10 Years of Learning: A Maker Ed Reflection

This post is to the community of dreamers, visionaries, and educators committed to using making as a liberatory practice in education. It’s for the people we have worked with to ensure that all youth, but especially BIPOC, LGTBQIA+, disabled, and undocumented youth have learning spaces that are rooted in community and collaboration, encourage agency, and center youth as collaborators in the learning process. This post is for everyone we’ve dreamed and learned alongside for 10 years.

In my five years as Executive Director of Maker Ed, I have worked with passionate, committed people who envision a system of education in the United States that prioritizes the support and holistic development of both educators and learners. It is hard to share with you that Maker Ed is closing our beloved studio and closing out all current educational services.

The reasons that have led to these closures are complex and varied, and while I find it difficult to identify a single overriding factor that set us on this course, there are a few things I can share. For two and a half years we’ve worked in isolation lacking the physical community our beautiful space provided. Our funding streams have shifted, and building new relationships in a time of global unrest and unfocus required more time and capacity than we had. I also know the past two and a half years have propelled our team forward with clarity and conviction that a different way of teaching and learning is possible. I am proud of the ways that we grew and changed while working in solidarity with the movement for racial justice. All of this has happened during a global pandemic that has changed the very world and context in which we work.

I’ve led Maker Ed with a commitment to being a values-based organization. We created these values as a team, through a collaborative process.

  • We center curiosity and take risks in all aspects of our work and embrace failure as a way to prioritize collective learning.
  • We center joy and affirmation to witness each other’s success and be seen in ours.
  • We discern and honor the relationship between capacity, interdependence, and agency to contribute to individual and collective wellness.
  • We adapt processes to remove accessibility barriers.

We begin meetings with them, and they are commitments we make to ourselves and each other. These values shape our work and interactions in meaningful and impactful ways. These values guide me and ground me in decisions that are hard. Like laying off our incredible team.  Like calling our funders to let them know this version of Maker Ed is ending.  Like asking the team to share the news with educators and partners they have worked so hard to serve.  Like talking to dozens of people who have asked “how can we help”.  Or assuring like-minded organizations that our approach to learning is not going away and has never been more important.  Change is inevitable and sadly sometimes things come to an end.  With risk comes failure and for me it is big, public and scary.  So, as I hold the knowledge that this iteration of Maker Ed is not sustainable, I will reflect to bring meaning to the decisions I made, acknowledge circumstances outside of my control, and learn from those things I might have done differently.

I am also holding very closely our norms of joy, affirmation, and witnessing each others’ successes. I am truly proud of all that we have accomplished over the past decade. We have spent years supporting educators to develop hands-on, minds-on, learner-driven curricula that centers students in the making process and builds critical skills including curiosity, collaboration, and creativity. Our work has empowered educators to create learning environments that are more accessible and equitable for the most marginalized learners in communities across the country. Our professional development workshops, resource library and networks have provided roadmaps for how maker-centered learning can be a tool to disrupt traditional methods of teaching and learning. Our fantastic team of facilitators has integrated culturally relevant practices which empower teachers to shift their instruction in a way that not only transforms the classroom but the lives of the students they teach. We’ve worked with almost 50,000 educators and reached millions of learners across the country. See our 10 year impact in detail.

There is a movement in education to do the work of equity and justice and to actually deliver a just and thriving society. This is a moment to deepen our collective interdependence and support each other. The ways that educators have shown up ready to take this stance has kept us going. YOU ARE AMAZING AND POWERFUL AND WE LOVE YOU. We would like to thank all of the educators in our network for their partnership and commitment. We share a vision of education that is so joyful, just, and creative that it is irresistible. We see you, we appreciate you, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be in service to you. Losing this version of Maker Ed is sudden, sad, and hard. I know that we are a part of a powerful lineage of movement work and a professional network that will continue on. We want to make sure you know about and follow these organizations:

The Board of Directors of Maker Ed will be working to reimagine and rebuild a new Maker Ed in the coming months. However the board moves in this next chapter, we trust that our community will be watching and ready to dig right back in.

Finally, I just want to offer so much gratitude to the Maker Ed team. We are a remarkable group of people that has contributed to the nimble, fun, provoking, and powerfully liberatory work that Maker Ed has produced in recent years. You are all the most brilliant, caring, intentional and thoughtful humans.  The ways we have been able to celebrate and grieve these past few weeks have been such a balm. I wish you all the best in your professional and personal lives, and am honored to have shared this experience with each of you. Our passion and dedication does not stop here, I look forward to seeing what this new chapter will bring for all of us.




2 responses to “10 Years of Learning: A Maker Ed Reflection”

  1. James Simpson Avatar

    We are so grateful for the content and inspiration you provided! Just 3 days ago I sent some of your project ideas to a teacher who has never done any making in her 3rd grade class and is excited to start this year.

    The years starting in 2020 have been TOUGH. In some cases the teachers with the best educational values have been challenged the most, and were massively dis-empowered. Leaders have been blindsided, and the lingering fog of the pandemic obscures the vision of everyone.

    I’ll be looking forward to news of how members the MakerEd team move forward. After semesters of online updates from every educator I know that often aren’t very exciting or promising, I hold steadfast eagerness in staying updated, so that when great things are made I can bring them speedily to my students and community.

    p.s. I hope your content will continue to be hosted as well, if you need help with that feel free to reach out.

  2. Dr. Ricardo Elizalde Avatar

    This makes me so sad. I was just building resources for our visioning in SFUSD Digital Learning and will include some of your resources that I have reached for many times in the past, specifically the Open Portfolio Project. The wealth of expertise and thoughtful design has been and will continue to be a north star in my practice. Best of Luck to all of you, and if I can help, let me know.

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