June 7, 2016 marked the first iteration of a new type of maker event called MakerJam. This event is the brainchild of three of my students who first presented their plan for the event on my blog. Inspiration for this event was based on their experiences with game jams, hack-a-thons, hackfests and hack days; events that all involve focused collaboration and rapid creativity. The success of these events fueled these students’ desire to extend these types of events into making and makerspaces.

Dubbed “The maker event created by students, for students,” MakerJam perfectly captures the essence of what the Maker Movement in K-12 is all about. As an event designed to embrace the maker culture, the MakerJam model involved creating a fast-paced, collaborative environment that demands rapid creativity, innovation, teamwork, problem-solving, and open-ended exploration – while extending that platform to makers in all fields, including, but not limited to, art, music, and writing.

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Photography by Laura Fleming

The MakerJam model is based on a secret theme which is released only 24 hours before the event. You can find more themed making ideas here. The theme is intended to jumpstart and inspire (but not restrict!) creativity. Here’s this year’s theme reveal:

MakerJam 2016 ran from 8am to 3pm on June 7 for the students at New Milford High School. During that time, students had the challenge to make something, ANYTHING, by the end of the day, inspired by the central theme, The Future. The hope was that MakerJam would be an experience that inspired creativity in students of all kinds — from those that have never had the time, environment, or motivation to create, to those makers that have been waiting for a chance to showcase their creativity without having to conform to or fit the traditional art or talent show, to those that regularly create but have never been challenged by limits on time and planning.

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To say that this event was a success is an understatement. Not only did we have a large number of our students participating, but thanks to the power of social media, we had participants in seven states join in! Student creations and experiences can be seen at #MakerJam2016. The events were even documented by a student and are being turned into a film.

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The beauty of the MakerJam model is that it applies not only to the students at New Milford High School, but to ALL students in K-12. In addition, it is a model that all teachers can embrace and participate in, no matter what content area or grade level they teach, and no matter what their budget allows for. It also serves as a great model for makerspace professional development for both teachers and school leaders alike to experience, and then pass that experience onto their students.

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For future years, MakerJam plans not only to spread to other locations, but to further extend its reach, by leveraging social media, allowing students and teachers from all over the world to be able to participate. You can find out more about the team and its mission on the MakerJam website, or by following MakerJam on Facebook or Twitter.

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