Saying Goodbye to Maker VISTA: Looking to the Future!

After five inspiring and challenging years, we will be concluding the Maker VISTA program in Fall 2018. To celebrate the impact of this work, we’ve asked our amazing Maker VISTA members to reflect on their experiences and accomplishments this school year. Each of our VISTA members, working at various partner sites nationwide, came to this program with different perspectives, and focused on different projects—yet they all remain connected by a commitment to service and community. In this post, we share how Anna Milada Grossi and Claire Tiffany-Appleton, VISTA members who recently completed their year serving {respectively} at Lighthouse Community Public School and Lodestar, a Lighthouse sister-school, have been affected by maker-centered learning and capacity-building.  



Maker VISTAs Anna Milada Grossi and Claire Tiffany-Appleton found it difficult to put their year as VISTAs into words, not because of a lack of projects, events, or tasks, but from the challenge of categorizing the relationships they’ve established and the future outcomes of all their work at Lighthouse and Lodestar.

What Haven’t They Done?!

At Lighthouse, Anna led monthly “Creativity Coffee Tuesdays,” in which she introduced making activities to parents, merging creativity and community. She helped implement design processes in different classes, such as portfolios, documentation, and reflections, and she assisted the College Counsellor with finding internships for 11th graders. She created new content for teachers and integrated making projects into their curriculum, and helped with annual course projects, like the Gun Violence Expedition in 7th Grade.

At Lodestar, Claire spent her year supporting the making program at a school only two years in, developing projects and supporting curriculum integration. She started off her year by securing a $25,000 dollar grant through Cognizant, allowing her to partner with the Wonderful Idea Co, a local creative studio, to develop hands-on, interactive exhibits, like stop motion stations, that will live at Lodestar for years to come. She maintained an extraordinary amount of organization and flexibility in a site for the school that was temporary and ever-shifting, and started a mobile makerspace, with independent project kits for students.

Together, Anna and Claire organized attendance at three Maker Faires—helping staff develop and prepare projects, ordering endless supplies, building prototypes, and recruiting student volunteers. They built a “Maker Bar” at Oakland International High School, and maintained and updated the Creativity Lab’s website, newsletter, and Project Guides. While accomplishing all of the above, the impacts of individual tasks were not always clear, beyond just getting them done. But as they reached the end of their year, it’s clear the focus of all these is on capacity.

Looking to the Future

In their last few months of service, Anna and Claire, after learning that the Maker VISTA program would be ending, directed their efforts with a keener eye towards sustainability. Though they continued to tinker and explore the best course to take in setting up their sites to build on top of the newly-developed capacity, they wondered about the challenge at the heart of many makerspaces, schools, libraries, and organizations doing this crucial work: how do we continue to build capacity and sustainability when people and material resources shift, change, or become no longer available?

One way they sought to approach this challenge was by focusing on creating and refining resources like project and event guides for educators looking to integrate making projects into their classrooms or organize their own maker faires. Documenting and designing guides, and then making them accessible to their sites and the wider maker community has been one way to ensure that the momentum gained by having both ladies onsite for a year continues.

Having struggled at first with many transitions within their sites, Anna and Claire were ultimately able to work independently and fully immerse themselves in the sometimes-chaotic flow of both schools. They brought their enthusiasm for making to classrooms with circuit blocks and shadow boxes, hustled for Maker Faire, fixed buggy 3D printers, and most importantly, were able to join a beautiful community in Oakland.



Anna Grossi is the most amazing Maker VISTA I have ever worked closely with at Lighthouse Community Charter School. She is incredibly creative and talented, an independent worker, pro-active and very humble. Her work and support were absolutely invaluable this year for our Making program. She organized the school Maker Faire and led the organization for Lighthouse to attend the East Bay Mini-Maker Faire and the Bay Area Maker Faire. These are no small feats which require amazing amounts of logistics. She was extremely organized and I believe that these were our most smoothly-run and well-organized years at the Maker Faires. I work closely with her everyday and relied on her for so much support this year in middle school Making classes. She is always willing to jump in and help any teacher with a Making project and her help and support always elevated the quality of work.

She personally helped bring Making to our high school PE classes which I had never seen before at our school. She went above and beyond on each and every Making project that she was involved with and was a source of inspiration for me (as the Making teacher) and for our students. Our school took notice of Anna and I am proud to say that she was hired for the high school Making teacher position for next year. This school and our students are very lucky to have her. I cannot imagine this year of teaching Making at Lighthouse without all of Anna’s help and support. She is superstar!”

– Amy Dobras, Making Teacher, Lighthouse Community Public School



Without Claire, we would not have had as much capacity to continue expanding our making program. She did the legwork that allowed our Making, Arts, and Design teachers to roll out projects tied to expedition content. Our teachers were able to focus less on ‘what’—what materials to use, where to procure them, what other examples of work could look like—and more on the ‘how’ of rolling out instruction.”

– Robbie Torney, Assistant Principal, Lodestar – A Lighthouse Community Public School


This blog post is part of a series celebrating the accomplishments of our fifth and final Maker VISTA program season. We hope you enjoy reading them all!





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