Collaboration and Consistency

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 mind I want to reflect on the broad strokes.

First things first, mentor’s are highly engaged in finding ways to make their sites as exciting and meaningful for the makers they work with as possible. Knowing the names of regular and semi-regular makers, offering multiple making options at each session, and frequently working with makers one-on-one are all small and effective practices of the mentors I get to work with.

As a floating mentor in January and February I experienced the different facilitation styles of lead mentors, what kinds of rules they set up on their own or in partnership with makers, what activities they are promoting and other they won’t allow in their spaces. This goes both for creative activities, as well as behavior management or discipline.

What is notable to me is the impact of the presence of adults in each maker space. Mentor to maker ratios have been mentioned before on this blog and to my fresher eyes on the program it holds as a struggle across most sites. Ideally, and legally, most sites would benefit from two mentors at each site to provide more frequent one-on-one attention that makers need and deserve as well as appropriate conflict management. In addition, a policy of two mentors to a space would create more opportunities for mutual professional development, and critical reflection on site-specific programming.

It can be said that multiple sites often have adults and teen workers from other programs involved in Maker Jawn programming, this is especially true of LEAP staff who we collaborate with. It is wonderful and essential to work with children’s librarians and other staff members at each Maker Jawn site. However, as a program, Maker Jawn should seek out more consistency in its policies, not a standardization, but a structure that allows for a mentor to substitute or support at a site without being overwhelmed by an unknown set of procedures. My interest in exploring rules or policies for the program and its participants stems from a regularly vocalized need for more information and guidance on creating trauma-informed maker spaces.

In staff meetings and personal conversations the challenges of supporting youth are often at the forefront of our minds. We speak frequently about creating trauma-informed spaces or just getting a grip on managing conflict that crops up between youth. Without going too in depth on the subject of trauma the basics of setting up a trauma-informed space means consistency. By this I mean, the youth who use the space regularly should know what it expected of them and know what will happen when they follow the rules and what happens when they won’t. This is not just a principle for trauma-informed spaces it is a basic principle of classroom teaching. People who experience trauma are hyper-vigilant and easily put into a state of fight-flight-freeze. Consistency in a space means that they can release some of that tension in their bodies and minds and get to creating and perhaps even healing.

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