Taking inspiration from the global Maker Movement, CAC middle school hosted its 3rd Maker Day on September 22nd. Originating in the US, the Maker Movement is focused around developing fundamental practical skills that people have come to view as unnecessary in a world where we rely on technology and outsource production.
CAC’s design technology teacher Rick Harman coordinates Maker Day, and explains that “We all used to make things. If you got a hole in your sock you would fix it.” In the current generation, though, “a lot of those skills have [been] lost... and it’s kind of disempowering.”
On Maker Day, regular classes are cancelled, and students have the opportunity to engage in purely hands-on learning. At the start of the day, students choose one of five “maker spaces,” with materials ranging from cooking projects to woodwork. The only assignment for the day is to make something.
Harman explains that in the “purest form [of Maker Day], you provide the kids with a space and tools and materials, and they do whatever they feel like.” Students at CAC are encouraged to plan their projects beforehand, but inspirational materials are also provided to help students generate ideas.
On Maker Day, students spend the day coming up with creations that range from wacky to functional to delicious. In the past they have created “some incredible recycled fashions” such as skirts and bags made from old fabric. Other notable creations include a catapult, a sofa made of cardboard, tables, chairs, kites, and Halloween masks.
Middle school faculty members are present to supervise and assist, but students have to develop and realize their creations independently or through collaboration with one another. If students experience problems teachers can “ask them to describe what the problem is and through that description sometimes an understanding eventuates.” Students are encouraged to fail forward. “The first time you try and do something, if it doesn’t work then you think about what happened, and when you start again you do it slightly differently, and gradually you fail your way to success,” Harman explains.
“On the very first day a kid came up to me and said ‘what should I make?’” Harman recalls. “I just said, ‘I’m not going tell you what to make... It’s up to you.’ And, he looked at me a little bit puzzled and went away.” At the end of the day Harman found the student again. “He had made a super creative sculptural piece that was a connection of a range of different materials…. It had some found objects in it. It had a bit of wood, a bit of plastic, a bit of cardboard, and it was a really interesting object.” The student “had engaged in a really proper maker process.”
The Maker Movement and Maker Day “[help] people gain those practical skills and see the creative ways that people can apply those skills.” The movement encourages people to “[think] about using our intellect and our minds to shape our world.”
The goals of the Maker Movement also align with CAC’s goals as an educational institution. Maker Day helps CAC fulfil its mission of “developing the whole child… [by catching] those kids who were avoiding design tech and [encouraging] them to engage in maker experiences.”
This experiential learning day is also “about developing thinking, inquiring minds.” On Maker Day, students use a “design-thinking mindset” to see problems, “come up with good creative solutions, and then engage in the building of that solution.
So far students have “[engaged] almost universally [and] enthusiastically with the material and tools and each other” on Maker Days at CAC. The other Maker Days in the 2016-17 school year will be held on February 6th and April 6th. Harman is always looking to expand the types of maker spaces available for students. If you have a hands-on skill that you would like to teach to CAC students during a day of hands-on creative learning, contact Rick Harman at email@example.com to find out how you can participate!