This week, we continue our special week in which we take turns sharing our definition of a makerspace.
I spend much of my time during the academic year in Michigan Makers, after-school mobile makerspace projects in local K-12 schools. I often start to describe maker culture by quoting two people. First, Dale Grover of Maker Works, who says that makerspaces are “tools plus support plus community.” I might also quoteThomas (2013), who uses the triad of people, process, and place.
Definitely community. Definitely process. Definitely shared tools. Definitely space.
Yet when I step back and really think about it, what is it that makes my Spidey sense say, in the midst of a maker activity, “Ahhh, this is it!”? That takes me a bit longer to verbalize. Then I realize that it’s a feeling that comes over me, some combination of seeing and hearing, that tells me we’re in the zone or whatCzikszentmihalyi (2004) calls “flow.”
I know our makerspace is working when I look around and realize every kid is working on something that interests him/her and, for one brief moment, they’re doing it without me. (Don’t get me wrong: mini-lessons and peer instruction are critical for skill development, but after 45 minutes of threading needles, a moment when everyone is in the groove is a wonderful feeling.)
Maybe one kid is showing another how to use the stop-motion animation app she likes. Another is manning the Silhouette Cameo, showing a peer how to rearrange elements and “weld” them together. Someone else is spending some solo time with LEGO; a boy is running the foot pedal on a sewing machine while a mentor guides the fabric, and a girl is churning out handmade infinity scarves for her friends. Some kids are in the hall, competing to keep their gliders in the air. In those moments, I sense what Dewey (1900) called a student’s “center of gravity,” when they’re settled into themselves, concentrating on what they chose to work on, and intently focused. I feel the same sense when I visit Ann Arbor’s Maker Works and All Hands Active: a kind of focus even within a larger social setting.
To quote a certain judge, it’s something where “I know it when I see it.” And when I see it, it’s a pretty magical moment.
– Kristin Fontichiaro
Photo from the Michigan Makers project; copyright 2012 Regents of the University of Michigan