The Exploratory has been providing making opportunities for young children in Los Angeles for two years through makeshops, public events, in-class programs, camps, birthday parties, and educator makeshops. Our mission is to provide tinkering and making learning opportunities for children to practice the mindset skills that they will need to be successful in a future full of unknowns – grit, flexible thinking, creative thinking, frustration tolerance, failing forward, and communication. After working with hundreds of young children, the biggest lesson for us has been that there is so much we still have to learn! So, Maker Scouts was born as a national program of local communities working together to raise innovation-capable young people.
Children come to our programs in different stages of development – physically, mentally, and emotionally. They have a variety of experiences. Some are still working on their fine motor skills such as being successful with scissors. Others are working on balance and upper body strength. Some come having been identified “on the spectrum”– full of knowledge, working on social skills. Many come with big ideas and are seeking a way to learn the skills to realize them.
The Exploratory has developed the Maker Scouts program to facilitate a national dialogue about what making with young children looks like. What works? What doesn’t work? How to facilitate for children with different skills? How to provide making experiences that not only teach skills, but are vehicles for the development of the “innovative thinking mindset?” How can parents can support their children by letting them experience failures to develop grit? How can we be examples for educators on how tinkering and making can be integrated into curriculum? And most of all, how do we to instill the passion for learning into the very fabric of modern society?
The Maker Scouts program is a series of 12-week sessions which incorporate tinkering opportunities for kids to really understand a medium like wood, circuits, or paper making to learn the tools of the medium, design thinking opportunities, and to develop a project of their own. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate their learning, develop communication skills, and confidence as ambassadors of Maker Scouts by sharing their work with the public.
We are working with children from the age of 4 up to 8-10ish. We are deliberately leaving the upper age open to accommodate for developmental differences. The Maker Scouts will then graduate to Hacker Scouts when they are ready.
The first session is a mini intro to the possibilities of mediums with each week introducing a different aspect of making to whet their appetites. Here on the MAKE blog, I will be documenting our successes and failures and celebrating both as learning opportunities as we work though a session. We are hoping that this will result in a project or two that the children will be able to share at Maker Faire Bay Area in May. This is the first step I hope will lead to a wider dialogue about the value of maker education. I hope that you will add comments, suggestions, and your experiences. We invite you to be an integral part of the dialogue.
Jean Kaneko is the founder and chief tinkerer at The Exploratory