I just finished watching Yumi Lee’s amazing TED Talk on “being a maker.” Unlike many other TED Talks, this one is done by an elementary school student, that shared the stage on that same day with educators, administrators, and numerous other professionals. She has a powerful voice with an important message.
This weekend, I’m organizing our full school Maker Day for June 28th. While I stand behind the Maker Movement, I have to wonder if we really need Maker Spaces, or instead, classrooms that embrace the Maker philosophy.
Last month, I attended EdCamp Mississauga (#edcamp905), and I participated in a session on Maker Spaces. I listened to and saw examples of many incredible things that are happening in classrooms across the 905 area code, but I believe in the words that I shared on that day: a play-based Kindergarten program is a classroom Maker Space.
- We don’t need a separate Maker Space area.
- We don’t necessarily need technology. (In fact, on our Maker Day on Tuesday, all classroom iPads will have been returned for the summer, and all of our Maker stations are low-tech ones.)
- We don’t need “making” to exist outside of the curriculum.
Instead, I think that we need to develop a Maker culture in classrooms. We need to encourage thinking, problem solving, creating, and a real world application of learning. I think about the examples that Yumi shared in her TED Talk: from the baking she did as a three-year-old to her drawing blog to the songs and drama created in the shows with her parents and siblings to the creation of her current business — Yumi’s Dozen. Then I think about what happens in our Kindergarten classroom every day thanks to the benefits of play.
- We have baking and cooking.
- We have building and creating.
- We have drawing, painting, cutting, and gluing: creative work that all looks different and is driven by student interests and desires.
- We have dancing and song writing.
- We have puppet plays and dance shows.
- And we have students that ensure that all of this work is captured — in photographs and videos — and shared on our class blog, so that they have a real audience for their work.
During these regular, every day making times, we teach.
- We work with individuals and small groups.
- We run mini-lessons.
- We provide direct instruction.
Thinking about what Yumi said as she discusses the creation of her business and her various Maker experiences, I realize how many curriculum connections there are to making.
- Math – Number Sense, Measurement, and Data Management
- Language – Reading, Writing, Oral Language, and Media Literacy
- Science – The Safe Use Of Tools, Matter and Materials, and Scientific Inquiry
- The Arts: Music, Drama, Dance, and Visual Arts
- Social Skills and Learning Skills
Maybe it’s the Maker Days that get this movement started in schools, but I have to wonder if “making” should be confined to a space or a day. If we see the value in this learning — at making curriculum expectations so much more meaningful than a checklist of what we’ve accomplished — then maybe all grades (at least to some extent) can become these Maker Spaces that are so prevalent in play-based Kindergarten classrooms across our province. Yumi has amazing parents that encouraged this creativity at home. What if we could provide it at school? Would all students have the confidence to live by Yumi’s mantra: “Be weird. Be different. Be awesome like me.”? Imagine what this could mean for content delivery and application of learning. So many incredible possibilities …