I recently had a meeting with University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Yasmin Kafai. Dr. Kafai was one of the people that helped start MakerJawn at the program’s outset. One of Dr. Kafai’s research focuses is on makerspaces and she also teaches a course at the university on the subject. She also happens to be my academic advisor at Penn… Read more →
Things are going well at McPherson Maker Jawn. We had almost 600 participants in the month of March. The kids have made
functioning cardboard table top games,
plaster cast sculptures,
oceans of slime,
3D perler bead sculptures with lights,
and a wide variety of other creations.
So, why are things going so well?
I. A welcoming environment.
I have tried very hard to create a welcoming environment at McPherson. When a newcomer arrives, he/she is offered a tour. In the tour, I try to emphasize that the space and the supplies are for the children and that they will never be told that they must do an activity. I work hard at greeting everyone daily, noticing when someone has been absent, and asking the kids what I can do for them.
I want every child and family member to feel like they are welcome and that they matter.
I haven’t posted any rules. This is intentional. I don’t want the space to feel like school. Rather, I work hard on building a sense of community. I verbally repeat the rules often. Be safe. Be nice. Keep it appropriate. But again, I try to do this in a relaxed and welcoming way. “No running, because we need to keep this place safe for the little ones.” “Be nice, because there are a lot of kids here and we need everyone to get along.”
II. A fun environment.
I care deeply about these kids’ educations. But education is a long game. I’d love to sit each kid down and start them on an intense course of study. However, that isn’t practical. That is a formula for driving kids away from this program. Instead, I stand back and let the kids hangout, listen to music, play video games, and simply be.
I believe that if the kids are in a content rich environment they will choose to put down the video games and do an activity. That won’t happen at the frequency that I like, but it is empowering for a child to choose to engage in learning as opposed to acquiescing.
Hopefully, the photographs from the past month show that children will choose to do activities over computer games.
III. A caring environment
I tried hard through word and dead to let everyone in the space know that they matter and that I care.
Maker Jawn is a predominantly youth-serving maker space that operates in libraries in North Philadelphia. I live here. I’ve made great friends here and I appreciate my neighbors. That said, North Philly has some very real problems. More than 900 people died of opioid-related overdoses in 2016 alone. Philadelphia has an overall poverty rate of 26 percent: the highest recorded among… Read more →
After a two and a half months as a maker mentor I’ve had the opportunity to visit all of the programming sites, and this month, restart programming at another. Visiting each site revealed their particular strengths and challenges, as well as similar broad strokes of the same across the program. Since I have the bird’s eye view fresh in my… Read more →
Rodriguez Library’s schedule is based around giving the kids the ability to take things home. It started a few months ago, when i realized the reason Perler Beads wer so popular. While I tried to tamper down the kids desire to just puts some beads on the board and iron it down with as little effort as possible, it told… Read more →
In a low-income, high-poverty setting, it is a struggle to get adults to come to the library and participate in programming. As far as I can tell, this is a true situation across the nation. Parents in high poverty settings often don’t participate in school functions. A Pew research study also suggested that residents in low socioeconomic status are not… Read more →