This article is a part of series of interview with our partner organizations in the Making Spaces program. Read more Hub Highlights.
Meet Decatur Makers
Decatur Makers is an all-ages non-profit community makerspace with a mission of empowering a community of creatives, builders and learners to support education, economic development and building community.
Our programs include classes and free events open to the public, youth and teacher maker education outreach, and building solutions for our community partners. In our 3,000 square foot space, we have a wood shop, metal shop, computer lab, electronics shop, laser cutter, arts & crafts area, 3D printers and more all under one roof where experts and novices of all ages get hands-on, celebrating and learning from mistakes, to build, innovate, and explore ideas.
As of early 2020 (pre-COVID), our membership had grown to almost 500 paying members and our reach is so much more. Through all of our programs and our many partnerships with organizations in the community, Decatur Makers has positively impacted thousands of people of all-ages in the larger metro-Atlanta area.
Whether you’re a tinkerer, artist, woodworker, engineer, sewer, welder, crafter, scientist, student, teacher, entrepreneur, or general dreamer and thinker, we’ll empower you with new skills through a supportive & diverse community of fellow makers, and inspiring hands-on maker experiences.
What challenges has your organization faced this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? How have you adapted or changed your approach to respond to these challenges?
A community that makes things does it inherently as an in-person experience. And COVID made us move our making virtual, which made maintaining community interaction and connection a challenge. But, makers are problem solvers and our community stepped up in many collaborative ways to support those impacted the most by the pandemic. These included:
- Making and delivering 70,000 PPE to healthcare and frontline workers leading Atlanta Beats COVID (ABC) during the early stages of the pandemic
- Designing and making almost 600 wood desks for kids in need while attending school virtually in the midst of the pandemic
- Building a Little Free Pantry for our landlord and partner, the First Christian Church, to support those suffering with food insecurity
- Kicking off our Making Spaces program virtually to support our local educators who were hit particularly hard during the pandemic.
Why did you originally join the Making Spaces program? Does this support look different than you planned for?
We originally joined the Making Spaces program for pedagogy and assessment support; We had experience with offering teacher professional development workshops but knew Maker Ed’s expertise, tools and resources could help us build a long-term maker-led program that could affect change within traditional educational environments. The support we’re receiving is even deeper than we anticipated! And this includes the community of hubs, both our cohort and the larger Making Spaces group, who continually offer valuable experience and inspiration.
What is one way that participating in Making Spaces has helped you / your organization achieve its goals? What new things have you learned, either about yourself/your personal practice as an educator, or about your organization’s role in learning?
The Making Spaces program has helped our organization build a more defined, intentional, and impactful teacher professional development program. With their tools and resources, as well as additional ideas and strategies from the hub community, we’ve been able to offer structured and effective maker-led learning in ways that were engaging, powerful, and fun. Our sites are seeing successes which validates our longer term goal of continuing our program by adding a second cohort and more going forward.
Tell us about a recent “win” or success you’ve had. This could be small or large. Don’t be shy – this is your time to brag!
Through our relationship with Maker Ed, we learned about a cool opportunity working with NY Hall of Science and GBH Boston to pilot their Maker Squad Design Thinking workshop and app. After giving them initial feedback on their methodology, we were accepted into a partnership with them and hosted workshops in November and December with 8-11 year olds and their families. The National Science Foundation (NSF) grant funded program had us engaging children and their caregivers in the engineering design process outside of the classroom testing their proprietary digital app. The feedback we heard from caregivers was really positive as families not only had the opportunity to be creative and collaborative as they came up with problems they wanted to solve together, but were able to get hands-on making to build their own prototypes.
It was a privilege working with these organizations from across the country, including the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and having the chance to give input on a new and innovative way of teaching Design Thinking. Keep a lookout on the public app stores later in 2022 for the Maker Squad Design Thinking application.
Are there other makers, organizations, and/or educators in your community whose work you’d like to celebrate?
Here are a few:
- Drew Charter School
- Georgia Tech CEISMC
- The New School
- Global Village Project
- DeKalb County Library System
- Renfroe Middle School
Making Spaces is a 30-month professional learning and capacity building program designed to support local leadership around maker education and build the foundation for lasting, embedded change in pedagogy, community, and culture.