Can 50 Closed Chicago Schools Become 50 Makerspaces?

Chicago will be soon closing 50 under-enrolled public schools. Could those 50 closed public schools become 50 makerspaces? The prospect is tantalizing. Recall the method Andrew Carnegie used to build public libraries. He required communities to furnish the land. He supplied the building and the books.

Could a similar model be used here? Who would be our modern Andrew Carnegie then? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation springs first to mind. They have done good things for libraries in the past. What is a makerspace other than a new form of the public library? Instead of having Maker Faires once a year, with 50 makerspaces we could have maker faires once a month — at various locations throughout the city.

Instead of taking your family to a movie on the weekend you could take them to a maker faire. How sweet is that? The Maker Faires could be held right in the school’s lunchroom and gym. There’s ample room for several hundred people in these locations. A monthly fair would replicate the scheduling of the Homebrew Computer Club, which met monthly at Stanford University. The members of this club would work frantically to get their new project ready to show at the next monthly meeting. We need to put our youth onto such a creativity schedule.

Beyond the Gates Foundation, Laurene Powell Jobs inherited an estate of $10 billion and she may be interested in such an initiative. She has stated her interest in education and what a perfect way to give back to the maker culture that spawned Apple’s successes. To build the future we first need to visualize the future. I visualize 50 closed schools being reborn as 50 makerspaces. What a beautiful sight.

[Phil Shapiro is a maker and media maker in the Washingon DC-area. He loves open sourcedigital storytelling and fixing up donated computers to deliver to people who need them. He can be reached at  and on Twitter @philshapiro.]

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