Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Building a Culture of Making at KAS

I started this post a few months ago, November I think, and am now just finishing it. 

The Why - Why start a Maker Space?

I have often wondered what students do when they go home. Especially those who live in a city, where do they go? Are they allowed to wander through the alleys? Do they have access to resources they can use to build? Do they have the time to do it?

Parents want the best for their kids. So, they try to set them up for success by enrolling them in programs the parents think would be beneficial. I look at elementary students here in Taiwan, and many are busy every night of the week. I asked my high school student how their weekend was, and he replied, "I studied all weekend. I have a test coming up and a few projects that will be due."

When did kids lose their time to be bored and find out what they are interested in?

Kids need time and space to do the activities in which they are interested or try activities they have not yet experienced -- giving students a chance to create.


Build Confidence and Self-Efficacy

I want students to figure out how to solve problems independently. In the elementary session in August, I told the students to ask three before asking me: Google, YouTube, a Peer.

One trait I wanted them to develop was self-efficacy. I wanted them to the time and space to geek out and find something they are interested in. It was a good chance for students to take something they were learning in class and build upon it.

I remember some elementary students had been building games in IT Class, and they decided to use their time (because it is their time) to continue developing the game they were making in class. In the Middle School club, one girl asked if she could bring in a kit of some sort and make it in the club, another MS girl made my dog a little scarf.

ES Maker Club
A photo posted by Thomas Hammerlund (@thomashammerlund) on

HS Maker Club
A photo posted by Thomas Hammerlund (@thomashammerlund) on

These are some of the skills/traits I saw:

  • students using design thinking
  • ideation
  • building confidence
  • experience learning by themselves and learning how to look or ask for help
  • making connections
  • making with their hands

What I think I will always remember is how, over the two years, they built friendships and learned from each other.

The Current State (as of last November)

Currently, the elementary and middle school Maker Clubs include the following "options" (so far):
  • 3D printing
  • 3D modeling
  • Coding
  • Minecraft
  • 3D pens
  • LEGO robots
  • and other options I have not considered yet
Really, if students can make it [safely], it is acceptable.

I considered having them show a plan, or express one verbally, but that could hinder the process for some students. Besides, sometimes when you are making something, the project unfolds before you. Yes, it may be better to have a plan, but when you are building, sometimes you start to see something not previously conceived.

While this looks like a "tech" club, the spirit of the club is STEAM projects and student choice. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. Recently some enthusiastic girls asked if they could knit. They were surprised when I told them they could because knitting isn't "technology". While that is true, it is art, and there is a logical thought process that is behind the making of a knitting project. So it is absolutely acceptable.

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