Maker Ed is excited to share this piece from Elizabeth Espinoza, a Technology Integrator at San Francisco Friends School, and the primary author of our brand new Maker Educator Meetup Playbook. We hope that her words inspire you to get involved in a maker educator meetup in your community, or to use the Playbook as a guide to start one!
What’s all the buzz about maker education? Design thinking, project-based learning, and failing forward sounded intriguing and exciting, but how does one get started? As a technology integrator, I was feeling heavy encouragement to integrate making into our K-8 district. It sounded super fun and engaging. I had a lot of questions, though: What supplies would we need? What type of budget should we prepare for? What projects do we start with? How will teachers get the support and training they need? I started attending a few educator workshops about makerspaces and pedagogy to discover the new ideas, perspectives, and possibilities that a maker-centered environment can provide. I recall Sylvia Martinez’s words of inspiration to “jump in and start making; the kids will teach you what you don’t know.” That made sense to me, but I needed a more sustainable model if I were going to collaborate with teachers to do the same.
Early in my research and education to learn more, I attended a two-day workshop about Designing Making Experiences at Lighthouse’s Creativity Lab with my coworkers, and two parents interested in bringing making experiences to our district. This workshop inspired the design of two mobile maker carts and user-friendly design challenges for our two school district. Not long after the workshop, I was contacted by Angi Chau and Aaron Vanderwerff, two of the workshop’s facilitators, about a brainstorming session they were planning. Their hope was to gather a group of maker educators to define our community needs beyond informal conversations, and provide a consistent opportunity for this community to gather, meet, make and share. Thus, the Bay Area maker educator meetup (MEM) was born.
MEMs have been instrumental for me as I develop strategies to integrate design experiences with students and teachers. They provide an opportunity to try new things, to brainstorm with others about best pedagogical practices, and to put myself in the shoes of a learner, a maker, and a collaborator. In the spirit of making, Bay Area MEMs go through their own iterations, which makes it that much more exciting. Regardless of any redesigns to the format of each MEM, our focus stays true to our founding goals to support all types of schools and to provide an evolving supportive community. We are truly fortunate to have so many innovative partners that have supported maker educators, including the incredible tinkerers at the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium.
Maker Educator Meetups provide a welcoming environment to share successes, to get feedback on upcoming projects, to troubleshoot ongoing issues, and to mingle outside of our respective organizations. I hope that you find this Maker Educator Meetup Playbook helpful in creating and building your own supportive maker community. As Sylvia says: just jump in and start. There is support out there for you, especially if you create this safe space to learn, share and explore with one another. Life is better with more makers and innovators working together.