[Editor’s Note] We’re thrilled to announce that Kyle Cornforth has joined Maker Ed as our new Executive Director. She comes to us from the Edible Schoolyard Project, where for two decades she has worked with teachers from all over the world to shift their educational practices and approach. Kyle is excited to join the maker movement, and is looking forward to working with everyone here at Maker Ed to support educators, administrators, and communities in the best possible way.
We are excited to have Kyle on our team and we hope you’ll join us in welcoming her to the maker community! Read on to learn more about Kyle and her approach towards educational transformation.
This is such an exciting time for me; I am so happy to have joined the Maker Ed team! I’m a native Californian who has lived in Oakland and Berkeley since 2000. I moved to Berkeley for a year of service with Americorps at the Edible Schoolyard Project (ESYP) at King Middle School in Berkeley, California, and ended up building a career there in food justice, community collaboration, and organizational development. I’m thrilled I have the opportunity to work with the incredible team and board at Maker Ed!
At the Edible Schoolyard Project, we worked hard to move school curriculum towards hands-on learning through nutrition and food education in a contextual environment. Making is 100% embedded in the work and mission there, and I built a national training program for educators to teach the pedagogy and practice of Edible Education. The thing I am most proud of is how I’ve taught teachers from all over the world how to collaborate better with their students. It is my belief that a big part of teaching is figuring out how to get out of the way of student learning, how to foster agency, and support students in taking risks.
While my work has been focused on food system reform in education, I first became aware of the maker movement in 2013, when ESYP was building an open source platform to support the growth of edible education and I was overseeing the project. It was through this work that I became excited about how the maker movement was utilizing similar tactics for education reform as the food movement, but how makerspaces have a clearer justification for college and career readiness, particularly for those historically marginalized by the education system. I firmly believe that schools need to provide space for students to develop a growth mindset that embodies playfulness, passion, creativity, and collaboration, and embraces failure as an integral part of learning and success. If we aren’t able to do that for this generation, our educational institutions are sending our future backwards.
What interested me in the Executive Director role at Maker Ed is the way the organization is poised to really impact teacher practice. In all my years working with schools, I am still trying to get at the core of what we are trying to accomplish with education. When a human walks across the graduation stage in June, what do we as a society hope that person can do? How do they think? What do they care about? What are they going to contribute to the world? The values of making: creativity, failure, invention, collaboration, problem solving, these are all skills that are not yet at the forefront of our educational experiences. As the world changes around us, I want to see adaptive and collaborative skills prioritized over content, and I want to see lessons that prioritize being present, and that connect with the human elements of thinking and learning.
In supporting schools and community organizations, one of the perennial issues is that grown-ups have a hard time working together. We aren’t modeling the skills of making in our own work as teachers and as colleagues, and that is another thing that drew me to Maker Ed: the potential that we could embody the ethos of making into our work culture and model the way it can support innovation and growth. Maker education has the power to transform the schooling experience, not only for students, but for teachers and administrators as well.
I led the team at ESYP with a laser focus on social justice in all aspects of our work, from hiring practices, training protocols, and policies, to organizational culture. This led to greater diversity, not only in our staff, but also in our training programs. I believe that with work that involves systemic change, we as practitioners need to be engaged in fierce examination of all the systemic issues that impact our work. This means exploring power and privilege as a team and a movement, and ensuring representation along with deep, direct, courageous conversations. I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and continue this important work with Maker Ed!