Author: Bryan Belknap

Bike Repair Program: created and run by McPherson Square teenagers.




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.

kobi pets



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.



Getting to Know the Program

I am one of the newer Maker Mentors, Olivia! I came into Maker Jawn halfway through July, my first day was the variety show that Hasreet facilitated with Kaena as producer and Malaysia, Nykira, Isaiah, and Musa as performers. This was a great introduction to the potential of Maker Jawn to empower and excite young people by creating. The turn-out… Read more →

What is going well and thoughts on why

Things are going well at McPherson Maker Jawn.  We had almost 600 participants in the month of March.  The kids have made

functioning cardboard table top games, IMG_0177

plaster cast sculptures,IMG_0372


clay sculptres,IMG_0325

birdhouses,  IMG_0373


oceans of slime,IMG_0367

sophisticated dollhouses,IMG_0235

3D perler bead sculptures with lights,

water rockets,IMG_0357


obstacle courses,IMG_0304

and a wide variety of other creations.IMG_0239IMG_0364 (1)IMG_0369 (1)




So, why are things going so well?


I. A welcoming environment.

I have tried very hard to create a welcoming environment at McPherson.  When a newcomer arrives, he/she is offered a tour.  In the tour, I try to emphasize that the space and the supplies are for the children and that they will never be told that they must do an activity.  I work hard at greeting everyone  daily, noticing when someone has been absent, and asking the kids what I can do for them.


I want every child and family member to feel like they are welcome and that they matter.


I haven’t posted any rules.  This is intentional.  I don’t want the space to feel like school.  Rather, I work hard on building a sense of community.  I verbally repeat the rules often.  Be safe.  Be nice.  Keep it appropriate.  But again, I try to do this in a relaxed and welcoming way.  “No running, because we need to keep this place safe for the little ones.”  “Be nice, because there are a lot of kids here and we need everyone to get along.”

II. A fun environment.

I care deeply about these kids’ educations.  But education is a long game.  I’d love to sit each kid down and start them on an intense course of study.  However, that isn’t practical.  That is a formula for driving kids away from this program.  Instead, I stand back and let the kids hangout, listen to music, play video games, and simply be.

I believe that if the kids are in a content rich environment they will choose to put down the video games and do an activity.  That won’t happen at the frequency that I like, but it is empowering for a child to choose to engage in learning as opposed to acquiescing.

Hopefully, the photographs from the past month show that children will choose to do activities over computer games.

III. A caring environment

I tried hard through word and dead to let everyone in the space know that they matter and that I care.










Dealing with Discouragement

I want to write about dealing with discouragement as an educator.  I feel this common challenge for those working in the field, and a subject worthy of reflection and discussion.   However, I will begin with a caveat.  I do not have some great insight into dealing with discouragement.  This is not a plug for my upcoming book, 10 Easy Ways… Read more →

The struggle for quality programming.

Providing a stimulus rich environment is a key to a successful maker space for children (probably for adults as well).   Often children come to Maker Jawn mentally unmotivated.  They are both bored and resistant to stimulation.  A child in this mood will not (in general) initiate a constructive activity for him or herself.  Rather, this mental malaise generally presents itself… Read more →