The beginning of the school year is upon us. How do young makers and their families prepare? Young makers and their families prepare by reminding each other the purpose of schooling. The highest purpose of schooling is to uncover new worlds of understanding and to reach those worlds of understanding through student curiosity. Young makers relish taking an active role in their classrooms. So if the teacher suggests an assignment can be completed with a PowerPoint presentation, a young maker might ask, “Can I create a Google Site instead?” When a teacher suggests students create a physical 3D model, a young maker might ask, “Can I use SketchUp to draw a 3D model?” (Trimble SketchUp — formerly Google SketchUp — is a fun and free to use 3D drawing program for Macintosh and Windows.) If the teacher suggests students produce a printed science report, a young maker might suggest, “Can I create an explanatory screencast instead?”
Young makers also define the mood of the classroom. Active, not boring. Polite, not rowdy. Sharing, not silent. Mindful, not mindless. Young makers introduce themselves to the new kid at the school and ask them what their creative talent is. If they have no declared talent, a young maker will say, “That’s cool. You’ll find out soon enough.” And if they have a declared talent, a young maker will find ways of connecting that talent to projects in the classroom.
Young makers are your ideal student. They are the classroom’s Benjamin Franklin, Limor Fried, Leonardo da Vinci, Jeri Ellsworth. Ben Heckendorn, Super Awesome Sylvia, Steve Wozniak. They have competences in many fields — and use classroom learning as a way to stitch together those competences in new ways. They relish a challenge. They love to persevere. They are resilient when disappointment strikes. They are independent learners, turning to the teacher for guidance, but only when needed. They love exercising their ingenuity.
Young makers are the extra teachers in every classroom. They’re the ones who will respond fast if a teacher has a heart attack in class. They’re the ones who refrain from saying harmful things to other students. Young makers see a substitute teacher as not a way to goof off, but as a chance to complete ongoing projects with input from another adult.
Young makers are bold, they’re confident, they’re curious, they’re polite. They love to say, “I was just wondering….” and “I just had a great idea!” They are chomping at the bit to make things — things that will surprise their teachers, and perhaps astound the world. I know some young makers, and I bet you do to. Let them wear their making with pride. Could there be any sweeter words for a teacher to hear on the first day of school than a bright-eyed student proudly declaring: “I’m a maker. Are you a maker, too?”
[Phil Shapiro is a maker and media maker in the Washington DC-area. He loves open source, digital storytelling and fixing up donated computers to deliver to people who need them. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @philshapiro.]
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