Are you curious about the maker movement? Are Maker Faires something that stir-up immediate anxiety?
Well, read on.
I was curious, yet absurdly apprehensive about the whole maker movement just a few weeks ago…
That brings me to this past week. I helped organize a mini Maker Faire with my lovely cohort as part of the Master’s of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University.
What is a Maker Faire? Good Question.
If you’re sitting there asking yourself, “What the WHAT is a Maker Faire?” worry not! Most of my cohort, including myself, were also wondering this question… and we only had a week to put this thing together! To get a little insight as to what the maker movement is all about, I would suggest viewing the talk “Why We Make” by Adam Savage, yes, of Mythbusters fame.
It’s GO TIME!
To prepare for the faire, the eight of us split into four groups of two. My partner and I decided to create a booth where participants could make a paper circuit with a LED light on the back of a name tag, which they could decorate. If you are interested in seeing the full plan of our booth and detailed instructions, you may view a PDF file here.
Overall, I believe the Greater Lansing Mini-Maker Faire, #GLMakers on Twitter, went well, including our booth! Two groups, including my own, had booths which involved circuits. The other two groups involved different types of building challenges, using objects including items such as paper, tape, spaghetti, and marshmallows.
Our booth set out with a few different objectives, including:
- Broad Objective: Participants will become inspired through their experience and generate thoughts towards circuitry/science.
- Learning Objectives: Participants will understand how a circuit works, or more loosely how the parts of the circuit interact with each other: The copper tape as a conductor, the battery as energy, and the LED light, with its positive and negative charges.
- Making Objectives: Participants will be able to create circuits by using a limited amount of supplies. Within the Star booth, participants will be able to create name tags using materials provided.
- This reflects the do-it-yourself, or DIY, aspects of the maker movement: With limited help and instructions, makers at the booth will have to rely on each other to help complete the project. Although we were there to help, participants should be mostly self-reliant in terms of constructing their circuits with aid from visual examples and peers.
As an incentive for our younger participants, we provided guests with a card they could get stamped at each station, like a Maker Faire passport, and they could return it at the end of their visit for a reward. This incentive wound up being quite popular with many of our younger guests. I would definitely recommend some type of incentive for participants to visit as many booths as possible.
Tips When Planning a (Mini) Maker Faire
- Pay attention to advertising your event!
- Get the word out as soon as possible and as effectively as you can! I would say a general flyer/website with basic information should begin circulating as soon as you know the date, time, and location of the faire. We only had a week to plan, so the more time you have, the easier it can be.
- Use social media to your advantage.
- Use your personal learning network to your advantage with help spreading the word.
- Reach out to get volunteers for the event, and provide each volunteer with a clear role before the event.
- Have multiple modes of presenting information, especially step-by-step help for participants requiring more guidance. I made a step-by-step Slides presentation you can view in my Maker Faire Plan.
- Be sure you are a master at your specific booth activity. It is difficult to help participants if you are confused yourself!
- Have an incentive for participants to stick around and visit as many stations/booths as possible.
- Seek out help online and through individuals you may know with experiences with the maker movement.
The Maker Movement and Education
Through learning about the maker movement, as well as planning/participating in a Maker Faire, I learned about how the maker movement and its core principles can be incorporated into education, kindergarten through high school and beyond.
First off, the maker movement clearly can be connected to not only the TPACK (Technological Pedagogy and Content Knowledge) model but also more broadly to a constructivist approach to education. Constructivism suggests individuals create their own knowledge through experience (Chen & Lui, 2010). This is reflected in maker spaces as participants are often forced to learn through hands-on trial and error.
For example, at our booth, participants were building a paper circuit with their own hands, and with limited help available, minus that of their peers. Participants would build a circuit, try their light, and if it didn’t work, try again. Through this sequence of events, participants are forced to reflect on their learning in order to alter their products to make a working circuit.
As I reflected on the question of how maker kits could be used in my 7th grade ELA class, my mind raced toward informational writing. Groups could play and create tiny technologies out of the kits. Then groups could create a set of instructions on how to build their design, and trade it with another group. Not only would this meet ELA CCSS, but students would also be doing some cross-curricular work in the process.
I think that through this process, students would fail at many points, but it would lead to questioning the approaches they’re taking with the problem at hand. They will then likely test out many of the different scenarios or solutions that come to mind. This would be an example of taking their questions and turning them into action.
This was a mindset and thought process discussed at length throughout A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger (2016), often referred to as the Why/What If/How sequence. By reframing our questions and our approach to them in a way that leads to productive action, if not a solution, leads the questioner down a path of inquiry. We already know that as the world becomes increasingly complex, the value of asking good questions will increase (Werner, 2016). With this in mind, it’s difficult to reject the assertion that the maker movement provides its participants with the necessary skills to tackle the world of tomorrow.
I hope you consider the benefits of embracing the maker movement, inside of your classroom or out. If nothing else, I would recommend you attend a Maker Faire or maker space near you! Trust me when I say that seeing your own maker potential is not only a ton of fun but also brings you a sense of playful pride.
Berger, W. (2016). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.
Chen, C. & Lui, C.C. (2010). Evolution of Constructivism. Contemporary Issues in Education Research (April 2010), pp. 62-66. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1072608.pdf.
All images belong to Guadalupe Bryan unless otherwise stated.