FableFive: Terry Shay, FableVision Learning Ambassador Leader

The ambassador of Ambassadors, Terry Shay, is first and foremost a vocal teacher to lucky K-12 students in Traer, Iowa. Terry followed his North Star, connected the dots, and continued his mission to teach creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking when he joined our FableVision family as a FableVision Ambassador. His enthusiasm, passion and heart quickly landed him the position of Lead Ambassador of the FableVision Ambassador Program and is the originator of International Dot Day and the Celebri-Dots blog. For this month's FableFive blog post, we chatted with Terry to learn more about his journey, what it takes to be a FableVision Ambassador, and the Dot movement.

1) Walk us through your FableVision Journey?

Mr. Terry Shay

My journey with FableVision began at the Iowa Technology Education Connection Conference many years ago. I was at a session about a keyboard and the presenter was demonstrating how the keyboard could be used to import into any word processing program and then she demonstrated using Stationery Studio. I ended up not be interested in the keyboard, but I will never forget how amazing the software was. I knew that I had to know more about the company who made it. I called and had the tremendous good fortune to reach Bill Norris, who sent me the software and kept in touch. A few months later, I was asked to be a FableVision Ambassador. A few years later, I was asked to lead the program. Working with and for a company who has a mission that matches my own is a dream.


2) What has been a highlight moment of your experience as a FableVision Ambassador?

Watching someone’s face light up when I ask them if they celebrate Dot Day is certainly at the top of the list. It is a joy to hear all the different ways celebrations are held around the country. Not to mention, the opportunity to work closely with Peter H. Reynolds and Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns.


3) What are the qualities you look for in a FableVision Ambassador and how does one apply?  

The main quality I look for in an Ambassador is willingness to share. We are looking for a variety of locations so we spread the mission far and wide. Currently we need Ambassadors in Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming.




4) Tell us about your teaching experience, what has been one highlight of your career?


I am a K-12 Vocal Music teacher in Traer, Iowa. The highlight of each year is watching kids shine in our Swing Show. Kids get to sing, dance, perform in skits, and almost every year I am blown away by a soloist who starts out meek and mild and then steps on the stage and becomes a star.


5) You love children's books! And are the driving force behind Celebri-dots. Tell us about the blog and the dot movement.

International Dot Day, September 15th, started in 2009 and has been a constant source of joy ever since. Inspired by Peter H. Reynolds’ book, The Dot, Dot Day is intended to get kids to be creative. In 2011, Newbery Medal winning author, Sharon Creech, sent me a dot on Dot Day. Inspired by seeing the dot that one of my favorite authors made, I wanted to see what other famous people would create. Since then, 216 dots have been published in a variety of media including paint, photography, sewing, raspberry juice, hair dye, computer code, pencil, pen, and more. It’s an amazing gallery of creativity and it inspires kids to make their own mark.

At FableVision Learning we love to celebrate creative educators we meet along the way. The FableFive series is our chance to highlight these folks. The format is simple; we select one person and ask five questions to help us get to know them better, their relationship with FableVision Learning, and to help them spread their mission! 

FableVision Learning Teacher Spotlight: Maryann Molishus

Maryann Molishus

Maryann Molishus is not just any fifth-grade teacher, she is an advocate for hands-on, experiential learning and a champion for the importance of a positive classroom experience in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Many students learn to dislike these subjects in elementary school; Maryann is inspiring her students at Goodnoe Elementary School in Newtown, Pennsylvania to love them using Fab@School Maker Studio.

Maryann rallied a few colleagues and three amazing fifth-grade students to apply for a grant from their district’s Council Rock Education Fund to develop a makerspace-type program. With the grant in hand and the support of their principal they were able to get started.

“Our principal gave the OK to purchase a class set of accounts for Fab@School Maker Studio, and it is the perfect fit for elementary students,” she shared. “The last piece, the creativity and collaboration needed to design interesting products, comes from our fantastic students! Our intent is to spend at least this school year learning how the grant materials can best be used by our school population and then put together a program we can share with all our elementary schools.”

Maryann, a FabAwesome FableVision Learning Ambassador, was kind enough to share her and her students’ experiences using Fab@School in their classroom. Read on!

How did you hear about FableVision Learning and then become an ambassador?

In 2004 it seemed that wherever I went I was crossing paths with Peter and Paul Reynolds and the folks at FableVision. In quick succession I heard Peter speak during a virtual author visit with hundreds of students across Pennsylvania, then at a live meet-up in Philadelphia at what was then NECC (now the ISTE Conference), and we had a mutual connection to the Pennsylvania Keystone Technology Integrators Program that had just begun. Soon after I volunteered to be part of Paul Reynolds’s graduate research project, The North Star Virtual Community. I began using The North Star Classroom Program in my classroom and we even did a performance of The North Star Musical Journey with one of my second grade classes. It was some time later that I connected with the amazing Terry Shay and the ambassador program and began participating in fun events such as International Dot Day.

Tell us a bit about your classroom and what the students are working on.

Creativity and collaboration at work! 

I am currently teaching fifth graders at Goodnoe Elementary School in Newtown, Pennsylvania. It’s my fifth year in fifth grade, after teaching second grade at the same school for eleven years. Additionally, I moderate a grades 5-6 STEM Club once a week during recess and lunch. The 5-6 STEM Club students are working on a variety of projects and are learning new skills such as computer programming and digital fabrication. Currently, our fifth graders are working on an interdisciplinary project. They are combining math, engineering, art, and some very much needed collaborative skills to create a “solid sculpture” that will be displayed on our hallway bulletin board.


How are you using Fab@School Maker Studio into your classroom?

There are a couple of ways we are using Fab@School Maker Studio. First, my homeroom is working on their  “solid sculptures.” Small groups have been given the challenge of collaborating to create an interesting sculpture that includes a cone, cube, two rectangular prisms, a cylinder, a square pyramid, and one other solid shape. The total volume of each sculpture needs to be between 60-250 cubic inches. The colors, patterns, and configuration of shapes is their creative choice. The small groups are working hard to learn how to use Fab@School, how to calculate volume, and how to design the various shapes.  We began the project by assigning student trainers that took on the role of ‘team leader’, introducing their group members to the new program and guiding them on how to use it. Team leaders are also responsible for keeping the group organized, maintaining the design notes, and making sure everyone in the group is participating.

Students are also using Fab@School in our new “STEM Special”.  This STEM Special has been put in place in lieu of our weekly computer lab block.  Students work on independent digital projects, some of which involve electronics and cardboard, and many that include designs students are creating using Fab@School.

Finally, we also offer a weekly STEM Club to all students in a more informal setting. The students are just beginning to learn Fab@School and are so excited to start planning their projects!

What are some of the challenges/lessons you are tackling with Maker Studio?

One of our primary challenges at the moment is setting up our hardware to work as effectively and efficiently as possible. As the class begins to learn and use Fab@School Maker Studio, we are working out how to get the printing and cutting process to work optimally using our current district hardware. We are learning what works best and what our major hurdles are so we can sort those out with our administration and tech support. We want to make the best choices in our setup so we can hopefully share the program with all of our students.

Can you share one wonderful aha teaching moment you’ve had this week?  

Yes, a wonderful aha moment occurred when I first introduced Fab@School to my class and they began their Solid Sculpture project. The small groups busily assigned jobs, got some training on the program, and began researching volume formulas they would need for their solid shapes. After a little over an hour, time was up. As I instructed the students to clean up their materials, one student called out, “What, time’s up? We didn’t even do any math today!” After spending an hour focused on geometry and measurement, it was quite surprising that the students didn’t realize that they were, in fact, doing math. I took the opportunity to explain once again just what they were doing and its connection to our math program. Project-based learning is a great way to learn as it allows students to become fully invested in their work, so much so that they forget they are even doing “school work.” I can honestly say that the students are actively and happily engaged in mathematical conversations at a fifth grade level and more!

Fab@School Team Joins Global Early Childhood Fab Lab Partnership

To help tackle the disruption in the STEM education/career pipeline, FableVision and The Reynolds Center have spent the past five years collaborating with University of Virginia’s successful Fab@School Initiative to bring meaningful STEM teaching and learning to many younger learners and their teachers.

This past January, after years of development, testing and research led by Dr. Glen Bull and Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns, the FableVision/Reynolds Center teams released Fab@School Maker Studio digital design and fabrication software, which is the keystone tool in the Fab@School initiative. Made possible in large measure by the generosity of the Cisco Foundation, Fab@School Maker Studio is an easy-to-use web-based digital design and fabrication tool, which invites students in grades 3-8 to experience STEM and STEAM learning in a more engaging, personally meaningful way.   

Maker Studio offers a unique onramp to creating with cross-curricular activities from simple to sophisticated and support for a variety of materials and a range of tools from scissors to inexpensive 2D cutters to 3D printers and laser cutters – all with a single tool. Beginning with paper, cardstock, and cardboard, Maker Studio provides an accessible, low-cost way to imagine, design, invent, and fabricate 2D designs, pop-ups, and 3D projects like geometric constructions and working machines.  Maker Studio is part of the national Fab@School research initiative and committed to championing equity & access to quality maker education.

Last year, our Fab@School team was also tapped to join the global Early Childhood Fab Lab Partnership, led by the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES) and MIT Fab Foundation to bring the Fab Lab learning experience to early learners (PreK to Grade 2).  Other Early Childhood Fab Lab partners include the Bay Area Discovery Museum, the Center for Childhood CreativityVirginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. To support the Early Childhood Fab Lab mission, with generous support from the Noyce Foundation, the FableVision/Reynolds Center teams are now working to create an early education version (PreK-2) of the recently-developed Fab@School Maker Studio software for both formal and informal spaces.