Our first session of the Maker Scouts Los Angeles featured sneak peeks at different making materials to show young children what some possibilities are. We have many scouts who have not had any real hands on project-making before and it was very important for us to show them how capable they can be.
With the majority of our scouts between 4 and 7, we knew that we needed to establish a routine so that they knew what would be coming at each meeting. Some parents stayed and others dropped off and we wanted to support the children to be as comfortable as possible. So, we started with a group meeting in a circle, something very familiar to the preschool and early elementary scouts. We talked about the Maker Scouts’ core values. We voted on whether we would do t-shirts or work aprons. They chose work aprons. We talked about wood and where it comes from and what some uses are. Then we set them off to MAKE!
We have half as many girls as boys. We are always looking for gender neutral projects that are attractive to both genders. So, we picked musical instruments. We had two projects for them to choose from: bamboo flutes or Cajun drums. For the bamboo flutes, we sent them out to the back where they cut down their own pieces of bamboo, trimmed off the branches using hands saws, and then used a circular saw, drill , sand paper, and a file to make a flute. Some scouts really got into sawing the bamboo and spent the whole 90 minutes becoming one withe saw. Other’s were frightened at first of the circular saw and yet when they saw their peers being successful, they were willing to give it a try. They waited patiently while one mentor helped them to drill a hole clear through the center. Then they used a template to draw holes, which they then drilled. Making the notch was difficult and one of the mentors ended up doing it for many of the scouts.
We learned that we needed more than two vises for drilling. There was a lot of waiting which ended up pushing this first session about 30 minutes past the two hour mark. We also felt that we should have prepared the scouts with rulers and tape measures so that they would have guidelines for which size bamboo would be successful.
You can download the drawing here.
The other group went for the Cajun drums. These drums are meant to be sat on and played by slapping the front face with your hand. Different sounds are produced depending on the size and shape of the sound port in the back of the drum. Our learning goal was to familiarize Scouts with drawings and basic wood working tools. They started with 2×8-foot sheets of plywood which they measured and cut with jigsaws and skill saws. Three faces were 3/4″ thick and one was 1/8″ which allowed them to to see the difference in tools and thickness of the wood. We had them use wood glue and then nails to attach the boards, but because we didn’t have time for the wood glue to dry, parents had to hold the edges for them to nail. Next time, we will have jigs ready to save home adult thumbs.
Here is a schematic for the drum.
We learned a few important lessons:
- Make sure that you have goggles AND ear protection. For many of the little ones, it was too loud. Plus, the headphones help keep the goggles on.
- Make sure that all hair is tied back.
- The children all remembered that when you use the circular saw, the hand that you are not using on the saw always “hugs” the back.
We would have loved to do a closing circle where the children could then share what they noticed and enjoyed about the process, but we ran out of time. We will be working towards doing this in future meetings. The best moments were the huge beams of pride. I heard back from many parents that the flutes went to bed to many of our scouts tightly hugged.
Jean Kaneko, founder and chief tinkerer at The Exploratory, is documenting a session of the Maker Scouts’ successes and failures for MAKE and celebrating both as learning opportunities.