Exhibit at Maker Faire Image via Wikipedia"Rise above oneself and grasp the world." -Archimedes (engraved on the Fields Medal)
Making is making a comeback. A cornucopia of fabrication and tech labs public and private are sprouting throughout the country. Maker Faires
-- sprawling outdoor extravaganzas that combine the atmosphere of a
medieval fair with old low-tech and new high-tech garages -- are
bringing makers of all ages together to share their work and their
learning. These new expressions of "thinkering" bring the wizened
tinkerer and the tech-savvy youth together in playful competitions that
range from the serious and sublime to the deliberately frivolous and
outrageous. Fab labs provide makers with easy access to powerful and
expensive technology tools in a community of like-minded minds.
Making provides opportunities for young people to use their hands and
their minds together. Untold numbers of youth are messing around with
all manner of tools to create, in tangible form, what's on their minds.
Equally important, the maker movement nurtures communities of practice
that bring adults and young people together around common interests.
Thus, to visit the Maker Faire or a community-based fab lab is to see an
aspect of our young people that we seldom witness in schools.
So, why should we care?
Making is a celebration of an alternative and powerful way of knowing
and of thinking things through. Consequently, making is typically
antithetical to what traditional schools are all about. That is why the
communities of practice that come together at Maker Faires and
fabrication labs usually--some would say thankfully--flourish outside of
A few educators, however, are circling these making places to
determine where and how they fit in schools, if at all. Educational
historian Larry Cremin once wryly noted, that educators respond to a new
area of learning by creating a course in it. Recall how schools
responded to technology by creating a course "down the hall at fifth
period" without ever thinking about changing every course because
technology existed. Similarly, educators run the risk of demeaning hand
and mind work by creating separate courses for making rather than
bringing making into all aspects of the school curriculum and thereby
thoroughly reconstituting it.
As Frank Wilson, symposium participant, neurologist, and author of "The
Hand" reminded us, the hand has "a mind of its own," as well as being at
one with our minds. To engage the hand is to engage the mind. Thus,
schools must provide for all students a hand-mind approach to the
essential "academics." The hand-to-mind pathway is a way to engage all
students and deepen their learning, to understand what quality looks
like, and through practice and tinkering to apply discipline-based
skills. Working the mind without the hands, and without a practice
community of adults and young people, produces abstract learners who
have difficulty applying what they know to the world around them. Making
with hands and minds stimulates young people to develop their
imaginative, creative, entrepreneurial, and scientific chops.