In January, Make: magazine printed a column from Saul Griffith in which he introduced our project to bring Makerspaces to schools. Saul ended the piece by requesting â€œyour ideas, your offers of help, your good and bad educational experiences.â€ He wanted â€œto hear what you would do if you were tasked with reforming STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.â€
We got a lot of advice and encouragement, a smattering of skepticism, and some pointers to several really interesting programs around the country that we wanted to share with you. We heard a little about what’s out there (we know there’s a lot more!) Iâ€™ll be passing along some of what our readers wrote to us over the coming days and months. First, I wanted to highlight a few stories that came from readers who recalled positive experiences they had as students.
Betsy, who described herself as a â€œmechanical engineer, maker, do-it-herselfer, wikiHow author/administrator, volunteer literacy tutor, and quite a few other hatsâ€ wrote about some good advice she got from the teacher of her favorite class, introductory engineering or â€œE25,â€ one in which they spent a lot of time taking things apart and putting them back together.
It was the class that taught me that using a screwdriver is fun…..At the end of the quarter, the professor gave us each our own screwdriver (my first!) and advised us all to ask for tools for Christmas and birthdays (which I did). I still use that screwdriver. And I’m a far better engineer for it.
Tiger, a high school senior in Colorado, recalled a very recent taste of biohacking that he wished heâ€™d had earlier:
It wasn’t until I took a microbiology class after school at a community college that I induced a plasmid into a bacterium, which absolutely blew my mind. I got to change the way a life form operates, and see that effect in a physical way (glowing). If I could have done this in my sophomore bio class, it would have shown me the practical application for what we were learning.
Stuart, a doctoral candidate in Materials Science and Engineering, brought up a requirement of all students where he went to public high school in New York City, to go to an art museum and complete an assignment, or to go to a musical performance and complete an assignment. He used this to riff on how students could learn to love the art of making, the way they learn to love these other arts.
In a similar manner, students should be required to go to a hands-on workshop for credit…. Obviously this type of program will work better in a big city, such as NYC, where one workshop studio can cater to many multiple high schools. … If a workshop is optional, 5 students in a group of 20 might attend and enjoy the experience. If all 20 are required to attend, the 5 will enjoy the experience, and there is a fair chance that some of the 15 others might as well.
We are all learning all the time. As Ed, a technology teacher in Amherst, New York put it, “Two things my kids hear me say every day (at school and at home) There is so much cool stuff in the world to do and If you’re bored, it’s entirely your own fault.”
So tell us more about the cool stuff in the world that keeps you from getting bored, as Betsy, Tiger, and Stuart did. Weâ€™re still glad to hear from you about those great educational experiences we might consider as we build this network of Makerspaces. And if you know of a Makerspace-like program that may be helpful for others to see, or youâ€™d like to get involved, please email us at [email protected] and fill out the “Get Involved” form on this page so that we can stay in touch.