Making MAKING Happen Through Maker VISTA
Our Maker VISTA program focuses on overcoming poverty through maker education. Maker VISTA members serve at partner sites around the country to impact organizations and the wider community through partnership development, volunteer recruitment, community building, resource creation, educator training, and much more.
At Computers4Kids (C4K) in Charlottesville, Virginia, Maker VISTA Blair McAvoy discovered that while her site’s learning environment featured two sewing machines and a supply of fabric, there was no dedicated space for sewing. Working with site staff, Blair set up an entire sewing corner and displayed fabric on the wall for added flair and visual inspiration. The work paid off: youth at C4K began to ask how to use the sewing machines, and now the sewing corner is abuzz with heavy traffic from curious makers. In another instance of creative sounds and vibrant expression, young makers at C4K have also recently ventured into video and audio production as means of fusing interest with inquiry. One student created his own movie, and is utilizing makerspace equipment to burn copies of the DVD with the aim of entering film festivals; another perfected a beat track, which he is in the process of uploading to SoundCloud as means of enticing artists to feature his music in their songs. Blair is motivated by the variety of shapes making takes at C4K, and is driven to implement new strategies and breaking down barriers young makers might self-impose when attempting to start projects.
Most recently in her service at ReCreate in Roseville, CA, Maker VISTA Shubha Arehalli has brainstormed and drafted lesson plans, as well as crafted prototypes, for a renewable energy curriculum that included projects aiming to harness solar, wind, and hydro-power. For the solar project, students re-purposed garden lights to make a solar powered phone charger. For the wind and water projects, students built wind and water turbines from PVC pipe and recycled materials. Collaborating closely with with Donna Sangwin, the founder and director of ReCreate, and Amy Griffin, the organization’s Education Director, Shubha is working to blend diverse perspectives surrounding innovation and education—combining ideas and initiatives derived directly from youth participants with curricular content and grade-specific units of focus.
Maker VISTAs Shelly Tersolo and Corina Penaia facilitated project work to empower students at Bethune Middle School in Los Angeles to enter the “Made By Milk” contest, which encourages the use of recycled milk cartons to build geometric sculptures and spark deeper learning about polyhedrons. Shelly and Corina also partnered with CSU Long Beach to make a field trip possible, in which 100 students could visit the CSULB’s Maker Studio. During this opportunity, Bethune students participated in five making activities, ranging from building bridges to making Balsa Wood gliders to lava lamps, exploring and engaging in STEAM inquiries and principles.
In Los Angeles, Maker VISTA Lyna Abal brought in a maker collaborator, Ned Martinez-Zavala from LA MakerSpace, to host the monthly “Maker Ed with Parents” workshop series she recently developed and launched. Together, Lyna and Ned engaged parents and students in a project called Christmas Bot. The accessibility and affordability of this project really resonated with parents, who were peripherally familiar with making but hadn’t experimented with batteries or motors themselves. Doing so allowed them the chance to take pride in their accomplishments and connect directly with the work of their children—not to mention all parents succeeded in sending their bots scurrying across tabletops! In addition to organizing that particular event, Lyna showcased the makerspace at San Fernando Middle School on a recent Articulation Day, where 5th graders from around the neighborhood toured the campus for potential enrollment. The makerspace team facilitated a paper circuit activity for 155 visiting students and also showed parents how to use art bots. Overall, this month Lyna has truly forged new paths for making in the school’s community and beyond, by reinforcing the joys and values of making for not only young makers, but parents and families as well.
Thanks to the tireless, expansive and inspiring efforts and coordination of Maker VISTAs Crystal Le and Maria Renteria, the grand opening of Grass Valley’s Wonder Workshop on Tuesday, November 15th was a tremendous success. With the support of their local Oakland community partners, their dedicated principal and their pioneering supervisor, Paula Mitchell, this Maker VISTA team was able to develop and launch this kickoff event from the ground up—including arranging a raffle (with big ticket, in-kind donated prizes!), providing snacks and refreshments for attending families, both a weaving and a Cubit computer kit demonstration, and multiple design-thinking challenges such as building marshmallow catapults, a wall maze, gelatin monoprints, and penny-weighted floating boats. Turnout exceeded expectations and feedback from parents and staff bolstered both the school’s and the Maker VISTAs’ goal of increasing engagement and building buy-in for maker-centered learning. In addition to this successful event, Crystal and Maria also oversaw extensive making projects during Grass Valley’s “Weeks of Making,” in which the students of two Maker cohorts constructed, decorated, and filled wooden planter boxes and created their own board games.
Maker VISTA Gary Hall facilitated his first parent creativity workshop in which parents were exposed to some of the maker education concepts and components their children experience on a daily basis. At this workshop, parents successfully engineered cardboard chairs while reflecting on what the process of making unlocks in terms of learning, curiosity, and empowerment. Co-VISTA Tobie Irvine has also been forging connections and building relationships at their site, working closely with the external relations coordinator to facilitate and support tours of Lighthouse to potential students and visiting group. Tobie has also been developing and drafting project guides for maker curriculum implemented in the classrooms and Creativity Lab. Both Gary and Tobie have contributed to the flourishing of maker-centered projects across grade levels, including a third grade class’ stomp rockets adventures and a first grade class’ musical morphings of harmonicas out of Popsicle sticks.
This past month, Maker VISTA Sam Erwin focused efforts primarily on an End Of Year donor campaign, starting with Giving Tuesday on November 29th. Sam designed a library of graphics for the Development and Communications teams to utilize in social media promotion, based on research he conducted and compiled around effective branding and strategic individual donor cultivation. Sam also turned his drafting and development eye towards streamlining donation processes and design elements, exploring ways in which widget applications, adjustments and alignments optimize aesthetics and efficiency on websites and in fundraising campaigns. Sam drafted target communications, plotted out a proposed calendar of events and presentation for implementing a focused fundraising initiative, and also investigated ways to maximize click-throughs and minimize stalls in the friend-and-donor cultivation landscape. By balancing his focus between program-specific and organization-wide messaging and marketing, Sam is striving to not only increase efficacy, but weaving finer detail into big-picture goals with the aim of maximizing impact and reach.
In East Palo Alto, Maker VISTA Jenn Torres has been working closely with the Materials Manager and the IT Securities Department in the Ravenswood Makerspace Collaborative to prep and deploy 100 new computers across all seven school makerspaces in the collaborative. Jenn has also been working in tandem with the district Math Coordinator and her supervisor, Nico Janik, to develop a “Making in Math” curriculum that is scheduled to be piloted in early 2017. Co-Maker VISTA Becca Hoskins has simultaneously been working closely with the Ravenswood Tinker Team and a project coordinator at HP on their Hour of Code event, which will take place during the second week of December. This ties-in with Becca’s ongoing initiative towards volunteer training, which has also recently included hosting a volunteer “Maker Mentor” meeting and training volunteers to use Makey Makeys and other maker tools/resources.
Maker VISTAs Hannah Hahn and Dan Mailman are developing curriculum and program components for students and teachers at nearby The Howard School, through the Work-Based Learning Program and city partnerships with arts education organizations. Hannah, Dan and Art 120 at large are focused on increasing exposure to visual arts, creative career options, and strategies for innovative problem-solving and self-expression for high school students in Hamilton County, Chattanooga. Through recent organized explorations at the Wayne-O-Rama art exhibition and the Hunter Museum of American Art, Hannah and Dan have coordinated hands-on opportunities for youth to participate in painting, constructing, observing, and reflecting upon artistic installations. The time spent cultivating and facilitating these creative outlets allow Hannah and Dan to focus their work with teachers in a more informed, impactful, and tailored way. Their plans for 2017 include channeling these young makers’ interests towards engagement in coding projects, welding projects, and other artistic endeavors.
*On Thanksgiving, Art 120’s venue succumbed to a devastating building fire. Hannah and Dan’s efforts towards supporting their community, fundraising for local artist rehabilitation, and re-building the capacity of Art 120 has been both crucial and astounding. Maker Ed is more than ever appreciative for these VISTA members’ service and spirit.
Atlanta-based Maker VISTAs Caitlan Cole and Greg Robbins made significant strides toward scaling their STEAM/making initiatives to reach and include Drew Charter’s middle and high school students. To this end, the Arts+Crafts STEAM Trunk was introduced into circulation among the upper grades, now available to be utilized by 8th grade physical science classes as well as 10th grade history classes. Already, the 8th grade students have used this Arts+Crafts STEAM Trunk to create helmet prototypes out of cardboard, paper and cushioning material. To facilitate the deployment of these carts, Caitlan and Greg have spearheaded inventory-keeping, maintenance, and reservation systems, in addition to developing and preparing three additional STEAM carts that will soon make their debut at the upper campus. As a result of these scaling efforts, Greg and Caitlan are widening their network of interest and support among school teachers and staff, providing both training and support to even more educators in their endeavors to bring making into more classrooms.
Maker Moments is a monthly series that profiles the achievements and capacity-building work of our Maker VISTA team. Check back next month for more momentous moments in making!