“STEAM: Creating A Maker Mindset” by @vvrotny and @speterson224

As parents and teachers, we encourage our kids to become well rounded people who love learning.   In our world of cell phones, ipads, and computers, it’s easy for kids to become passive consumers of media and technology.   We, however, want are kids to be active, curious, and creative.   Since I’m a musician and a software engineer, I hope that my kids learn to express themselves emotively and become creative thinkers.   We’re trying to foster a family culture where we are active, encourage tinkering, and building physical things with our hands.   

With these ideas in mind, I wanted to share a great video I found by Vinnie Vrotny and Sheryl Peterson entitled “STEAM: Creating A Maker Mindset.”   In this conference talk from the K12 Online Conference in 2013, they share their experiences encouraging a “maker” mindset in the Quest Academy .   Their school has a very unique class teaching design thinking to kids.    It’s giving me lots of ideas for building a maker environment for our family.    In this class, Sheryl encourages her students to invent a creative design problem and solve it.   With the tools and support of the teacher, the kids are encouraged to build their design.    In some cases, the kids ask Sheryl to assign a problem to them.    The kids aren’t used to having creative freedom to design and make.    In these cases, Sheryl encourages the students to keep thinking.   🙂

Here are some of the key ideas that I enjoyed from the session.

How do you encourage the mindset of a maker?

  • What is a maker mindset?  Makers are people who have a persistent tinkering mentality.    While makers love to learn, they also enjoy transforming their new ideas into physical artifacts.    A makers mindset encourages continuous growth and a love of learning.
  • Values: In the design of their teaching style and environment, Sheryl celebrated the design values of Ideo, a prominent design and innovation firm.  
  • Model the “Maker” Spirit: The speakers noted that it was important to model the “maker” mindset for the students.   Instead of purchasing a professional “green screen” for the class space, Sheryl made one.   Sheryl took great care to construct their classroom environment and build many of their tools.  Students learn “DIY” by seeing their teacher do “DIY.”

Teaching style

  • Blending the best of many: The design class blends aspects from other class room experiences and environments:
    • Shop class
    • Art class
    • Computer lab
    • Project based learning
    • Science Lab
  • Environment is key: I see similarities between creating an effective educational maker space and the ideas from Montessori education .    While the students have freedom to decide on the goals of their design project and freedom to drive their activities, the environment is designed to foster student creativity and curiosity.   Like Montessori education, the intentional environment fosters learning and enables the students to personalize their learning.    The environment naturally encourages the students to collaborate too.
  • Maker spaces don’t need to start big and expensive.   The speakers shared that some maker spaces started $200.00 and very simple materials that you might find in an art classroom: tape, glue, cardboard, recycled equipment, etc.    Start simple and grow!

Resources and References:

It’s exciting to hear students say that the design class was their favorite class.   From pictures of their maker space, the students have tons of fun tools to explore: 3D printers, Scratch, electronics, art materials, etc.   This video is motivating me to clean up a corner of house to make it a mini-maker space for our kids.  Cool stuff!     

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