People have been creating, building and sharing since the dawn of human evolution. Digital technologies have transformed the “do-it-yourself” world (along with just about everything else humans do). Add a dash of the connective power of social media to the mix and you ignite the phenomenal (and global) spread of maker culture. Dale Dougherty, founder of the Maker Faire (the greatest show and tell on earth according to the website), dubbed this revolution the “Maker Movement“.

"Kids taking things apart at Wrecklab" [CC BY-NC 2.0] by Les Orchard on Flickr

Kids taking things apart at Wrecklab!” [CC BY-NC 2.0] by Les Orchard on Flickr

How does the Maker Movement work?

“Passionate makers find other passionate makers, they share, collaborate, create, and thrive. They come together in online and realspace communities, and big events, and show off what they’re doing” (Denmead, 2013, para. 6)

If you’re still a little hazy on what the maker movement is all about, this video briefly introduces the concept and its potential effects on human culture and community.

If you have 16 minutes to spare, here is a slightly longer introduction, featuring Dale Dougherty himself.

Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) comments on “Maker Faire“, now in its eighth year, in this video report.

Inspiration for the Maker Movement in Schools

“Parents and teachers, do you see how central “play” is in all this? This is not rocket science. It’s better and more advanced. It’s childlike. It’s tinkering, messing around with physical and digital tools and media, creative problem-solving that’s both individual and collaborative, trial and error. It comes naturally to children […] and the social messing around is part of a progression that researchers call “hanging out, messing around and geeking out” (Collier, 2013, para. 5)

This post on Shabbi Luthra‘s Paradigm Shift blog, “Making and Tinkering in Schools“, provides a comprehensive background on the maker movement in education and includes useful links to videos and websites that you can use to share the concept with your teaching colleagues.

Screen capture of the Paradigm Shift blog header.

Screen capture of the Paradigm Shift blog header.

Vicki Davis (aka Cool Cat Teacher) offers a teacher librarian’s perspective on the maker movement and “Invent to Learn“, the most recent publication from inventive maker team Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, in this post on her Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Kids Doing it for Themselves

Check out: Caine’s Arcade

For me, meeting (via YouTube) the resourceful, inventive, nine-year-old Caine in his father’s hardware shop in East Los Angeles was a first awakening to the value and appeal of the maker movement and its power to engage the community. It’s time you met Caine yourself, if you haven’t already:

This second video documents how the first inspired the Global Cardboard Challenge, “a worldwide celebration of child creativity and the role communities can play in fostering it.”

Come on Down: Super Awesome Sylvia!

She’s 12 (currently), she’s super smart, super entertaining and yes, she’s definitely awesome. Check out Sylvia’s website and her Demo Reel (below) of the podcast videos which have been hot YouTube favourites of mine ever since her maker dad, “TechNinja”, started helping her share them to help more kids make cool stuff:

Witness: Joey Hudy & his Extreme Marshmallow Cannon

Gary Stager explains that “young people have a remarkable capacity for intensity, that often manifests itself as boredom or bad behaviour”. Seymour Papert, widely known as “the father of educational computing” (and the subject of Stager’s Ph D thesis), during a late 1980’s conversation with Paolo Friere, famously said:

“When you go to school, the trauma is that you must stop learning and you must now accept being taught” (Source: The Daily Papert, 2011) 

Joey Hudy is a Maker Faire veteran and, by Stager’s admission, does not habitually exhibit [ahem] the socially conformist behaviour typically accepted in traditional classrooms. You might understand why Joey has not easily engaged himself in schooling when you witness what he’s capable of independently learning and doing in his early teens:

"White House Science Fair" [CC BY-NC 2.0] by NASA HQ PHOTO on Flickr

White House Science Fair (201202070002HQ)” [CC BY-NC 2.0] by NASA HQ PHOTO on Flickr

Reflecting on a long career…

All this talk of “making stuff” makes me wistful about my earliest years in the teaching profession, when syllabus and curriculum took a back seat to the interests and passions of students and teachers (even in Year 7!); when we could happily devote an entire school term to staging a school musical and ditch the formal maths lessons in favour of costume measurements, balancing production budgets and the geometry of set construction.

Today’s crowded curriculum makes teachers fearful of such seemingly haphazard deviation. To paraphrase one of Gary Stager’s more challenging (and cheeky) ideas: What is curriculum anyway, but the stuff that a bunch of men in blue shirts decide you should teach? As an experienced teacher pining for those good ol’ days, I’m willing to take the plunge and use curriculum to track my students’ learning rather than prescribe it for them…

For more resources and tips for getting started with a maker movement at your school, no matter how small, take a look at the Maker Space resource page on this blog.


How do we encourage (even, allow) children like Joey, Sylvia and Caine to remain engaged and interested in schooled learning?

What do you think ‘maker culture’ can offer your classroom?


Featured image:Sharkmobile at Maker Faire 2009” [CC BY-SA 2.0] by P D Tillman via Wikimedia Commons

Collier, A. (2013). Making the future: Why we need to help kids makes stuff. NetFamilyNews.org : Tech Intelligence for Parents.

Denmead, K. (2013). Why the maker movement is here to stay. Make Magazine [weblog].

Martinez, S. L. & Stager, G. (2013). About the Book. Invent to learn: Making, tinkering and engineering in the classroom [website].


2 thoughts on “Feeding the Maker Frenzy

  1. Being at an all girls school, we are highly aware of the need for girls to have time to ‘make stuff’ hence our “Engineers Club” who meet with me each Tuesday at lunchtime to make stuff. We use all sorts of interesting construction stuff from junk to lego. Sometimes we have a challenge, for example “Using a paper cup, some straws and 1 sheet of paper to make the tallest tower you can”. Other times it is free construction but always at the end of the session we debrief, discuss skills, problems and challenges. It is great fun, the girls love it and there is always a waiting list to join! NExt terms we are undertaking a bridge building challenge from the EngQuest Website
    You might like to have a look!

  2. LOVE a girls’ engineers club, Cathy, this is great. The bridge building and other activities sound like wonderful maker experiences. It was interesting on our “invent to Learn” day, which I’ll post about very soon, all the women gathered at the soft circuits table to sew things. The men gravitated to the robotics and micro processor tables! This trend only occurred to us half way through the day when the presenters pointed it out. Perhaps your girls will have more diverse interests than we displayed, in their future…?

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