Quantifying Success

Maker Jawn is an unstructured, participant-directed, drop-in program.

I am the mentor at Kensington Neighborhood Library.

Here’s an average day:

I come in at least 30 minutes before programming with a basic idea of an activity I think our makers will enjoy. They typically come to the library as part of their daily routine, once they’re let out of school at 3:00PM. At the front of the library, they complete their homework with another program that specializes in homework help and literacy.

Then they come bounding into the back room. I’m there, engaging with one of the activities I’ve set up. I often set up a few. I’m hoping that they’ll see how awesome/amazing/exciting the activity is and want to participate as well.

But it doesn’t always happen that. It actually doesn’t even happen that way most of the time. More often, they will take the materials I’ve set out and do something I never could’ve imagined or prepared for; for better or worse.

And while this can be frustrating when I’m really excited about a project I’d like them to work on and complete, one of the fundamental points of our program is self-directed learning.

Sometimes this works in unforeseeable, awesome ways. Last week I set out some rubber bands in order to make popsicle-stick catapults. One of the makers used them to make a rubber band-powered propeller on a mini-car.

However, the self-directed nature of our program doesn’t always result in one, solid and completed material product. Sometimes the thing gained is much more abstract and hard to articulate.

Almost on a daily basis, one of the makers uses a tool to cut apart or saw something into pieces. Usually this is cardboard or paper, and usually they use one of our electric, handheld saws for cardboard. This is still learning. This is tactile, and therapeutic. This teaches them the boundaries and usability of the saw and the material. Even if it doesn’t result in a completed project; it is important.

Things don’t always serve an objectively obvious, quantifiable purpose but they are still valuable and necessary.




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