I find that teachers have that perfect combination of curiosity and urge to learn that makes them a great match for Maker Faire. And, trained by years of explaining the same thing in dozens of different ways, teachers are really good navigators of the novice. Every year I make sure I ask them for their tips about how to go about planning for and wayfinding at Maker Faire. These recommendations come verbatim from the members of the 2016 Maker Faire Bay Area Teacher Team.

Teachers Recommend…

  • Do something uncomfortable. Sit down at a piano and invent a tune that makes huge flames come out of the top of fire extinguisher canisters mounted on the lightbar of a monster truck!!!! (Can’t say anyone ever invited me to do THAT at work.)
  • Just wander around and talk to people about their creations. They LOVE to talk to you about it. Ask what you can touch. Ask if you can make something. Be brave. Don’t worry about how it turns out. Experience making.
  • Come early, stay late and be prepared to walk and look.
  • Talk to the young makers. Listening to their stories and hearing their enthusiasm is inspiring.

  • I liked how in [EepyBird’s Coke Zero & Mentos] show, they describe the process involved in trying every flavor of soda, temperature, type of nozzle, number of candies, etc. It is a great representation of the learning that takes place while having fun making.
  • I highly recommend getting your hands dirty. See what kids are making and try to make it yourself.
  • The Dark Room. Don’t miss this. Light is such an emotional and immersive experience. The makers in the dark hall do so much with light. There are ideas that are easy enough for students to do without much experience.
  • Show your appreciation for what young students have accomplished through making their device. Take a photo of them and their device: this lets them know you really are interested.
  • Go with an open mind and a notebook and camera. No goals just exploring, testing and absorbing.
  • Stop at the hands-on activities. PLAY!

Tips specifically for fellow educators

  • Try things. Last year I tried the Dremel drill presses that were significantly less expensive to bring into our school and easy for kids to use.
  • The craft area. I had not spent much time there before, but I did last year and got a lot of great ideas to use in my classroom.
  • Watch and see how kids interact with projects, and you’ll find it quickly evident that there is so much learning happening when they create.
  • Be reminded of how much we, and our students, learn by doing, by playing, and by collaborating. The importance of ‘mess’ to get to the gem in our own learning. The need for time to explore, to fail, to create, revise, and rework.
  • Do a Google Hangout with some makers. It was so powerful for my students to be able to ask their questions and see that they were running into the same issues as the professionals.
  • The process of learning how to do a new skill is so important. While I can’t bring soldering into my elementary classroom, I can bring the experience of what it feels like to learn something new as I teach them new skills.
  • Take lots and lots of pictures so you can show your kids!
  • Take the time to engage a young person and allow them to quantify the process that allowed them to come up with their project. The experience of them relating/teaching their learned information is important for them to continue. They must realize their time and energy had some importance.
  • Don’t just stick to your own “subject”. Be inspired by all of the out-of-the-box thinking going on. Then go back to your classroom and put your inspiration into practice.
  • Attend with a colleague. That way you can brainstorm and bounce ideas off of one another. Multiple heads are better than one.
  • I highly recommend educators take a moment to think about what they themselves were awed and blown away by as children: how do robots work, how do lights manage to look like they’re moving across a marquee, how do plants grow from seed to flower, etc, and use THAT as their way into the Maker Faire experience. Seeing the faire through the eyes of a child, wide-eyed and full of curiosity, without prejudice or preconceived notions will be the best way for educators to gain a richer, more personal, more insightful experience that will spark those wild ideas back in the classroom. And, of course, the giant flaming robot machines. Gotta check those out.

Good Words for Great Days

I always enjoy sharing the many kind thoughts and deep insights teachers have sent us about their visit to Maker Faire.

  • I discovered ways to inspire my students to be lifelong learners. When we want to figure something out we learn without trying. Learning is enjoyable not a chore.
  • I connected with folks who would be willing to come into the classroom to share their upcycling thinking / process / projects with us. Our school is new and has few resources. These folks reminded me how much we DO have when we just choose to think more divergently.
  • One of the biggest things I noticed was how young some of the kids making were, and how well they could describe what they were doing. Their passion showed through very clearly. In particular, the Lighthouse Creativity Lab‘s “hand grabby thing” and their learning journals were inspiring. I took those back to my classroom, and to my community.
  • After one visit where I had seen sewing machines used on site, I began to think about how making anything is a form of engineering science. Often in the kindergarten school setting we think of science as biological – plants and animals, physical – attributes of objects, states of matter. But walking thru and participating in all the different aspects of Making made me realize even more how important PLAY is to the children. We as teachers just need to provide the children with opportunity to use different materials when they play. I did bring my sewing machine to school and let the children sew (supervised).
  • It has made me think the skills that I am teaching and what really is needed for students to be successful in the world of the future. The skill set is one of creativity, ingenuity and boldness – that maker spirit that is not bound by what already exists but the vision of what can be.
  • Maker Faire inspired me to start a 20% time in my classroom, where students have the opportunity to work on projects and research that interest them on Fridays. Students have used this time to complete the 20 hour coursework on Code.org, work with Arduino robots, and perler bead projects.
  • Often I see something that I think my students won’t be able to do but the children at Maker Faire always prove me wrong!
  • I find myself wanting to do more that I ever thought I could after visiting Maker Faire. My wish list of projects grows every year.
  • Through the great work I saw at Maker Faire, I was inspired to create our first ever Food Exploration Club. More than the big machines that blow out balls of fire or the fancy 3D machines, I was impressed and awed by the simples craftsmen and women who go out of their way to hone their skills at creating and crafting products and their respective relationships to making as their livelihood. The club was a chance for my students to recognize that we make everyday, in the simplest and most delicious of ways! We have been able to tie in the idea of how to make pickles as a fermentation process to how creating an emulsion comes from the power of mixing. Students are not limited by what they do not have but by what they are told is not possible.
  • I was amazed at how many groups were from [my geographical area] that I didn’t know were around!
  • I loved how many things could be made with recycled materials, which is important for teachers (as we have no budgets!)

An inspiration

Finally, our teachers were inspired by…

  • The passion to share – tools, experience, patterns, strategies. Welcome to an “open source” life!
  • The creativity, the imagination, the fearlessness, and the forward-thinking of the makers. The differences of the participants and yet the camraderie that I felt among all of them. Everybody wanted to share what they had and what they know. What a perfect situation!
  • The hands-on nature of Maker Faire and agency that it gives learners. I can see total engagement when someone is working to create something, and as a teacher that is my number one goal. I want students to delve into their learning and forget that anything else exists for a moment while they focus on the design process.
  • The community of collaboration that exists at Maker Faire. Individuality is celebrated, and innovation is seen as essential to bettering our understanding of the world around us. As a Special Education teacher, this rings so true to the type of community I create and foster in my classroom.
  • The smiles on children’s faces as they made things at the interactive stations or showed off their projects. The engagement was an instant sign to me that this was the direction that education needed to go as it solved the age-old problem of apathy in the classroom.