I began working at Maker Jawn about 3 months ago, and I have learned quite a bit. My background is in academic research–I have spent over five years working in basic biology research labs, where I was a full-time lab assistant for two of those years. I have experience in developing and executing a research plan, which I believe is, at its core, a largely creative endeavor.
I joined Maker Jawn with the express purpose of sharing this expertise/experience with the “making” involved in hard science. Science-based activities that I have carried out with makers like an egg drop, elephant toothpaste, and DNA extraction have all been very successful, and they have introduced makers to very basic observation and experimental design. I have found that, when presented with an opportunity to produce a desired output, like the largest unpoppable bubble or enough DNA from strawberries to observe under a microscope, makers will organically express both creatively and scientifically without even realizing it. Further scientific programming I have in mind, such as experimentation with plant growth, BUILDS on these skills, but it has yet to flourish.
So far, I have spent much of my time “floating” between locations. This has been very useful for my learning, as I have been able to take note of different mentoring styles, variations in programming, and the distribution of interests among makers from location to location. It has also posed challenges.
From what I can tell, established mentors not only have stability in their plans for programming, which allows for longer-term projects, personalized projects, and plans for activities weeks and months in advance, but they also have stability in their relationships. Makers enter what may be a refuge from trouble at home or at school with an immediate greeting for the lead mentor and with questions about which projects are on the agenda that day. This relationship that at once takes elements of authority/positive influence from a teacher and elements of joy and fun from a peer has often been an inspiring thing to observe. Makers appear more likely to engage when they are working with a familiar person.
My transient status means that I have yet to be fully immersed such that I can become a true mentor in this way. While I have been the sole or co-mentor briefly at multiple locations at this point and have built relationships with makers/had productive days of making, my disappearance for unknown stretches of time from the perspective of the makers disrupts my ability to progress with my plans for programming efficiently. I believe that consistency in mentorship is incredibly valuable for all. Makers have an inherent enthusiasm for science, engineering, and technology, and while I definitely have engaged makers, safe, positive spaces, materials, and creative freedom, I hope to have the stability to capitalize on it.