We’ve written about STEM education, and its evolution into STEAM as of late (that is, combining science, technology, engineering and math with the arts). These subjects lend themselves to a trending topic called the Maker education movement.
In this article, we’ll answer the question of what the Maker education movement is, and how it can help enhance your child’s education, especially in light of the STEM and STEAM curriculums being advocated for.
What is Maker education, and why does it matter?
Maker education is an offshoot of the popular Maker movement. You may have heard of the Make magazine, or a Maker Faire convention in your city. Other times, the movement can use the term “hacker.” Some can call it age-old DIY-ing, or a modern version of Arts and Crafts. Though, when you look into it, it is usually understood to be much more specific than that.
The concept of ‘making’ things in the Maker education movement can include anything from food to sewing and computers. In this context it is mostly concerned with the science, technology, engineering, math and arts (STEAM) subjects.
Adults and kids alike are learning how to do things like work with microprocessors and use 3D printers. They’re making robotic things, even if that’s wearable computers. Sometimes, these inventions have real-world applications, and sometimes, they’re just for learning how this type of hardware works.
Educators are seeing the maker movement as a way to make the STEAM subjects applicable to the real world and, honestly, to make them more interesting. There is the notion that learning mere theory is just not cutting it for some students.
When you let a child tinker with electronics and get their hands ‘dirty’ (in the figurative sense, though sometimes literal), they can learn a lot better. “Tinkering” is a word used in the Maker movement’s vocabulary. And, it is encouraged as a way to make learning STEAM subjects applicable, and fun.
According to the Wikipedia article linked to above, the following statement also exquisitely describes the theory of Maker education being about the process of active, independent learning:
“In schools, maker education stresses the importance of learner-driven experience, interdisciplinary learning, peer-to-peer teaching, iteration, and the notion of “failing forward,” or the idea that mistake-based learning is crucial to the learning process and eventual success of a project.”
In other words, it’s not so much the end result of what may be produced, but the idea that kids can learn how to teach themselves.
How can Maker education help today’s generation of students?
Perhaps one of the best ways to exemplify the incredible learning that can happen from Maker education is by showing you this video of a young kid who loves ‘hacking’ with his electronics:
You’ll notice that the boy, Quin, not only tinkers with the materials, he can fully explain them to a complete novice. He has a full grasp of how software and hardware relate to each other. And, he can teach it to his peers. Most adults don’t know this stuff (and don’t we know it!).
But, with kids living in a digital age, the application of these materials is ever present and meaningful to their world, and their future. Also, it’s just plain cool.
Another pro you can see in the video above, is collaboration and mentorship among the children themselves, as they are invited to what Quin calls a ‘hackerspace.’ Kids are bonding over their obsession with something related directly to the STEAM subjects.
Suddenly, what may have been mere learning, is turning into doing. By wanting to solve problems that matter to them, kids start to direct their own learning. This means they could outsmart the teacher by what they learn, and certainly most of their parents!
How can I introduce my child to the Maker education movement in Canada today?
Schools, libraries, community centers, and other non and for-profit spaces are popping up to allow for Makerspaces (also called ‘Hackerspaces,’ the term Quin used in the video above). These are basically rooms with equipment needed to get into the practice of the Maker movement.
While not all schools will have Makerspaces, parents can certainly find ways of getting their kids involved in the Maker education movement. This can happen by advocating for the inclusion of these rooms in your local community, or by popping by one of them.
We found some neat resources to help start your search (though this list is by no means comprehensive):
Maker Ed – a non-profit for helping organizations get resources to start a Maker education program locally.
The Makerbus – based in Ontario, this is a Makerspace on a bus that comes to you.
Steamlabs – an organization in Ontario with the aim of giving kids the opportunity to tinker in a Makerspace.
Makerspace for Education website – use this to help get resources to your local school, library or community centre for creating a space. Or, build one in your garage!
Make magazine – an official media source for all things, ‘Maker.’
Maker Faire – attend a convention where you can see and touch the Maker movement, and connect with its community.
Resources for Maker Education (at Edutopia) – a bunch of articles and videos to help educators learn about, and get started with Maker education.
Companies with workshops – as this article states, stores like your local Home Depot may hold workshops to learn how to make things. Though, the article does state that these have commercial interests in mind (i.e. getting you to buy their stuff).
We also found that googling to find a Makerspace can bring up a lot of results that would be more local to your Canadian city. So that would probably be the best way to find one, since so much of the Maker movement involves the physical world!
We hope you enjoy the start of something fun – and educational – with Making!