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Tools to Organize Your Young Makers Program

Published on April 7, 2018 by in technology

Girls from RealImpact build Arduino robots at SparkMacon Makerspace.

 

As a parent, I want my children to feel prepared to support themselves and thrive in the economy of the future. Given I have relatively young kids, we have no idea what this future will look like. Here’s what we do know. Many of the jobs and opportunities of the future have not been invented yet. Due to technology advances, the fundamental work patterns of many industries continue to transform. With this undercurrent of change, we know that the workforce of the future will demand strong problem-solving skills, design thinking, and team collaboration. It’s easy to let kids become engaged with consuming technology. Kids naturally like to watch TV, engage with apps, and play games. How do we engage our kids to become makers and creative problem solvers? How do we give our kids the creative confidence to shape their future? How do we help them to care and have empathy? Our future, however, rests on our ability to engage students in a path and habit of learning that helps them become makers. Due to decreasing technology costs, it’s become affordable and fruitful to introduce kids to design thinking using code, digital fabrication, and physical computing.

Over the years of writing this blog, it’s been amazing to see the diffusion of the makerspace concept into culture. I will always cherish the opportunities I had to help start a makerspace in Macon, GA called SparkMacon. I’m very proud of our efforts to start a young makers program to engage families in making, tinkering, and engineering. I’ve talked to home schooling communities about their interest in applying maker education in their curriculum. I’ve enjoyed seeing makerspaces grow inside of schools and libraries. I encourage you to enjoy this TED talk by Phil and Liana at Toorak College who lead a school based makerspace.   There’s still lots of work to be done.  As I talk with makerspace operators on the south east of the United States, it can be challenging to sustain these efforts and keep engagement levels high.

Abstract: How do we develop a mindset that challenges students to embrace the thinking skills, digital technology and design approach associated with STEM? How do we also develop and equip our staff with the skills and knowledge aligned with STEM to best support our students? How do we inform parents about the role of STEM in learning? Taking up this challenge in 2015, Toorak College in Mt Eliza, Victoria designed a makerspace titled the DIGIZone (Design, Inspire, Gamify, Innovate) the epicenter of STEM where students from all ages of the school can tinker, make errors, design, problem find and solve, collaborate, create while accessing an array of traditional and digital tools.

As I continue to organize creative learning activities for my family and future meetups, I have felt the need to re-charge and re-frame my thinking. With that in mind, I wanted to connect you to key documents and ideas from an organization that I love, MakerEd.org. Many of their playbooks, blog posts, and tools helped us plan our efforts in growing a makerspace for Middle, GA, designing workshop experiences, and facilitating the community.

You can find a complete index of tools here:
http://makered.org/resources/getting-started/

I’m currently reviewing the “Maker Club Playbook”.

I have found that books like the “Art of Community” by Jono Bacon are also helpful for maker community efforts.

This free ebook provides ideas for motivation, project concepts, and teaching theory. The work has detailed plans for getting started and executing your maker club. The plan proposed encourages students to design and focus on a project concept. The book combines a project-based learning approach while encouraging the student to select a focus project. The plan proposes that students present their work at a conference like a local MakerFaire.  You should be able to adapt this playbook to your local situation.

Thank you to the team at MakerEd.org for their important efforts to inspire educational makerspaces across the world!

 

What are your challenges in growing your makerspace community?  What are your favorite stories of your maker community in action?  Please share a comment below!

 

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