About

Maker Jawn aims to provide a unique space for community members in North Philadelphia Free Libraries, where self-directed experimental and experiential learning is promoted through a focus on creativity, critical thinking and skill-building.

How do we do this?

Rather than prescribing specific step-by-step instructions to complete a project, we expose youth and adults to materials, encourage them to engage in playing and tinkering, and to further collaborate with their peers and our Mentors. We do this by offering free, drop-in sessions at North Philadelphia Free Libraries. Community members of any age can come and learn to create things, whether that be a sculpture, a 3D printed cookie cutter, a short film, or electrical circuits with flashing lights and motors. Maker Jawn experiments with creating spaces and programs that prioritize cross-discipline creativity and diverse community engagement embedded directly within the fabric of the library. All sessions are open to the public and all students are welcome to attend. Please visit our Locations/Hours page to find out the time these sessions are going on.

Who are we?

The team of Mentors who work with Maker Jawn is comprised of artists, writers, designers, scientists, builders, musicians and thinkers. We support program participants as they create projects by providing resources, tools and an encouraging space. Check out our Blog to read what our Mentors have to say about their experience working with Maker Jawn.

What does Maker Jawn mean?

Makerspaces are learning environments dedicated to project-based learning through making and tinkering with materials and tools. Those that enter a Makerspace as a creator are referred to as Makers. Makerspaces are generally equipped for Makers to experiment with creative technology and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) projects, but also aim to teach problem-solving, resilience, collaboration and other 21st Century Skills. These spaces encourage Makers to self-motivate and engage with the world as a changeable space.

Jawn is a context-dependent substitute noun that originated in the Philly hip hop scene. Jawn can be used in place of almost any noun, and its meaning can change depending on what you’re referring to, e.g., “Let me get a piece of that jawn?” and “That Frankenstein remix jawn be tight!”

Therefore, a Maker Jawn is an integrative learning space located in Philadelphia which celebrates its community members and their potential.

Who are our current collaborators?

Maker Jawn is generously supported by a National Leadership Grant through Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a 21st Century Solutions grant made possible by NBC10/WCAU and Telemundo61/WWSI, a Frameworks for Post-Emergent Library Makerspaces grant through the National Writing Project and IMLS, and a grant through the Philadelphia City Institute. Additionally, special programing at Widener Branch Library, Kensington Library, and Lillian Marrero Branch Library is supported by Curiosity Creates Grants through the Association for Library Services to Children.

We are a proud member of the National Writing Project’s YOUmedia Learning Labs Network and Community of Practice. We also strive to collaborate with neighborhood organizations, such as Norris Square Neighborhood Project, The Soapbox, and other Free Library of Philadelphia Initiatives such as the Words at Play and Read! By 4th.

How did Maker Jawn get its start?

Developing Maker programming at the Free Library was an organic process of youth development and empowerment, supported by crucial staff who were deeply committed to participatory design. In the spring of 2011, a team of Digital Resource Specialists at the Free Library began “Teen Media Week” as part of the Hot Spots initiative. This project was funded by the Knight Foundation, which supported computer labs embedded in community centers as a way to engage teens. The initiative enabled teens to learn and play with various creative technologies, such as animated GIFs, cinemagraphs, green screen video, beat making, and more. Staff also began working informally with Dr. Yasmin Kafai at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, doing e-textiles workshops where teens sewed LEDs into clothing and other objects.

In January 2012, the Library received an IMLS/MacArthur planning grant to design a learning lab at the Central Library in downtown Philadelphia. Formal construction of the downtown space enabled staff to bring the concept out of the city center and into neighborhood libraries. At this time, the Free Library of Philadelphia joined the YOUmedia Network, a national cohort of libraries and museums whose goal is to come up with ways to better serve teens in STEAM fields and 21st century skills.

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Kafai introduced staff to a Maker Ed opportunity in early 2013, which provided an opportunity to expand Maker programming and secure additional funding, including a Library Services and Technology Act grant in September 2013. Together, these experiences and opportunities directly informed our development and implementation of the current Maker Jawn program.