Maker Culture at A2 STEAM

Posted by Nathan Hatt on 1/16/2019 3:00:00 PM

The Maker Movement has been described in different contexts and co-opted by a variety of movements, from a vision of a revitalized Arts & Crafts movement, to hacker culture, to counterculture, to a third industrial revolution. According to Kevin Kelly, senior editor of Wired magazine, and founder of the maker-friendly catalog Cool Tools, “The skills for this accelerated era lean toward the agile and decentralized. Therefore tools recommended are aimed at small groups, decentralized communities, the do-it-yourselfer, and the self-educated.” Participants include engineers, hobbyists, tinkerers, and artists of all kinds.

At A2 STEAM, values and activities from the maker movement are present in many places. When students participate in a design as result of learning in a PBL project, they are makers. Students are makers in the STEAM lab with engineering and design challenges, computer programming, and industrial art. Students are makers in art and design. The maker space is a designated area for maker-centered learning to live and thrive.

From an interview on the blog Museum Questions, author and Researcher Edward P. Clapp describes the types of experiences that can happen in a maker space thusly, “Design challenges aren’t the only pedagogical tool… Something that we do is what we call a design hunt: looking at ones environment and identifying design… At a very young age, just tinkering with materials is a big thing, too. We have seen educators alternate between what we call “messing around” and “figuring it out.” Young people mess around with tools and materials in a tinkering way, without an objective, and then work with an objective in mind and try to figure it out. The objective can be anything – design a better garbage truck or make a ball roll down a track and into a bucket, for example… The whole idea of becoming sensitive to design and noticing the designed aspects of the world can help young people surface issues they are interested in addressing or problems they are interested in solving. Problem solving starts with nurturing a sensitivity to design.”

There are many approaches to maker-centered learning that aren’t centered around full-scale projects. Many opportunities arise that are. Our goal at A2 STEAM is to make sure that teachers and students have access and opportunity to the resources that support this kind of learning as needed.

Dr. Liz Gerber, author of the Design Thinking card game Mockups, has, through the course of her work with design instruction at Northwestern University, developed some processes and recommendations for maker learning. One of her recommendations for efficient access is the Maker Cart, a mobile maker resource repository. We are proud to announce that we are now taking Dr. Gerber’s advice and have just finished assembling our own Maker Cart! It currently houses lots of great fabricating materials such as rubber bands, popsicle sticks, markers, glue, fabric, craft paper and many other traditional materials. It also houses a set of electric cardboard cutters and has the capacity to house more sophisticated tools as we continue to develop our vision for this initiative.

Sometimes the only thing getting in the way of a great idea is resources at hand. As it is our mission to ensure that maker values evolve and endure in our programming, the cart will help to make sure that ideas blossom into artifacts.