was like and like for me, there were so many insights of like this is like the minutia of an eighth grade student and this is what it’s like – it’s like you know what? When there’s no passing time to be – between classes, that’s really hard. It’s really hard to get to your next class on time. So yeah, so something like that to me, like engaging the students. Like the key is just like asking them questions and showing like interest in the work that they’re doing.

Leigh Northrup: Mine from like a – more of a maker space perspective is giving them opportunities to do what they want to do. One of our school focuses this year, it’s part of our adaptive expertise traits but also a big piece of what we paid special attention to this year. It was autonomy and giving those kids the opportunity to come in and just do what they want to do and if kids aren’t screwing around, they’re usually doing something pretty cool.

If you give them the opportunity and the tools and you say – you show them that there’s some worth to what they want to do. A good example of that is I had some kids that wanted to do hydroponic plants for this year. So when they came in the following week, I had over $300 worth of equipment so that they could build a big hydroponic planter. I think that they talked about it but then they were kind of almost expecting, oh, that would be something that we could do but will never do because nobody is going to believe in us and then all the piping was sitting there and now the kids have hydroponic salad bar day every Wednesday when we harvest the lettuce from their planter that they’ve created all by themselves.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome. As a teacher’s perspective, how do you vet that? How do you trust the kids will do that? How do you do that?

Leigh Northrup: Well, the follow-through is something big and I always put a tough task in front of one of those things. So I had some kids that wanted to do a – and this sounds a little silly and definitely not one of the most engaging maker space projects we’ve ever talked about. But they wanted to build a Pokemon website. Eighth grade boys want to build a Pokemon website.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Why wouldn’t you? It’s phenomenal.

Fred Jaravata: Wow. OK, cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah.

Leigh Northrup: And I said to the guys, I was like, “Are you going to follow through with this?” Oh, yeah! Like, how many times have we heard, “Oh yeah! I’m going to follow through with that Mr. Northrup.” So what I made them do is write me a proposal because to get all that stuff hosted outside of like Google sites and things like that, it’s pretty expensive and they wanted their own domain and obviously I was going to pay for it. But I wanted them to prove to me that they were serious about it. So I made them do a little bit of paperwork and I made them do a little presentation and they followed through and they showed me the 350 Pokemon cards they were going to be able to talk about and all of those things.

At the end of that time, I was like, “You got me!” Like, OK, you’re good.

Fred Jaravata: You’re passionate. You love it. Yeah.

Leigh Northrup: And you know what? Even if that project falls on its face …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: How could it though? Come on.

Leigh Northrup: Well, it can. It probably will.

Fred Jaravata: You’ve been there, right?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: I can’t have a dot Pokemon domain. If not, we should like rally for it. That’s pretty awesome.

Leigh Northrup: We should and the other flipside of that, because that was the kind of success story. But back to the hydroponic planet, one of them was the aquaponic and I had an eighth grade boy that – he was like, “Oh, we need to do fish!” Once he saw this thing coming in, he was like, “I want to do an aquaponic planter.” I’m like, “All right.” I’m not going to use any names here but I’m like, “All right.” The exact same exercise. I want you to write me a proposal about how often you’re going to clean it, how you’re going to feed it, how you’re going to check the chemicals because Mr. Northrup does not want a fish tank in his room at all. But if the student was going to do a lot and lead a club or something like that, I’m totally in. So the first week went by. I was like, “Where’s your proposal?” I’m working on it. Needless to say, I don’t have a fish tank in my room.

Fred Jaravata: Right. OK, good.

Leigh Northrup: That proposal never amounted to anything but once they saw that – you know what? Making something awesome is hard. Like, it’s not just something that somebody is going to hand you on a plate. There’re going to be some effort involved and once kids understand that and they realize, “You know what? You better take me seriously.” I’m going to take you seriously. Cool things can happen.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, for sure, for sure.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome. I got to try that. I got to do that. Hard work upfront.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, yeah. It’s like give me your elevator pitch.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah, exactly.

Leigh Northrup: Yeah.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So give me a “ta-da” moment, a “ta-da” moment that you in your teaching – something that really just like blew yourself away. Like, boom! I want to try this – something cool. It doesn’t have to be that big, but something like, OK, this is good stuff. Your “ta-da” moment.

Leigh Northrup: Right.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Give me a minute.

Leigh Northrup: I just say the …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah.

Fred Jaravata: All right, cool.

Leigh Northrup: I got one that I can go with.

Fred Jaravata: OK, all right. OK. All right, Leigh. Go for it.

Leigh Northrup: So I apologize you guys because we kind of talked about this yesterday in the session. But one of the “ta-da” moments for the Cannon School this year in our space was the creation of a quadratic sound diffuser and the kids made it out of cake cups. The kids worked really hard for six weeks and this is going to be the abbreviated story. Hopefully Fred will put some email information or some Twitter stuff on there.

Fred Jaravata: Well, actually, I will put your contact information and people can get in touch with you.

Leigh Northrup: Cool. If you’re more curious about this project, I would love to talk to you more about it. But the kids built a quadratic sound diffuser out of recycled cake cups to solve some problems and turned out to be really cool and over the course of six weeks, they built a quadratic sound diffuser and they cleaned out 1800 cake cups to make this and they worked really hard and they talked to math teachers what a quadratic formula is and they made it and they had – they knew exactly what they were doing and the built it and then they tested it and they realized that it actually made the room louder.

What was so cool about that is that in independent schools, when kids work hard and they do everything right, they’re expected to be rewarded with an A and that’s not the way the world works. To teach these kids or give them opportunities to fail even though they did everything right is in my opinion one of the most powerful opportunities we can give a kid because then they finally learn that it’s not about the grade. It’s not about the validation that OK, they did it correctly. It’s about the learning that went on before the result was achieved and just some really special learning moments came out of that.

The kids, they were actually little scientists. Like – and we had the conversation. What awesome thing ever worked the first time? Like, nothing ever works the first time! And they got to experience that firsthand, which was really cool.

Fred Jaravata: Well, they got that out of the way. That failure, they got that out of the way and then they can start getting better and better and better and faster.

Leigh Northrup: How many times as adults have we failed? Like we fail constantly.

Fred Jaravata: All the time. I failed waking up this morning …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: We [0:19:38] [Inaudible].

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome. Really cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah. That was awesome Leigh. I feel like mine – I got a rinky-dink one compared to that. But for me, we’re setting up our build space, which is our sort of woodshop high def prototyping studio this year and we’re setting up with sixth through eighth grade students who were there and elected and one of the tools we brought in was a scroll saw and some of the tools we definitely specifically designed to bring into our studio and that one was sort of like – yeah, that looks like something we should have. For my own part, I will say there wasn’t much planning behind that. But it looked pretty cool.

So we brought it in and three students unboxed it and set it up, which is awesome, followed the instructions, built it and then they said, “So how do we use it?” and I kind of raised my shoulders and said, “I don’t know.”

Fred Jaravata: I don’t know.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: And it was like I don’t know but there’s a “how to scroll saw” book arriving next week and they’re like, “OK.” So this was Friday and the book was due to come Monday. They looked at each other. They pulled out their phones. They went on to YouTube and watched the video on how to scroll saw and like the sort of like new Yankee workshop, this old house type video came on and they watched it. They watched about seven minutes of it, put the phone down, grabbed the piece of wood and immediately started scroll-sawing and cut out their names in a piece of reclaimed redwood and that happened within probably about 30 minutes and it was like, OK, that’s what learning looks like.

It looks like me not being scared of not knowing and them taking action and knowing that they have the agency and the tools to do it. To me, that’s the “aha” moment of like, yeah, this is what learning looks like in the maker space.

Leigh Northrup: One of the things we talked about in our session yesterday was the whole maker ethos and one of those is do it yourself. Like, don’t wait for Nicholas or Fred or Leigh to show you how to do something. Just go figure it out. Like, we didn’t have YouTube when we were growing up. Like, oh my gosh, the trouble I could have caused with learning how to do different stuff would have been awesome. But now kids are just constantly waiting for the teacher to tell them what to do next and we have to stop that. I totally agree with you in that moment.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: To me, it was like this is learning. This is what learning looks like in this space and like in hearing your session yesterday, it’s like yeah, yeah, that’s it. And that’s – to me, like that’s one of the common themes of like when you empower students, I mean you give them that agency. They’re going to take that action for sure.

Leigh Northrup: Well said.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome. That’s great. All right guys. A couple more questions left. All right. So time-saving tip. How do you save time? I know you Nicholas had a getting-things-done type of flow.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, I don’t want to waste your time with that, but yeah. No, we did …

Fred Jaravata: But give me a time-saving tip though for like teachers that they can take now or consider for next year, something that will save them time.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, yeah. For me, it’s about – I have two because like – you know, what? I’m not just going to follow the rules. But one of the things I do is like we like to calendar time into our schedule to do specific things. Like say, you calendar time in to do a project or calendar time in to read a book and especially with classroom teachers knowing that their time is really tight. Like be really disciplined and really like set your time and be like this is my time and it just will not be interrupted for this.

The other thing we do is like we really like to try scheduling mail. So like working towards inbox zero and if there’s a mail that you’re not ready to process, schedule and have it delivered to you at another time and that will like free up sort of your …

Fred Jaravata: Is there an app for that?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, I mean there are a lot of different apps. So like I use Airmail on iOS. Mailbox before it got – you know, before they put it in the ocean and that one worked really well. But any app that you can have boomerang. I think on Gmail, on the web works. But if anything that you can do to sort of clean out your inbox and get it as low as possible. The line we say is, “Your inbox is not your to-do list.”

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: So really figuring out how you can manage. Your brain is only set to do a certain number of things and as clear as you can keep that, that’s where your ideas can come from.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome.

Leigh Northrup: It’s so awesome and I just got like two ideas from you because I am such a time-waster because I love to tinker and I love to play and so …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: It frees up time for me to do that.

Leigh Northrup: Oh, the new toy comes in and I see the box come in and I’m like – I know I have to do that. But I don’t want to do that. I want to do this and being able to kind of calendar my time and I’m going to re-listen to this podcast and try and reflect on some of those things. That’s really good and I’m going to go in a completely different direction and again, I know I keep coming back to the whole maker space concept and that’s much bigger than that.

But a lot of making takes prep materials and a lot of – you don’t really have the time to cut every piece of wood, to drill every hole, to cut every piece of PVC when you have 80 kids coming in for a 45-minute class period. We talked about proving worth to teachers and things like that. They need to be able to see that their kids can come in, make something and their curriculum is enhanced and it has to be done quickly. If their impact is one day’s worth but that project takes four classes, then all of a sudden, teachers are like, well, I will dedicate one class period per year to the maker space because that’s all they can afford to give.

So I have to do a lot of that work upfront. So my kind of time-saving tip is I have a group of – and they’re boys, which I know is stereotypical but I have an eighth grade maker space prep team, which I say prep team assemble. You know, that’s always the subject line.

These little boys, they just want to do – they’re like little worker bees and they just – they come running at their study hall and they’re good students, so they can afford to miss it and they just – they’re like, “All right Mr. Northrup. What do you need?” I need 80 four by four pieces of quarter-inch plywood cut and poof! There it is like by the end – at 30 minutes and these guys are just like making widgets and they’re just so excited to be a part of it and the next day, when those kids come in and all of those pieces of Plexiglas are cut, all of those pieces of wood are cut, the holes are drilled and I’m not taking anything away from the experience that those kids are having the next day because they just kind of get to focus on the learning, on the making and the learning. But they don’t have to do the meaningless prep work associated with it.

Boys have like a sense of pride. They’re like, “I did that. I made that big pile of equipment that you guys are getting ready to make cools tuff with.” So yeah, my maker prep team saves me hours every week.

Fred Jaravata: And then other teachers are not in the maker space but they can use other – they can think of that concept and have other – their students do something else, have something else.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah. My wife tried to have students grade her tests and that didn’t go so well.

Fred Jaravata: All right guys. Last question and this is a big one. What is the best advice you can give teachers? What’s the best advice?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: We love you. That’s the best advice, really. No, just keep going. Keep going strong. Know that you’re supported by your administration, by your leadership and by your students. Your students really need you and the work that you’re doing is really – you’re doing God’s work really. You’re doing – teachers are doing the most phenomenal work out there. So as a school leader myself or administrator, I really appreciate all of what our teachers did and as a – about to be kindergarten parent in another district. I really appreciate what those teachers are going to do for my kids.

Leigh Northrup: I’m going to quote – because I want to piggyback off that and Vinny …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: For the Vin.

Leigh Northrup: For the Vin. He told me last night as an administrator. Be the black.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah.

Leigh Northrup: I was really touched by that because I – he was talking about we want our teachers and our kids to be stars and to shine brightly. But as administrators, we need to take a step back and be the black that’s behind that because those stars don’t shine brightly unless they’re pitch-black behind that. Nobody notices. Nobody says, “Oh, that star is beautiful because of the black,” and again, I’m just totally stealing his words from last night because I was really touched by that. But we have to do all of that prep work, all of those long nights so that our teachers can show up and just have these dynamo moments. Like, I – my seventh grade science teacher rolled in and there was a nine-foot beach ball in there and a 3D printing project that I had worked countless hours on.

You know, have the kid that just showed up and saw the nine-foot beach ball and he literally stopped in his tracks and he goes, “I love science!” He just looked at her and he looked at his teacher and he was like, you know, just thankful of this opportunity. He had no idea what we were going to do with the beach ball. He had no idea what was going to happen today, but he knew he was in the maker space and he knew that there was a nine-foot beach ball hanging from the ceiling and he didn’t care what he was doing.

So I felt like that was an opportunity where I got to be the black. I got to just be – I got to sit back and watch this teacher shine and watch the student be totally engaged with learning.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome advice, gentlemen.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: And keep listening to Fred’s show. It’s awesome.

Leigh Northrup: Yeah, that’s actually my number one tip, that too.

Fred Jaravata: Well, OK, guys. Thank you guys very much for joining this show. But before we leave, I want – our teachers, if they need to get in touch with you, how can they do that real quick?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: You can find me on Twitter. It’s @ncolefarrell and I would love to find you there for sure. Our maker space is at

Fred Jaravata: Cool.

Leigh Northrup: And I’m @leighnorthrup. There’s a goofy picture of me kayaking there and I’m usually in front of mountain or doing something outside. So I’m not the nerd inside. Those are the pictures I like out there. So …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: That’s me.

Leigh Northrup: But I look forward to connecting with anybody who wants to hear more about what we’re doing over in North Carolina.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah. Thank you guys. I highly suggest you guys who are listening, check out what these guys are doing, what Nicholas and Leigh are doing. They’re doing amazing, amazing things. Connect with them. Let me know if you have any questions also and then we will get you guys started. All right?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Thanks Fred.

Leigh Northrup: Thanks Fred.

Fred Jaravata: Thank you guys, gentlemen, for doing this. I appreciate it. All right, cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Thank you.

Leigh Northrup: Thank you.

Fred Jaravata: All right. Next one is on me.


Apr 16, 2016

We chat with Amabelle Sze, who I worked together with as teaching associates.  Since then, she has extensive experience teaching in the lower grades and has attended several highly coveted PD projects (Lucy Calkins at the Teacher's College in Columbia in NYC, and at Howard Gardner's Project Zero at Harvard).  

Amabelle shares deep insights in being a teacher in a Quaker school and gives us a look into the philosophy and outlook of being a Quaker educator.