What a joy it is to work at Maker Jawn. As a person with a teacher’s heart, I love the energy of learning, the twinkle in the eye when a student has the ah-ha moment. This past month we tried a little carpentry. We began making birdhouses. It was a project that yielded many an ah-ha and several pleasant surprises.
First, the project really enticed several children that normally don’t participate to get involved . I find that I can’t predict who will like what. Keyshawn almost always comes into the space to flirt with the girls. I’ve tried several times to get him involved, but he never does any of the activities. However, using a hand saw was something that he wanted to do. The hand saw also drew in several teenage girls. They drifted by as we were outside cutting the boards and wanted to have a try. Then they drifted away. I don’t know if any other activities will ever bring them back to the maker space, but that is the fun. I don’t know.
Secondly, several children excelled at the project. Tayon, pictured above, is a highly energetic child and doesn’t often stick with a project for long. But he stuck with this project over a period of days and, by the end, was measuring, clamping, and cutting the wood without instruction. Nicole, who will often tell you that it is too much work to get supplies out of the closet, cut through the wood like a pro. I wish I could show you her beaming with pride as she rips through a plank lickity split. But what I can show you is the flower bed she has been making. It is the picture on the right.
Lastly, this project yielded some family participation. John always brings his daughter and niece to the library. Although they are very young, I often let them participate and encourage John to join. In this instance, we had a project that was in his field of expertise. John not only joined but assisted all the children in marking the cutting lines. I am finding that getting parents involved often means allowing the tiny ones to join. However, the parents are generally quiet side participants. This was only the second time a parent has become fully immersed in the maker space.
It can be humbling to be a maker mentor. The temptation is to assert yourself as the mentor and “teach.” However, being a maker mentor isn’t about presenting detailed instructions as the authority on the project. You have to take a step back and give the maker community the control. I like to believe that children doing what I tell them will produce the best results, However, the truth is that when I give the community the control, the results are better than I imagined. The growth of our maker community this spring has been delightful, and it has been more about what I didn’t do than what I did.