On Monday, August 11th, with the generous support of The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Google’s Bay Area Impact Challenge, the Maker Education Initiative (Maker Ed) presented a making workshop for 40 middle and high-school educators from across the nation as part of USPTO’s National Summer Teacher Institute on Innovation, STEM, and Intellectual Property in Santa Clara, CA.
After spending more than an hour at the workshop, the educators –– some of whom had never heard of the maker movement until that very morning –– didn’t want to leave for their lunch break. They were so engrossed in building artbots (robots that are art and/or make art, in this case created with small vibrating motors, coin cell batteries, and various office and craft supplies) that they lingered at our workshop, trying to put the finishing touches on their creations when they should have been heading to their break.
When they did finally leave for lunch, their energy was palpable –– they chatted excitedly about their projects, explaining what they had made with one another and discussing ways to incorporate artbot and similar open-ended explorations into their classrooms.
Earlier that morning during a panel discussion, these same educators heard stories about the potential that making had to engage students in their own learning. Making in education turned kids who weren’t excited about summer school into kids who couldn’t wait to go to class everyday. Making in education turned kids who were frequently sent to the principal’s office into kids who created unbelievable projects and did well in class. Making in education even forced one teacher to set limits on kids spending their recess and lunch time in the classroom. They just didn’t want to stop learning.
And even though they had heard all of these stories in the morning, it was clear that many of the educators only truly understood their meaning once they had the chance to try it out themselves. During the workshop, one educator figured out how to make her artbot move after tinkering with it for some time, and exclaimed, while pumping her arms into the air, “Yes! It works!” Others made incredibly creative artbots that we had never seen before –– intricate structures with multiple propellers, a colorful giant bumblebee, and some tiny reindeer and moose. They did all of this by being encouraged to collaborate and learn primarily from one another, while still being offered support, if needed (it very seldom was). Like the kids in the stories from the morning discussion, these educators were thrilled to be exploring, and thrilled to be learning.
By experiencing first-hand how fun, infectious, and instructive making can be, these teachers recognized its educational power and potential. After having the chance to play with new materials at this workshop, many of the educators who did not self-identify as makers prior to the workshop learned to recognize their own existing classroom activities and hobbies as forms of making, opening up new educational possibilities.
In fact, the educators commented that this workshop inspired them to bring more opportunities to tinker and play in their classroom, and Maker Ed provided them with the materials to begin doing so. At the end of the workshop, each educator received their very own Possibility Box –– filled with making materials like MaKey MaKeys, mini vibrating motors, LEDs, Maker’s notebooks, and various art & craft supplies of their choosing –– to jump-start their own exploring, playing, and making in their schools.
With their enthusiasm for exploring, playing and learning, and with the materials in their Possibility Boxes, we strongly believe that these educators will make engaged, confident, creative, compassionate, and intelligent students.
Maker Ed is a project of the Tides Center, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit public charity. Maker Ed’s mission is to create more opportunities for all young people to develop confidence, creativity, and spark an interest in science, technology, engineering, math, the arts, and learning as a whole through making. Maker Ed plays a national leadership role in developing a maker network of educators, youth serving organizations, statewide afterschool networks, corporations, foundations, and makers seeking to accelerate and deepen the maker movement.
We are honored to be a finalist in Google’s Bay Area Impact Challenge, and we look forward to sharing more work made possible by this funding.