As a newcomer to the Maker Ed team and to making in general, I had no idea what to expect from my very first Maker Faire. When I asked my fellow team members to describe what it would be like, they tried to explain, but mostly I was left with the same cryptic answer:
“You just have to go and experience it for yourself.”
Now that Maker Faire has come and gone, I find myself struggling in the same way to describe it, especially as a first-time attendee. There was just so much to see and do and hear and take in––I can see why my colleagues had a hard time putting it into words. But here’s what I will say…
Coming from a background of writing and media production, being at Maker Faire definitely brought out the observer in me. I saw things there that I’d never seen before, and may not ever see again––vehicles and robots of every possible variety, giant fire-breathing sculptures, and much much more. But what I noticed most about Maker Faire was its remarkable energy––an energy that stemmed from a bustling exchange of ideas around the topics of creativity, innovation, and the future. And for me, there was no place at Maker Faire more indicative of that energy than our very own Maker Ed Cafe.
In keeping with the Faire’s forward-looking and pluralistic spirit, the Maker Ed Cafe served as a hub for a diverse set of Faire attendees and speakers to come together and consider the relationship between making and education. A wide variety of topics were discussed: how to bring making into educational settings, how to make making more inclusive, what the maker mindset means for education, and more. As I listened to the speakers share their thoughts on improving children’s learning experiences, I found myself nodding my head in excited approval. Each talk left me feeling more inspired and energized than the last.
Another display of the trademark Maker Faire spirit at the Maker Ed Cafe was our whiteboard, which we set just outside of our tent for passersby to share what they like to make. By the end of the weekend, it was filled with responses every bit as diverse as the Maker Faire attendees themselves––robots, readers, feta, music, art, films, makers, gingerbread, elvish crowns, and more.
That whiteboard––and the unique and clever responses written upon it––more than anything else, embodied my Maker Faire experience. Both reflected a wide variety of viewpoints. Both were brimming with energy, curiosity, and creativity. And both left me feeling inspired.