Making is Learning

May 17, 2012, by Dale Dougherty

To build, to make, to create is something that’s in all of us, but especially in every child. However, like creativity itself, children need the opportunity to explore making and develop their capabilities through practice. Young makers need access to tools, mentors and other people who enjoy making things. That’s how children grow as makers and become lifelong learners.

When children and teens make things, they are having fun but they are also engaged in learning. They are learning to realize their own creative ideas, to solve real problems and to overcome failure and frustration in the process. When they say proudly to others: “Look what I made!”, they’ve become a maker. There is growing recognition that hands-on learning experiences are critical to the development of young minds.

The Maker Education Initiative is dedicated to the noble idea that every child is a maker and that making and education belong together. This new non-profit organization seeks to promote more opportunities for children and teens to grow as makers in their own community — and to be connected to a worldwide community of makers who share their projects. Backed by Cognizant, Intel and O’Reilly, the Maker Education Initiative builds on the growing maker movement, led by Make Magazine and Maker Faire.

At each Maker Faire, we see so many children and teens inspired by what they see and experience — the amazing creativity and technical wizardry evident in all the projects at Maker Faire. They see how science and technology can be fun, fascinating and relevant to their own lives. For several years at Maker Faire Bay Area, Education Day takes place before Maker Faire and it brings children to Maker Faire who might not come on the weekend.

A longstanding concern of mine is what happens right after Maker Faire? Are kids able to find the people, places and projects in their own community that help them become makers? Does that inspiration lead to them discover new mentors and local communities where they can continue to develop their interests?

The Young Makers program, which has been an outgrowth of Maker Faire Bay Area, seeks to provide more teens with the opportunity to participate as makers in Maker Faire. These are the kind of programs that the Maker Education Initiative wants to develop and spread everywhere.

Making combines creativity and critical thinking, which are at the heart of 21st-century learning but making also reflects John Dewey’s famous 20th Century insight that we “learn by doing”. Making can take place at home or in school, or at any number of locations in the community such as science centers, children’s museums, libraries, clubs and community centers. The Maker Education Initiative will support the development of programs that reach children and teens in all of these settings. The Maker Education Initiative will especially focus on programs that reach disadvantaged and disengaged youth who we want to be part of the maker movement.

I’m personally excited and gratified to see the launch of Maker Education Initiative, which signifies the important opportunity we have now for the maker movement to extend more deeply into the lives of children and teens.

I’m thrilled that AnnMarie Thomas will lead the Maker Education Initiative. An engineering educator, maker and mother, as well as the developer of the popular “Squishy Circuits” project, AnnMarie brings great enthusiasm and energy to this organization, and an understanding of the educational value of making.

The Making Education Initiative needs you. In true DIY fashion, the foremost goal of the Maker Education Initiative is to encourage everyone to take the initiative to introduce making into the lives of children and teens. There’s a lot each of us can do to help realize the goal that each child is a maker. Yet, none of us should work alone. We want to know about the work you’re doing and share that with others who can learn from you and you from them. With your help, the Maker Education Initiative will impact every community in America.

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