Toy Hacking and Puppet Building: Get to Know Edu-Maker Sam Patterson

Last Updated: June 23, 2017 11:04 am
Toy Hacking and Puppet Building: Get to Know Edu-Maker Sam Patterson

Toy Hacking and Puppet Building: Get to Know Edu-Maker Sam Patterson

Every so often one teacher makes a name for himself in ways that are beyond creative, beyond anything you’d expect in the classroom. That name is Sam Patterson. Sam is a maker teacher like none other. If your child has the chance to taught by Sam, they’ll be hacking toys, building puppets, and combining digital with analog mediums in ways that you probably never considered before. Sam will be moderating Monday’s #Tynkerchat, with our dedicated code-minded educators. Here’s a little more about Sam:      

Sam Patterson, M.F.A., Ed.D. is a Makerspace teacher for PreK-6th grade students at Echo Horizon School in Culver City California. Dr. Patterson is an innovative teacher using puppet building and toy hacking to inspire kids to create and share. His shares his work through his blog and his book “Programming in the Primary Grades: Beyond the Hour of Code” at You can reach him on Twitter at @SamPatue


This week, Sam shared his passion for puppetry and coding with us: 

1.  You’re quite the unique maker teacher.  How did you get into puppetry? 

Robots and puppetry? 

I loved puppets when I was growing up, some of my favorite toys were puppets. Several years ago as I started learning to make videos I got back into puppets because I wanted someone else’s face to be in my videos.

2.  How can puppetry liven up a lesson compared to other projects you’ve done? 
Puppets are a great maker lesson because you have to design and build them and then they come alive! There is such a wonderful component of active imagination in puppet-based lessons. When my kids work with their puppets, I see a different level of engagement. It is serious and fun.
3. What are the possibilities with puppetry and robotics? Is there crossover there? 
There is an amazing crossover with puppets and robots, animatronics! I am just now working on lessons that would get students programming characters that can interact with people and give them information.

A family of puppets in the maker lab.

4. At Tynker we also like to remind teachers to go “Beyond an Hour” of code. Why is this so important right now? 

Teachers and schools need to go beyond the Hour of Code because programming isn’t a special occasion tool, it is a mode of expression. It is a way to build your understanding of the world.
5. Your book is titled Programming in the Primary Grades. What’s your message to elementary school principals who don’t think coding is all that important? 
Elementary principals need to understand programming as a literacy skill develop opportunity. Coding tools like Scratch Jr can help pre-reading students bridge the gap between their fluency and their expression. When we ask these students to program their understanding and tell stories in code, we are helping them build the tools and skills they need to be successful readers.


Thanks again Sam! We’ll look for you on Twitter at @SamPatue

Join Sam as he moderates #Tynkerchat for us this Monday. 

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About Daniel Rezac

Daniel Rezac is the Head of Education Partnerships at Tynker. He's been a science teacher, a technology coach, STEAM Coordinator, and school Tech Director working with students from Pre-K to adults. Feel free to reach out to him at daniel [at]