The True Story of the Maker Faire

We have to do WHAT?

Let me set up the scene for you.  I’m sitting in Day 2 of my in-person classes for my Master’s.  Still a bit unsure of how things work and still not even confident in everybody’s names in the room.  Suddenly, we’re told…

All eight of you are going to plan a Maker Faire.  It will be next Thursday.”

You could feel the overall confusion in the room.  I had a tiny understanding of the maker movement, so I could assume what a Maker Faire was, but didn’t know where to even begin planning an event that would be held in nine days with eight people I had just met the day before.

Before I continue, if you’re like me and are not totally sure what the maker movement is, I am happy to give a little insight.  “The maker movement refers broadly to the growing number of people who are engaged in the creative production of artifacts in their daily lives who find physical and digital forums to share their processes and products with others” (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014).  With that being said, the Maker Faire encompasses this idea of making.

If I’m completely honest with you, I had trouble with the definition being so broad.  I wanted a more concrete definition of WHAT a Maker Faire exactly was.  Now that I’ve learned more about it, I think I’m finally okay with the idea that it is such a vague idea because making can be whatever you want it to be.  Even the experts leave it pretty open-ended.  “Making refers to a set of activities that can be designed with a variety of learning goals in mind” (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014).

 

sign
A sign I made directing participants throughout the Maker Faire (Photo taken by Mary Wever)

 

The Planning Process

Now that it’s over and I am looking back on the Maker Faire, I’m proud of how it turned out.  I do feel like if I were to do it again, I would do some things differently now that I know more of what to expect.  In my opinion, I do feel that the planning process could have gone a little better, but it also could have gone way worse.

Let’s talk about the planning of the whole Faire first.  Since there were eight people planning it, there were a lot of ideas.  In retrospect, if I were to plan an event at my school or for my family, I would probably be planning with one or two other people.  With eight people, there were a lot of hands on deck.  Which sometimes was awesome, and other times a bit frustrating.  It seemed like everyone was willing to pitch in and take a task, which was great.  However, when we would spend tons of time talking about an action and not actually doing it, it felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen.

Planning my booth, The Three Little Pigs Challenge, with my partner Laura was great.  We had great communication, we both have a similar work ethic, and it never felt like one person was doing more than the other.  We were both very open-minded about the whole thing, so it was easy to make changes and bring up other suggestions.  I felt confident and proud of what we came up with, and I had a lot of fun working with her too.  I do feel that since it was only two of us, it was easier to make decisions and to really think through the logistics of our booth.  Check out our planning document to learn more about what our Three Little Pigs Challenge was, and how we planned it out.

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Bringing it Back to the Classroom

Looking at the maker movement from a teaching perspective, I feel that there is great value in making.  Allowing students to make gives them the freedom to unleash their creativity, use their hands, problem solve and work together.  “Bringing the maker movement into the education conversation has the potential to transform how we understand ‘what counts’ as learning, as a learner, and as a learning environment” (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014).  By allowing students to be makers in the classroom, they are learning more than they ever could through just the curriculum.  Students are also learning real-world skills that continue on outside of the classroom.

Our class had been reading and discussing the maker movement, but actually being a part of the Maker Faire made me that much more excited to bring it into my classroom.  Last year, I had my students do a few STEM challenges inconsistently throughout the year.  The more I’m reading about it and actually doing them, I feel that my mindset is changing and I’m jumping on the maker train.  The excitement is erupting out of me when I think about all the amazing things my students will come up with.  Watching some of the kids that came through our booth during the Maker Faire, seeing them communicating, collaborating, troubleshooting, and being creative really solidified any doubts I had about doing this in my classroom.

My first piece of advice to anybody wanting to replicate our activity (check out our lesson plan for step-by-step instruction) would be to think through and test everything first.  Laura and I had originally over-complicated our materials.  By thinking it through and testing out what we had planned, we realized that it would be too difficult to manage.  Which brings me to my next piece of advice: be flexible.  After realizing what we had was too much, we both looked at each other and said almost simultaneously, “We need to change this.”  It’s okay if your plan changes along the way.  Lastly, I would say to have an open mind and have fun with it.  Some of the people that came through created designs that I never would have even thought of.  Personally, I learned a lot from their creations, and based off the of conversations and interactions I observed, they learned a lot from each other.

Making, creating, conversing, trouble-shooting, having fun.  What more could you ask for?

Sharable Resources:

Planning Document

Lesson Plan

 

References

Halverson, E. R., & Sheridan, K. M. (2014). The Maker Movement in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 495-503. Retrieved July 20, 2017.

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