Maker Jawn’s bike repair program is a truly self-inititiated, self-motivated, and self-run program.
This spring I asked the makers what they would like to do over the summer, and the teens asked for bike repair. The teens were then asked to research tools and supplies necessary for developing a bike repair program. They did just that. We had two teens that did most of the program development. I doubt that they have ever worked with a spreadsheet, but they sat focused for a couple of hours researching and listing the tools they wanted to order. At the time, one of the boys had dropped out of school. So, this was no small thing. Arrick, our mentor with knowledge of bike repair, then helped fill out and edit the necessary tools and supplies. The supplies were shipped to McPherson Square and the teens unpacked and inventoried them.
From there, several different groups of teens have used the tools to fix bikes. Initially, I brought my own bike for the teens to fix. It has been taken apart and put back together several times. However, the kids soon started bringing their own bikes to the library. We have them work with our security guards and bring the bikes into the back of the library. Over the initial two months of the program, four different groups of teens have used the bike repair kit. That’s roughly, 19 teens. The four groups have used the kits at least 7 times. So, a turnstile number here would be around 32.
On the the last day of summer programming, Maker Jawn teamed with IMPACT and had an end of the summer celebration. There was music, water ice, games, water rockets, but also the teens did a free bike repair day. Many people from the community brought bikes to be repaired. We had two teenagers spend the entire time of programing fixing bikes. Several other teens worked on bikes for shorter periods. And again, I can’t emphasize this enough, this was all teen run. I don’t know how many bikes the teens fixed, because I was running the water rockets and monitoring other groups of children. A safe guess was that around a dozen bikes from the community were fixed by our teen that day.
The program hasn’t been without challenges. You can’t help troubled youth without having to deal with troubled behavior. The process of starting the program was slowed, because some of the kids got kicked out of the library for several days. The program has attracted teens that would normally never set foot in the library, but they haven’t yet adjusted to our culture. So, we have had some theft. It is discouraging for teens that have put the time into the program. But this seems both foreseeable and a learning opportunity.
Also, the program is attracting diverse groups of teens. They, however, greet each other with skepticism and caution. We would have had more teens fixing bikes on the day of the celebration, if not for their territorial caution. So, I think I will have to develop some bonding activities to help bridge those groups.
Through it all, the interest in the program only continues to grow. We are hoping to build partnerships with outside groups and expand our program. I have been able to use the program to talk about starting a business and the importance of staying in school. (I am happy to report that the teen mentioned above is now registered to attend school again this fall.) The library has donated an old film file cabinet, and the teens are converting that into a toolbox.
I, honestly, couldn’t be prouder of our teens. And when I think about ideal maker programming, it looks pretty close to our bike repair program.