Every Child A Maker: New Maker Education Initiative Launches


5.22.12 | This year’s giant Bay Area Maker Faire did not disappoint. There were gyroscope motorcycles, woodblock printing, clocks made out of bicycle frames, and a robotics petting zoo.

But we are most excited about the new Maker Education Initiative that Maker Faire’s Creator Dale Dougherty, co-founder of O’Reilly Media, announced over the weekend. 

The new nonprofit aims to expand on the Young Makers Program, which we reported on here, to help bring hands-on learning experiences—where kids get the opportunities make, build and create—to more students in schools, science centers, museums and afterschool programs all over the country.

“We believe making provides rich, authentic learning experiences,” Dougherty said. “Such experiences promote creativity and develop problem solving skills while helping to establish a lifelong interest in science and technology. Becoming a maker can be life-changing for a child.”

The new initiative comes in response to national efforts, including from the White House, to increase opportunities for students to pursue careers in STEM fields. The project will expand on the Young Makers Program that pairs young people with adult mentors to work on original, hands-on projects at schools or in parent-run garages and workshops.

The Maker Education Initiative plans to “deploy a trained force of mentors and coaches into formal and informal educational settings as well as leverage educational efforts within the maker community,” according to a press release.

The initiative also has plans to expand DIY work in afterschool settings and summer camps and expand on efforts in the Makerspace program. With funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Makerspace is developing online tools and low-cost options for physical workspaces to give high school students the opportunity to get support and practice learning with new technologies. Check out the “Makerspace Playbook”(pdf) and “High School Makerspace Tools & Materials,” (pdf) which offer some guidance to anyone who wants to start a Makerspace in their school or community.

We believe making provides rich, authentic learning experiences.

– Dale Dougherty

The Maker Education Initiative’s new executive director, AnnMarie Thomas, is an engineer. Thomas is known for her work at the University of St. Thomas where she lead a team of students exploring the “playful side of engineering.” Her Squishy Circuits project designed tools and activities to get kids of all ages to create circuits and learn about electronics using Play-doh. (Watch her TED talk here).

Speaking at the Maker Faire over the weekend, Thomas said in designing the new initiative organizers wanted to frame learning very broadly in order to take advantage of the work kids are doing everywhere, not just at schools.

Thomas stressed these are projects kids are doing on their own. “This wasn’t for a class project. It wasn’t for a grade, it wasn’t part of a competition,” she said. “They’re doing it for fun.”

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