Makerspaces have been taking on a new and important role in schools and community libraries throughout the country and now there is neuroscience that supports these efforts. So, what is the brain science of making and makerspaces?


The cortical homunculus is how your brain perceives your body, and it turns out it has a distorted view of itself. If you mapped body parts to the areas of your brain that control them, you’d find that the sensations and movements of your hand are controlled by a larger part of your brain than most other parts, such as your arms or legs. The brain has an outsized view of your hands with its fine motor capabilities. It’s not surprising then that anytime students can use their hands the experience becomes more engaging.


There are vast networks of neurons in our brains that number in the billions. They communicate through a mixture of chemical and electrical signals, and we add new connections to these networks when we learn something new. When a new connection is activated, it means that the neurons can trigger signals that become stronger and faster. It basically means that a new skill becomes easier to master the more you practice it. On the flip side, though, if you stop using these connections, the weaker they get and ultimately they can become eliminated entirely.


The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that is responsible for executive function. It’s the last part of the brain to finish developing and extends into the early 20s for most people. For young people, having time for unstructured play is important because it allows them the chance to practice making decisions, trying things out, making plans, and other forms of executive function. Therefore, time spent in a makerspace is an opportunity for self-directed exploration and tinkering.


The hippocampus is the part of the brain that directs the formation of long-term memories. It’s part of a larger set of structures known as the limbic system, which is the emotional system. This connection is important because it ties together learning and memory formation as emotional events. So, making is important because it’s fun, and because of this, learning is inevitable.


These images are of your amygdala, which is the part of the brain that deals with fear and intense negative emotions. Although low to moderate levels of activity can enhance your focus and attention and help you perform better, high levels will do the opposite. High levels of activity in the amygdala will reroute the connections in your brain, making you lose executive function and go straight into reactive mode, literally acting without thinking. These high levels will also impede your making any new memory connections in your brain associated with learning.

One of the key moments in the makerspace experience is coming up against failure and not falling back on a strong threat response. It’s realizing that experimentation and mistakes are just part of the process. Students can learn to anticipate and tolerate failures and then learn from them as they move forward in their quest to reach their goals.  A makerspace – with its natural environment of design, test, feedback, and revision – encourages students to develop a growth mindset, whereby failures are just learning experiences on the road to success.

McQuinn, C. (2018, September 25). The brain science of making. Retrieved from
Images are available and free to use from Creative Commons.


Japan has become the world’s senior citizen due to decades of improving life expectancies matched with falling birth rates. An aging population can have dire implications, such as a shrinking labor pool. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is introducing new remedies to address these challenges, including a “robot revolution,” a plan to quadruple the size of the robotics industry by encouraging automation in everything from manufacturing plants to education to care for the elderly. Below you can read about three recently introduced Japanese robots.

A Robear might sound like a new toy from Hasbro, but, it’s the creation of Japanese researchers from the Robot Sensor Systems Research Team at the Riken-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research, led by Toshiharu Mukai. Using advanced technology to power its intelligent vision, flexible movement, and giant arms, these robots are designed with the vision of helping make elderly care much easier in the future. With Japan facing a swiftly shrinking population at a time when the demand for elderly will only grow in the decades to come, these researchers believe that the answer to elderly care might lie with robotic assistive technology.

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Number of books that have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association


Number of Judy Blume books that appear of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom’s (OIF) list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990 – 1999. They are, ranked: Forever … (7); Blubber (30); Deenie (42); Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (60); and Tiger Eyes (89).


Number of Academy Award nominations that The Color Purple (1985), the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s often-challenged book of the same name, received. The film took home zero Oscars and is tied with another for most nominations without a win.

20 million

Number of copies Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has sold worldwide. The book was first published in the US in February 1885, and by the following month, the town library in Concord, Massachusetts, became the first to ban the novel for being “trash of the veriest sort.”

5 – 4

Ruling by the Supreme Court decided in Island Trees School District Board of Education v. Pico (1982) that a school board’s discretionary power is secondary to the First Amendment and the board could not ban books from its libraries simply because its members disagree with the content.

Source: Dantowski, T (2015, October 1). By the Numbers: Banned Books Week. Retrieved from


What do you think would happen if bees were to suddenly disappear from our planet? You might then have to give up some of your favorite foods for bees are responsible for pollinating about three-quarters of global crop species, including strawberries, apples, almonds and grapes. Unfortunately, land clearing, climate change and the use of pesticides are already impacting the bee population and causing problems for farmers.

Docker, L. (Photographer). (2011). Pollination of a bee [digital image]. Retrieved from

Researchers have come along at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University to create robotic bees. A RoboBee is only half the size of a paperclip and weighs less than one-tenth of a gram. These bee-size robots have the ability to lift off the ground and hover midair when attached to a power supply. These RoboBees have been designed to perform myriad roles in agriculture or disaster relief.

Courtesy: National Science Foundation

Walmart has already taken steps to manufacture and use their own robotic bees, known as “pollination drones,” to pollinate crops autonomously. These robotic bees use sensors and cameras to help them navigate among the crops and potentially will be able to pollinate as effectively as real bees.

NASA is also getting in on the act. As part of a project known as Marsbees, NASA is planning to use tiny robotic bees to explore the surface of Mars because they will be able to obtain and relay information faster and more easily than the Mars rover can. The robotic bees will be able to cover more land space at a fraction of the cost, and will now use the Mars rovers as charging stations.

The potential decrease or even elimination of the bee population in our ecosystem almost certainly would have had devastating consequences. We have the researchers and roboticists in the field and their incredible ingenuity to thank for the robotic version coming to our rescue!

(2018, Summer/Fall). The next essential robot: RoboBees. STEAM, pp. 14-15

Have you heard of the physics phenom who is becoming known as the “New Einstein”?

Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski set her sights high from an early age, even building her own plane at the age of twelve and later piloting it herself, flying it above the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Now, at 22, Pasterski is being hailed by her peers as the “New Einstein.” As the first female in decades to graduate at the top of her undergraduate physics program at MIT with a 5.0 grade point average, she is currently pursuing her doctorate in theoretical high energy physics at the Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature at Harvard.

Pasterski has done research in black holes, spacetime and quantum gravity, and her work has been cited by Stephen Hawking and her own Harvard advisor Andrew Strominger, among others. She’s been granted thousands of dollars in support of her research, including a $250,000 Hertz Foundation fellowship and a $150,000 National Science Foundation fellowship. Forbes named her to its 30 Under 30 All-Star list.

This is all pretty heady stuff, but Pasterski seems to be quite down-to-earth. She claims never to have had a sip of alcohol or tried a cigarette, and she steers clear of most social media. She does, however, maintain a website called PhysicsGirl where she lists her appearances in the press and at international conferences and her impressive accomplishments to date.



Kim, L. (2016, February 8). 17 surprising facts about millennial physics phenom Sabrina Pasterski. Retrieved from
Halme, F. (2016, January 12). This millennial might be the new Einstein. Retrieved from

Banning Books, Silencing Stories – Celebrate Freedom to Read Week!



  • 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association (ALA).
  • The Banned Books Week campaign was launched that same year, in response to the large uptick in challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries across the country.
  • Usually these challenges are targeted at books, but they can also include DVDs, databases, displays, and art exhibits.

 What is challenged book? It’s one that has been sought to be removed or otherwise restricted from public access, typically from a library or a school curriculum.

According to research by the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, of the 416 books challenged or banned in 2017, here are the 10 most challenged books of 2017:


Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association,

One big censorship story occurred in 2017 when The Hate U Give was removed from all school libraries in the Katy Independent School District (Texas). A 15-year-old student collected 3,700 signatures on an online petition, spoke out at a school board meeting, and started a book club about the YA author. Angie Thomas called the student “the real Starr Carter” after the heroine of her novel. The Hate U Give would ultimately be returned to the school library, but students can only check it out with parental approval.

On a side note – this librarian is super excited for the movie release this October…

Dankowski, T. (2015, October 1). By the numbers: Banned Books Week. Retrieved from 10