Described as “The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth”, Maker Faire in San Francisco is an event that brings together thousands of makers and people interested in learning. This year, educators were offered a special preview of Maker Faire during Education Day at the Bay.

Kids+Creativity Network Members from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit traveled to San Francisco for the 2012 Bay Area Education Day and Maker Faire. This is what they had to say about it.

Spark: What was the Education Day at the Bay all about and why did you go?

Kelley Beeson, Director, Center for Creativity: Education Day gave us a chance to preview the faire without the crowds and speak one-on-one with the makers. Additionally, we had the valuable opportunity of seeing how kids there on field trips reacted to the projects.

Amy Cribbs, Career Exploration and Academic Events Coordinator: I am new to the maker philosophy but loved everything that I had read about it. As part of my position at the AIU I provide various events for students in 1st-12th grade along with career education experiences for high school students. I attended Maker Faire seeking inspiration to generate more creative events of my own and to share this inspiration among teachers I work with.

 

Spark: What was the most unexpected thing about Education Day?

KB: The most surprising thing about the Maker Faire, not just the Education Day, was how many of the projects required very little money. Some of the things that most excited kids were lower-tech than I expected. Kids waited in line forty-five minutes to learn how to solder. Tons of kids just sat in the grass playing with extra-large puzzle pieces. They climbed on a wooden sculpture, played drums made of buckets, hula hooped, explored bug habitats. All of these activities inherently capture some science, engineering, creativity, or math learning and could easily be brought into classrooms without much money or technology.

The second thing that surprised me was that the Maker Faire turned out to be the best professional development I’ve ever attended. So much of my PD involves an expert talking to me, and while that is inspiring, I am only a passive participant. As an active member at Maker Faire I got to see all of the learning actually taking place live in front of me. It was very powerful.

Kevin Conner, Curriculum and Instructional Technology Coordinator: Students threw themselves into each exhibit with gusto. So many of them just wanted to touch stuff, try it out and then listen to an explanation of how the process/project worked. We can transfer that idea to a chemistry class for example. The teacher tells the students a certain combination of chemicals will produce a bright red liquid then backs off to let them think through the process and learn by doing.

 

Spark: How does Making fit in to the educational landscape?

KC: The message that came through loud and clear (literally-we were addressed by bullhorn as we entered) was “you do not have ADHD; you are bored in school”. I know it’s an exaggeration, but there is a lot of truth to that statement. Unfortunately things like physical movement and using “hand intelligence” are typically restricted rather than used to enhance the learning environment in schools. We talk a lot about engaging tasks. What could be more engaging than exploring a passion by crafting something?

Dr. Patricia DiRienzo, Curriculum & CPE Coordinator: Words that stuck out for me were “tinkering” and “passion”. I know that I learn better by doing. We need to actualize that activeness in classrooms to get educators and students passionate about learning.

 

Spark: How will you apply what you learned to the Pittsburgh context?

KB: Much of what I plan to bring back revolves around more effectively using professional development to create lasting, active, and deep impact. When I bring a speaker in there should be opportunities to participate actively and continually with the experience.

KC: I think Pittsburgh could be a great place for a Maker Faire on a similar scale in a couple of years. We have lots of folks here doing making, maybe we’ve just never put the label on it or pointed it out to those who aren’t doing it. Part of getting things going will be sharing what a maker is and what maker culture feels like.

AC: I’d like to create new events for students based around creativity. I’d also like to be a part of creativity workshops for educators.

 

Spark: Anything else you’d like to share about your experience at Education Day and Maker Faire?

KB: I was really struck by the diversity at Maker Faire. It was the ultimate multi-generational, multi-ethnic event!

KC: I really enjoyed that along with all of the exhibits there were presentation sessions during which you could hear from a filmmaker, a computer programmer or an educator. Making ideas is just as important as making things.

PD: Maker Faire offered a place where it was okay to be a geek or a freak. You could be as intellectual or artistic or technical as you wanted because the Faire is about learning and sharing what you know with other people who want to learn.

AC: My first thought upon seeing all the cool things displayed and presented was why don’t we have this in Pittsburgh? Our city is at the forefront of so much that we should be part of this movement as well. I’m excited about the Children’s Museum’s Mini Maker Faire that will be held in September and I encourage families, teachers, everyone to go and check it out.