Learning in the Making: Live! invites guest hosts of color on as equal and valued partners and collaborators, so that they can tell their stories and showcase the amazing things they are making and doing! This is because youth of color deserve to see engineers, scientists, mathematicians, artists, creators, and makers of color! In this series, we interview our guest hosts to learn a little bit more about them.
Maker Ed: Tell us a bit more about yourself.
Bárbara: My name is Bárbara. I am from Mexicali, Baja California, a Mexican border city next to the U.S. The border life is pretty special and different from the rest of Mexico. There is a strong cultural symbiosis, unique social issues like migration flow, shared economical development, education, accessibility, people crossing all the time — I feel this binational experience throughout my life has shaped my identity and work and has given me a more global perspective, open mind, and incredible learning experiences.
Related to making, I think making is a key component of the Mexican culture. As a third world country, I think creativity is in our mindset and in a lot of situations making is a way of creating solutions to emerging problems and carrying on. Having limited access to materials, tools, experiences, and resources requires a resilient approach to adapt to the situation and resources you have in hand to come up with solutions that will eventually lead to innovation.
Since I was very young, making has been an essential part of my mindset, but I don’t remember referring to it as “making” — it was just a natural activity. Later on, I fell in love with the Industrial Design career, the main goal of which is to improve life quality by creating new solutions to real problems. I became a designer by profession and an educator who loves learning new things and sharing alongside passionate partners. These paths led me to combine both of my passions and I started designing learning materials to help people get better by learning in engaging ways.
I am currently the Creative Director of El Garage Project Hub, a creative space where I lead and design STEAM and maker educational programs with the aim to create a positive impact in the community in collaboration with the public, private or academic sector. Each program is very unique according to the context’s particular needs. Besides work — I love art, cats, and swimming!
Maker Ed: What excites you most about your work?
Bárbara: Making connections! Making has been a discovery journey for me. Some years ago I started questioning myself: what about my work or projects do I enjoy? Why do I do what I do? And then the aha! moment came: I love discovering and making connections between anything! Science, art, technology, human perception, and emotions in playful and surprising ways. Also, the opportunity to learn from different people and backgrounds and collaborate with them.
Maker Ed: Why do you make? What excites you most about your work in making and design?
Bárbara: Since I was young, I have always been surrounded by a maker environment. Both of my parents are architects and my grandma is an artist and a super maker! They have always been my inspiration and I have always enjoyed being around them making, learning, and exploring new things. Somehow, making and sharing with passionate peers really inspires me and fuels my imagination.
I am always looking forward to making gifts or details for the people I love. Giving people something unique and special has always been my main motivator while making. Over the years, this feeling remains the same but evolved to work and more complex stuff: learning materials, art, design projects, objects, products, programs, teaching… always thinking of the people that will experience the end result.
I can also think of this phrase that resonates with what I do: Making is caring. When you put your time and energy and focus on something, it’s because you care about it — a personal project, a dish, a gift, teamwork, a classroom — it can relate to anything. At the end making is a way of caring and being present.
Maker Ed: What dreams do you have for young people?
Bárbara: That everybody sees themselves as change makers and creatives. No matter where you were born, raised or the situations you have gone through — those experiences make you stronger and you have the power to transform them and create a positive change, you matter and the world needs you! A great first step is knowing yourself better, discovering your superpower and how you can share it to the world and be mindful of your actions. Celebrate your uniqueness, identity and diversity! Making (in any form) is a great tool for that.
Maker Ed: If you could share one word of advice to give to other educators, what would it be?
Bárbara: Making is not about having extraordinary skills, expensive tools, or something that is out of reach. I think a great start for educators to weave making into their practice is to start by bringing their passions, hobbies or activities they feel comfortable around into their classrooms. Just start involving things that you enjoy: everyone has something to share and bring into the classroom!
Last but not least, as educators we have the responsibility to make our classroom a very welcoming place for students from all kinds of learning styles, intelligences, interests, and cultures. If we think, “How would I like to be treated?”, and bring that into the classroom to welcome all these diverse personalities, a lot of things would change in a positive way. If you have 30 students and you create this welcoming environment, then you have 30 unique stories and ways to solve problems and that’s very enriching!
Are there other makers and/or educators in your community whose work you’d like to promote?
Totally! I really admire the work of my creative team: Xcarett Sánchez and Joana Sevilla. Designers, makers, and educators who put their hearts in everything that they do. They always come up with really meaningful creative solutions to support all kinds of learners in very surprising ways.
Also the work of Chao Chato — a designer and illustrator who creates surprising experiences and designs that highlight social awareness and always involves community along his work.
And I would like to highlight the work of the public middle school Secundaria General No. 10 “Octavio Paz” in a vulnerable area of Mexicali, Baja California. Despite the lack of resources and social issues they face, I truly admire their teachers, community awareness, and creative solutions to create engaging learning experiences by working with what is available and inspiring their students to dream big!