Why Educators Love Maker Faire 2014 ( + their tips!)

Why Educators Love Maker Faire 2014 ( + their tips!)
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Chad Ratliff shared with us this video (above, by Trevor Przyuski) of a professional development trip he and his colleagues took to Maker Faire 2013.

Schools are back in session, and we’re getting ready to throw open the gates to Maker Faire, hands-down the best hands-on learning-palooza for teachers everywhere. And it’s nearly here! In just two weeks we’re hosting World Maker Faire, aka The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth, at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York. It’s a place to learn, whether you’re a kid or an adult, and we hear from lots of educators that it’s their favorite “professional development” opportunity every year.

Teachers, learn more about the special ways to attend here, including our exclusive Teacher Team, freebies and discounts, and a virtual field trip with Maker Camp: makerfaire.com/new-york-2014/learning

First, the advice that teachers give for strategies for attending Maker Faire: What to see and how to see it …

  • Keep track of all the fun projects and experiences that draw you in as an attendant, and then think how to reverse-engineer those experiences into a lesson.
  • Seek out the student projects that are brought to the Faire, from the robotics to even the simpler projects. As a teacher, I know we spend a lot of time emphasizing project-based learning, but having it physically manifest itself in a machine or physical product beyond a poster is a specific challenge I would like to push myself and others to strive for. Tangible projects will always last longer in a student’s mind than tests or facts.
  • Go to the presentations. They are very informative, and I always get something from them.
  • Spend time reading the program and studying the map beforehand! That way you can pick what really interests you, and maybe make it to see those if you don’t get too sidetracked like I do seeing something new along the way!
  • Plan to be there all day.
  • Wear comfy clothes and shoes.
  • Join in any chance you get. Just jump in and try out a new activity.
  • Bring along a student who wouldn’t have had a chance to attend if you didn’t bring them. It is an eye-opening afternoon!
  • Check out the fabric and clothing swap area (Swap-o-Rama-Rama) for anyone who likes to sew items for their classroom. There are a lot of easy, cheap project ideas that can be duplicated for 20 or 30 students.
  • Look at everything because you just never know what you are going to see.
  • The large demonstrations like EepyBird or the human-sized Mousetrap can be reduced on a smaller scale and brought into the classroom as design challenges to an identified problem.
  • I recommend all of the booths with hands-on activities at which you can build stuff – silkscreen clothing, battery-powered cars with a rolling disposable water bottle for a “wheel,” the “glove-o-phone” made from a finger of a rubber glove stretched over a length of tubing, the PVC pipe marshmallow shooter … You get both a cool thing you can have your students build back in your classroom, and you also get to experience the thrill and frustration of trying to make something yourself.
  • Visit any exhibit run by maker kids and find out what makes them tick — how they got started, what they’ve learned so far — and let them teach you. There was a girl who had collected hundreds of old pairs of jeans from thrift stores and brought several heavy-duty sewing machines, and she led us through repurposing them into a nifty purse. I could see the wheels spinning in my kids’ heads,  “Oh, well, maybe I could host a booth myself next year … what would I do?”
  • Visit anything that commands your interest and attention and motivates you, because that’s what we want for our kids, and you deserve it, too!
  • Spend more than one day exploring. There is so much to see and get involved with that you can’t do it all in one day.
  • Get your hands on something and DO some making.
  • Try to just take a walking tour so that you can see the overall variety, then spend some time focusing on a few exhibits.
  • Talk to the makers.
  • Be prepared to be AMAZED.
  • Come down! Get out of the classroom and see what really gets students excited about science, math and art!
  • You have to see the giant mousetrap. That’s worth it all.
  • Walk around and talk to the makers. (I got a few makers to help in my classroom.)
  • I would recommend educators attend with a few students. If you want to know what gets a student excited, what interests them, take them to Maker Faire. I love walking around the faire and seeing my students. I tell my students I’ll give them extra credit if they see me and say “Halsey in the House!” You’d think they would. Instead they see me and are either too engaged in doing something or want to share and show me what they’ve seen. I don’t need to give them extra credit, though, going to Maker Faire is the best experience.
  • If you have time, go both days and take a notebook with you because you will never be able to remember all of what you saw and what inspires you. I personally like to start off with stuff I am familiar with like the homegrown village where you can learn about raising chickens, bee keeping, and making pickled foods at home. Then I like to head to the expo hall to pick up some cool new ideas from any of the hundreds of maker booths. If I still have time that first day I like to visit the bizarre bazaar and pick up a shirt or craft idea for my craft club.
  • Walk around to get a feel for the range of possibilities that making can offer. You never know what might spark your interest. Then, pick a few workshops or talks where experts or beginners will share their own experiences with making. Then, after the speaker is done, go up and introduce yourself — makers are a very friendly group and love to share. Finally, make another pass through the booths, and this time collect information on tools, projects, people that you will want to follow-up on when you get back to school. That way you have a very focused email list for your homework.

At Maker Media, we love teachers, because they are making the future. But why do educators love making and Maker Faire? Here are some of the best testimonials we’ve heard from teachers over the past year about why they are joining the Maker Movement:

  • Maker Faire broadens your perspective on what kids are capable of, especially in a time when we make things safe for them. Perhaps too safe … — David
  • I have been more and more willing to try “risky” projects with my students, telling them I want to see what they’ve learned and then giving them supplies and letting them go to town. I teach first grade, so there is a little bit of scaffolding first. For example, when I had my students make a 3D model of a skeleton with pasta, I provided them with pictures of a skeleton, a model I had made, and all the glue and pasta they would need to make their own. I am always inspired by what I see at Maker Faire, personally and professionally. I love all of the steampunk flavored stuff, and I really enjoyed the “take it, make it” fabric and clothing swap area from last year.—Katherine
  • Maker Faire began the shift in my teaching paradigm. Where I had once been a very directive teacher I learned and embraced the concept of everyone is a maker and everyone has something to teach. My classroom has been transformed into a place where we all grow and learn together. I first learned about Makey Makey and Scratch at Maker Faire and I jumped in without really knowing much about it. I showed my students what it was and some basic programming I had tried. Now we learn together. My only rule? “You must control your own mouse.” I am inspired by the variety and innovation that sets the stage for learning. It makes me feel both like I am part of a group and that I am a creative individual. Last year I took a picture of all the different modes of transportation. It was amazing to see how so many people can imagine something that gets us from one place to another in so many different ways. I also love the use of light and sound so I always spend a good part of the day in the dark room. — Kelly
  • The whole Maker Movement has had a profound effect on my teaching. My observation and work at the Maker Faire has helped me to bring back the excitement of tinkering and making to my traditional school that had a very traditional tech program. I have been inspired by watching a lot of makers and tinkerers at the faire using things like hangers, wool, tape, and more high-tech components. The first year I volunteered I also went to the d-school and was struck by how much of their equipment was bins of stuff. This helped form my growing feeling that tech needed to get more physical. That combining robots and computers was just the beginning. —Jenny
  • I highly recommend everyone — including students, parents and educators — to go check out this year’s Maker Faire. It’s like a Disneyland filled with gadgets that we all can create by simply using our imaginations and creative minds. —Grace
  • I am now teaching a 3D printing elective class to eighth graders at our STEM academy. Maker Faire inspired me to ask our principal to purchase a 3D printer, and now I am planning a “Maker Technology” class for next year. We practice Design Thinking at our school and I am finding that it is actually a great process to use alongside 3D printer technology. I am also interested in teaching a history of the Maker Movement, and bringing more making to our school. I think that too often teachers rely on pre-scripted learning events with right and wrong answers, because open-ended projects are often very messy and hard to control or grade. Students benefit from principles derived from making, and lead to greater degrees of self motivation in learning. — James
  • Every year that I attend the faire, it reignites my desire to teach and I get a burst of creativity. It inspires me to help students explore and tinker and, especially, to get young girls involved in making. I see making as a gateway to engineering and other STEM-related fields. I was also inspired by the poised 9-year old boy who helped me with my first soldering project. — Katie
  • I brought back the idea of starting a Maker’s Club at my school. In this club, students have participated in activities such as Socktopus, Cardboard Challenge, intro to soldering, Lego robots and bubble making. I have also used Make: magazine and Maker Camp on Google+ to create such projects as marshmallow guns, inko-dying T-shirts, robots from trash, and more. I was inspired by the amount of people who think creatively, inspire others to think creatively and generously support those trying to be creative by teaching others. There are so many people who want to teach others. As a teacher it is so important to learn as well as teach and it puts in the forefront that everyone has something to teach. — Kelly
  • I assign Maker Faire for my students’ first marking period homework. They can attend or write a research paper. We are close to the Hall of Science, so of course 95% of my kids attend. I’ve met so many amazing people. I bring Maker Faire into my classroom and we celebrate it. I was inspired by the creative energy that pulses from the faire. When my students come into my class for the first time I tell them about Maker Faire. Many of them have already attended, but those who haven’t I feel it is my mission to bring them to Maker Faire. I try to describe it to them, and words always fail me. I say it’s like Disney, a candy store, and the world’s greatest toy store all rolled together. Seeing the breadth of making, the art of making, the craft and the joy of making is what inspires me most. I have my students take photos and create photo albums because I know I won’t be able to see everything, but I can see it all through their eyes. —Lori
  • I was inspired by the creative spirit of all the presenters. I take pictures like crazy so that I can bring some ideas back to my classroom. Our end-of-the-year bubble day has taken on a whole new level of excitement, and the mentos and coke experiment works its way into science every year now, complete with the heightened drama of lab coats and safety goggles. My students experience an innovative spirit in my classroom. It’s an amazing transformation from “tell me what to do” to “let me explain what I did.” This year my students made balloon rockets to learn about air pressure. They designed, tested, redesigned, and finally competed in a rocket race using string tracks spanning the width of the classroom. Most recently my students made an ugly bunny doll. After a basic lesson on sewing, they were free to create with a variety of materials. Each ugly bunny was unique in size, shape, and features. Removing creative restrictions raises the engagement level as every student puts their personal mark on their project. — Susan
  • I found multiple aspects of Maker Faire to be thrilling, exciting and engaging. I love seeing and hearing how makers brought their ideas to life from conception construction revision all the way to the final product. We ordered our first 3D printer this year and had my students design a phone stand. I was inspired by the diversity of maker projects. Some projects had one part while others had many. Some people built software, hardware, invented a tool, car bike, or just a really cool fashion statement piece of clothing. I really like the breakout sessions. — Charles
  • I brought back many ideas for how to craft creative, open-ended, and hands-on activities into lessons for my class. Maker Faire is a celebration of science and creativity, and I appreciate getting to take the perspective of a learner and creator while attending the faire. It puts me in a mindset where I can think about how to create those kinds of experiences for my students during class. I was inspired by the food makers area — food has intrinsic engagement value, and I built a food science unit for my middle schoolers around some of the activities I saw at Maker Faire. My students made cheese, bread, butter, jam, soda, and sauerkraut from scratch, all while learning the science behind these foods. One of my students mentioned that she didn’t want to buy any of these at the store anymore now that she knows how to make better versions herself! — Monica
  • I was inspired by the many people who mentioned THEY were inspired by some kooky crazy teacher or parent or friend who just loved the process of making that got them interested in what they do now, whether it was metal work and robotics or just cooking and knitting. Just showing how much you LOVE doing something in front of someone else is truly an inspiring experience I want to create for my students. — Sarah
  • I became a lot more open to the variety of making that is possible — it is not just about robots and 3D printers, but also includes building, graphic design, cooking, arts and crafts. The eclectic mixture of what is making was evident from walking around, and really helped to broaden my own ideas for how making can reach a lot of different people and interests. I was also brought back a hope that some of the more expensive tools could be had, with a little creativity. I spoke with teachers about fundraising, sales reps about discounts for schools, and individual vendors about their new products that were half the cost of last year’s version. Simply put — we could do it on our budget. I was inspired by the passionate and energetic students and teachers that stood and talked with me, and hundreds of other strangers, for hours on end about their projects. I was also inspired by the creativity and diversity of ideas I saw — making can be very flexible and individual. I was also inspired by the “not yet finished” aspect of all the makers. This was a process that was ongoing, and I could be a part of it. It was hard not to think about all the times I had an idea, but just hadn’t followed through on it. Here were hundreds of people that had followed through — some with spectacular success, others with spectacular failure — but all having a blast in the process. —Daniel
  • I brought back a sense of letting kids explore their world and make up questions that can be answered with new research or experimentation. I was inspired by the people who allowed kids to use tools that I had previously deemed out of their age range. I have been pleasantly surprised by how well they can do with supervision. — Jeff
  • Let’s just put it this way, I never like to leave Sunday afternoon. Lately, I have been loving the robotics and the crafts. I am inspired that I can learn so much and I don’t have to fill in bubbles with #2 pencils. — Susie
  • Take the step to make something, use a tool in the classroom and you will see an amazing amount of students shine in unique ways that you never would have imagined. I had a boy who was very tough, self conscious completely get absorbed into a sewing project where we made messenger bags and created circuits to illustrate a genetics concept. This boy became the teachers aide of this project, he was so taken with using the machine and creating something that he could use for his sporting clothes. — Maggie
  • The creativity. There is something for everyone. My girls were afraid they were going to be bored and they had just as much fun as the boys! The discussion in class after was very eye-opening for me as a teacher on what they really remembered and wanted to try and do. Wood is no longer offered in high school! Metals either! Kids need hands-on learning that is outside the box! Like the math that goes with the Mousetrap. Or the electricity with the coil. I turn into A BIG KID EVERY YEAR I GO! PS I have taken over 200 pictures every year I have gone! I keep them in the classroom for the kids to look at. I use them for writing prompts. — Audrey
  • The variety of creations at the Maker Faire continues to amaze and inspire me. When I describe the faire to people who have never attended or heard of making, I typically tell them that it involves everything from computer programming, to welding, to 3D printing, and steampunk. I even saw an old Chinese man who did not speak English demonstrating how to make noodles by hand. That was one of the most fascinating and inspiring things I’ve seen. I love the fact that the phrase making does not limit itself in any way. There are artists, scientists, crafts people, etc. It is all about being creative and freedom to take risks and express yourself in a supportive environment. I can’t wait for this year’s faire. — Kevin
  • I went to Maker Faire last year and had no idea how powerfully the experience would impact my teaching and community outreach efforts. I was able to connect with some amazing educators, makers, artists. I have used making projects to bring S.T.E.A.M. to my schools and collaborate with my colleagues which creates an amazing experience for students, families, and the community. — Dijanna
  • Maker Faire is my professional development for my middle school engineering classes. I run around the event looking for projects that would work well with my class. I find two days at the Maker Faire more helpful than any class I have taken. — Nate
  • After attending in 2011, I thought that the Faire would be exciting and inspiring to my high school physics students. So I offer them extra credit if they attend and make a short video or write a report about the science behind 3 separate exhibits. This has been very popular and quite a few of my students really get excited. — Scott
  • I brought back a much greater sense of adventure and possibility in learning! — Candace
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Michelle, or Binka, makes . While at Maker Media, she oversaw publications, outreach, and programming for kids, families, and schools. Before joining Maker Media in 2007, she worked at the Exploratorium, in Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, and as a curriculum designer for various publishers and educational researchers. When she’s not supporting future makers, including her two young sons, Binka does some making of her own, most often as a visual artist.

View more articles by Michelle "Binka" Hlubinka


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