Everyone wants to know what makes Facebook the phenomenon that it is, so much so that it’s invaded every aspect of our culture in the U.S. No further proof is required than the fact that the Hollywood version of the story won the best picture of the year at the Golden Globes (it was nominated for eight Academy Awards as well). I’ve been more interested in the real details than the drama, because the Facebook culture (and other tech pioneers) portrays a world that is at once so similar to my own in the legal world of finance yet so amazingly different. What’s the same is the long hours, the fraternity mindset and the competitive nature. But yet there seems to also be intense collaboration and most different — creativity is king and thinking outside the box is rewarded more than volume. But I had never considered any of this for my kids until I heard of something called the maker movement.
A highlight of all the educational maker spaces for kids popping up in Canada was what caught my attention. If you don’t know what maker spaces are, here’s a description of a typical place:
Inside MakerKids, a workshop space in Toronto’s west end, children are presented with what’s called the Possibility Wall. The shelves on the wall are filled with bins of just about anything a child might think to create with – motors, gears, crayons, glitter, electrical tape, scissors and even power drills. There’s also a 3-D printer and soldering guns in the space, along with several tables and computers.
There are open play nights, as well as classes like robotics and programming. The coolest theme night was called toy hacking, where kids were given a range of toys they would expect to see at home, but given free reign to break them apart and use them to create and build an even better version of the toy. Talk about taking imaginative play to the next level. To the Facebook office culture level.
The public libraries are getting into the game, recognizing that this is the way this generation of children will learn — experientially.
The Edmonton Public Library launched a maker space last month. It features a green screen and computers loaded with things such as game-creation software and 3-D modelling software. It also has two 3-D printers and a machine that allows you to make a fully formed book.
“Our maker space is very focused on the digital,” says Pam Ryan, the library’s director of collections and technology. “Anything around learning to be a digital citizen, to participate in the digital environment, is really key right now.”
The Ottawa Public Library has plans to open a maker space next March. “Learning is changing,” says Danielle McDonald, CEO of the Ottawa Public Library. “It’s how young people want to learn. They don’t want to sit in a classroom and have it taught to them. They want to create.”
These educational maker spaces for kids welcome children as young as three and it makes total sense. If we can introduce them to concepts of sports, music, and arts and crafts, why shouldn’t there be ways to introduce kids to science and engineering on a very basic level starting as young as preschool? Seriously, I had my kid in music class at six months where he teethed on maracas but there are far less choices with a science or engineering slant. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have a space like this but he found his way. Still, I’m hoping with more ways to think, there will be more innovators who create better ways of doing things. I truly hope maker spaces will change the way my kids learn.