Reflections on the National Week of Making

As the final day of the National Maker Faire at University of District of Columbia came to an end, I walked myself, Faire badge still dangling from my neck, towards the Metro station elevator. Throughout the Faire, and the entirety of the 2016 National Week of Making, the Maker Ed staff was in DC giving talks, presenting student maker projects and sitting on panels to discuss new directions for maker education. I was tired. I had spent the day behind Maker Ed’s table, chatting with excited   educators, parents and kids, answering a whole host of questions about making, maker education and the work we do at Maker Ed to support it.

The elevator crawled up from under the ground and as I waited, I noticed a woman making her way out of the Faire and towards the station. I felt it coming. I began mentally preparing. It was all confirmed as she arrived at the elevator doors and looked down at the badge sitting against my chest. This woman had questions, and she was going to look to me for answers.

“I live in the neighborhood and I was just out for a walk, and I noticed all these food trucks and so I just wandered onto the campus! What exactly is this maker thing?” And so I began, running her through a literal elevator pitch on making, Maker Ed’s work, and the ways in which maker education harnesses the power of making to create engaging, motivating learning experiences. I did not have to do much to help her understand the benefits of a more interactive, open-ended, learner driven approach to teaching. As was the case for so many other people I spoke with over the course of my time at the National Maker Faire, it was clear to me that in the short time I spent with this woman, the value of maker education was made very clear.    

This potentially awkward elevator ride became a perfect representation of a very exciting aspect of the National Maker Faire that I had been noticing throughout the day. The fact that the event was free, and situated on an open campus, encouraged a unique blend of passionate long time makers, as well as individuals just learning about this “maker thing” for the first time. Conversations with these true first timers were a real highlight of the event for me. It was concrete evidence of the ability of the maker movement, and more specifically maker education, to excite, to connect, and to inspire.

The connection that my elevator friend so quickly felt to maker education is not unique. The National Maker Faire, and the other events that took place as part of the National Week of Making, demonstrate the amazing ways that people across the country, inspired and excited by what maker education has to offer, are thinking in new ways about how it can enhance and expand student learning. The time is now, wrote US Secretary of Education John King Jr. during the Week of Making, to “support the next generation of innovators and work to ensure that all have opportunities to learn how to design, invent and fabricate just about anything.”

If you are excited about making and want to get involved, the call for makers at World Maker Faire (October 1-2) in New York is still open! Maker Ed will be facilitating the Education Stage, and we are currently looking for presenters. 

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