Andrew Carle is a technology educator at Flint Hill School in Northern Virginia, where he teaches a Maker elective for middle school students. He blogs about maker culture, teaching craft, and pinball at tieandjeans.com
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September 12, 2012, by Andrew Carle
I’m starting the second year of a Maker-inspired elective for 7th and 8th grade students at Flint Hill School in Northern Virginia. When I try to describe the focus of the class, I have trouble finding a clean stopping point. “It’s an exploration of electronics and programming, of new tools to make physical things and old skills learned from communities of craft. And robots. And pinball.”
Most days, we just call it Makers.
Last year, ten 7th graders worked built MintyBoosts, 555 squawkboxes, and developed personal projects; they applied their knowledge of electricity and circuits from 6th grade science and picked up some soldering skills along the way. Our home was a classroom that had two essential features: empty for an hour with good windows for ventilation. Our tools and supplies were pulled from personal collections, augmented by a few strategic purchases from great web retailers (thank you Sparkfun, Adafruit, and Maker Shed!). The best hours overflowed with creativity, laughter and mutual respect, a combination happily common across great hackerspaces and middle school classrooms.
This year, students returned with a full head of steam, ready for new stuff to build, explore and occasionally break. We’re working out of a new space and building new connections to a broader world of makers.
I’m incredibly grateful to my school for supporting the Makers experiment, and providing space and resources inside the school day. It’s not a shop class with a set of enumerated skills for students to master. The overarching goal for students is to simply make something exciting. As an educator, my mandate is significantly easier: make excited kids.