I recently went to a Maker Space workshop at The Generator in Burlington, Vermont.
My time there, and someone querying me about what a maker space is, got me thinking more deeply about the “Maker Movement”.
My response to the query was that people are now providing structured places for people to create. That is kinda’ sorta’ the truth, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. . .I think.
Many years ago, when I was a child, we made things. My grandparents were talented artisans and makers of many things and they shared their love of creating with us. They created furniture, amazing food, rugs, clothing, flowering plants, play spaces, photographs, carvings, ceramics, knit and crocheted things, and multiple other crafted works of art or functional things.
Growing up in a family that creates meant that you created too. So, always having had the experience of being in a creating family I wonder if this movement is just a new twist on something that’s been around for a very long time. Perhaps our culture has gotten away from making because there has been a greater focus on consuming in recent decades?
One definition of the Maker culture says this: ‘Maker culture’ emphasizes learning-through-doing (constructivism) in a social environment. Maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment.’ (“Maker Culture (chapter in Innovating Pedagogy 2013)”. The Open University. Retrieved 2014-01-09)
That sounds much like growing up with Lydia and Clarence as grandparents. Yet, back in the day we didn’t necessarily think of it as ‘learning-through-doing’, though we were. It was more of a social thing we did that kept us busy and entertained. I’m sure my grandparents, living through the depression and war, valued their ability to ‘make do’ with what they had. When they needed to be creative they were. Did we learn from our creative experiences? Absolutely. The difference is that it wasn’t always done in an organized fashion, gathering the culture together for group creativity. Though of course if you look at barn raisings and quilting bees I would certainly considered them part of an early maker movement.
Now there is a modern twist to this idea of social creating: Maker culture encourages novel applications of technologies, and the exploration of intersections between traditionally separate domains and ways of working including metal-working, calligraphy, film making, and computer programming. Community interaction and knowledge sharing are often mediated through networked technologies, with websites and social media tools forming the basis of knowledge repositories and a central channel for information sharing and exchange of ideas, and focused through social meetings in shared spaces such as hackspaces. Maker culture has attracted the interest of educators concerned about students’ disengagement from STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in formal educational settings. Maker culture is seen as having the potential to contribute to a more participatory approach and create new pathways into topics that will make them more alive and relevant to learners.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maker_culture)
It seems the modern maker movement has upped the ante by including technology as a major component of what it means to be a maker. Of course it would, as these are the creative means of the 21st century.
A part of me continues to wonder if this Maker Space phenomenon is a new name for an old idea that somehow went by the wayside. Remember the days when we used to get together with kids in the neighborhood and play games. On our own. Without them having to be organized by adults? Now it seems that kids don’t play unless they are part of an organized athletic team. I don’t think it’s a good thing that kids play is always directed by adults because then how are they learning to work out their problems? When we never have to solve our own dilemmas we never learn how to solve a dilemma.
Similarly, I wonder if kids are really being creative if all the creative outlets are organized and structured for them. Am I the only one who remembers the joy of watching children figure something out for themselves? Or the seriousness they have when they are creating their own make believe world and living in it? How wonderful is that?
I recall the time my youngest was about five years old and imagined for himself a slew of friends. It took me some time to figure out who he was talking to, but once I realized he had created friends for himself I was intrigued. I mean, imagine the possibilities! One day we were running errands and stopped at McDonald’s for lunch.
When I got out of the truck and was ready to close the door he yelled, “NO! Don’t shut the door yet!”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because all my friends aren’t out yet,” he responded, rolling his eyes as if to say, ‘duh mom’.
“Well, okay,” I conceded while I stood in the parking lot watching him have conversations with numerous friends that only he could see.
After what seemed like forever, I said, “How many friends did you bring with you anyway?”
“Twenty-six,” he replied.
In my mind I was panicking – can you imagine the cost of 26 Happy Meals????
As if reading my mind my creative son replied, “Don’t worry mom, they already ate.”
I could not have structured something so wonderfully creative for him. For whatever reason, these friends were his and his alone. I suspect they filled a need – perhaps a social one, but certainly a creative one.
So, I say, let us go carefully into the 21st century and remember that some things come naturally to humans. . .