Why Educators Love Maker Faire 2015 ( + more tips!)

Maker News
Why Educators Love Maker Faire 2015 ( + more tips!)
The cardboard constructions at Maker Faire stand out for teachers who come looking for cheap and deep projects they can bring to the classroom.  KitRex's paperboard dinosaurs are a hit with kids, and show them how simple 2D shapes can become something you've only imagined!
The cardboard constructions at Maker Faire stand out for teachers who come looking for cheap and deep projects they can bring to the classroom. KitRex’s paperboard dinosaurs are a hit with kids, and show them how simple 2D shapes can become something you’ve only imagined!

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 1.07.09 PMOne of my favorite parts of being a part of Maker Faire is sharing all our amazing Makers with teachers who come from all around the Bay Area—really from all over the world!—and then hearing from the teachers why this is such a special part of their year. We’re delighted to welcome teachers to the event, whether they are coming with a whole classroom to our special open hours during the new Friday@MakerFaire, riding in style to Maker Faire on one of the buses generously sponsored by Google, or just attending on their own on Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday. (Click on the flyer at right to print a poster to get your school to come Friday 1–5pm. Parent-organized groups of 10 or more coming after school are very welcome too!)

What follows is our nearly annual collection of wonderful reasons why teachers love to come to Maker Faire to spark thousands of neural explosions.

At Maker Faire, I was really inspired by the blending of high-tech and low-tech projects. In the science education world, there has been a strong push for STEM education – which realistically means adding some engineering labs. However, Maker Faire is a beautiful example of STEAM – bringing in aspects of art and display. I loved visiting both the crafting area as well as seeing the 3-D printers. Most of all, I enjoy the costumes and projects that attendees wore/brought. — Jessica B., Oakland Hebrew Day School in Oakland

There is so much to see and so many exciting projects that it is impossible not to be invigorated about your own ideas and projects. Visiting Maker Faire made me want to bring students. I brought back photos and walked my classes through some of the amazing projects makers were creating….I am inspired by the wealth of ideas. Everywhere I turn at Maker Faire, I get a new idea, or a new method or output from an old idea. It’s so exciting to see how people are leveraging new and old technology to create whatever they dream. — Teresa B. at Carson High School in Carson City, Nevada

Science fair and art show with just a touch of Burning Man, my kind of place… — James, a middle school teacher who works near the event

The energy at Maker Faire was incredible. There was so much excitement. The kids (of all ages, including “advanced”) were an inspiration to me. … I didn’t want it to end. I kept thinking up new ideas for building. — Cynthia, a teacher in East Montpelier, Vermont

I am always inspired by the the educational maker shed of various schools that are bringing the creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. As a veteran educator I am always inspired to think out side the box after I have attended the fair. Go early and truly engage in the experience, don’t be afraid. I find my artistic ability being ignited to make what I see to be replicated within the classroom. — Lisa at teacher in San Francisco

Seriously, I am a blank slate. I want to see everything, do everything, soak it all up and then on the drive back down to Los Angeles I want my mind to be abuzz with new ideas for lessons to teach my students. — Judy, a teacher in L.A.

Maker Faire allowed me to understand how to “cut the fat” in my curriculum if i had to explain “how to” in less than 5 minutes. They really got to the point and made it very easy to understand. Last year I was really excited to hang out in the dark building with all the light. It really set a great example for our future innovators to continue to build, explore, and create. I was inspired by the Makers’ enthusiasm. They were incredibly kind very inviting to people who were just curious. It made the experience for me, it created a place where I didn’t feel like I had to know everything and it was best to not know and just have fun with it. I wouldn’t know any other place hat instilled things you’d only see in your mind. It is a showcase of imagination of epic proportion. — an elementary school teacher in Danville

When I attended the Maker Faire last year (2014), I was not expecting to translate the experience into a teachable moment for my students. The “maker movement” at my previous schools were included as after school programs or as non-curricular activities. It was through connecting with other educators and seeing the educators’ exhibits that I realized the potential of the Maker projects for my high school English classroom. I recommend to other teachers that they get involved as soon as possible. Take a day off and attend on Friday. Plan to spend time to touch, examine, and experience all the inventions/exhibits. Take notes and/or pictures. Plan immediately to put the Maker movement into your curriculum.  — Diane, a teacher in San Francisco

Maker Faire has had a huge impact on the variety of ideas that I can bring back to the classroom for science fair and for science club. For example, one year I saw a demo where we could make our own silk screen t-shirts. I combined that idea with the solar-sensitive sheets to have my students design and screen their own t-shirts for AP Chemistry. I also love seeing the student displays because I can see what other students are doing in the area to bring back to my science club. … [I’m inspired by how] many adult makers there are! I am able to come back to my students and communicate to them that the process that they have so much fun doing in school can be done even after they graduate college. I think seeing a variety of ages will inspire the students to continue with their excitement and curiosity with science. I really hope to bring my students to Maker Faire this year on a weekend so they can see that people of all ages make. I also want them to see the variety that making can take. I want to see the look on their faces when they get the reinforcement that science is cool beyond the context of school. I am always hunting for new and innovative ways to “trick students into learning,” as my master teacher always said. When students are having fun doing science, the academic vocabulary falls in to place. — Ann Shioji, a high school teacher in San Jose

I live in San Francisco! Everywhere I look a library, a teacher, someone is making something out of something. It is in the air! I also take my own children to the Mission Science Workshop every month and my sons love taking apart old vcrs to look for magnets or making skateboards from scrap. I have also taken students on field trips there and I have witnessed students that are lumps in class come alive with a screwdriver. They will have laser-like focus when taking apart an old telephone to figure out what is inside. I want that at my school! — a middle school teacher librarian in San Francisco

Maker Faire [itself] was the biggest inspiration. Seeing the magnitude of makers and the customers flock to learn about the makers with inspiration that a small idea can turn large. — Shannon Wernette, a high school teacher in Mountain View

And some bits of teacher-to-teacher advice about how to get the most out of your visit.

  1. Identify and prioritize a few types of projects, booths, organizations/companies, or talks/presentations that you want to see. It is easy to get distracted.
  2. Come early. It is less crowded in the morning. Get there right when it starts and attend every day it’s open.
  3. Have lunch during a non-lunch time. There will be long lines at the food trucks.
  4. Don’t hide behind a camera or videocamera. YOU are there to EXPERIENCE and have FUN.
  5. Talk to the makers.
  6. Bring a camera with lots of memory on it. Clear out your camera so you have plenty of room for photos! There is so much to see and take in, and there are so many makers to talk to, that you will find something new and amazing every minute you are there.
  7. See the latest advances in 3D resin printing. The buzz around this new technology is not unwarranted, and it may change our assumptions about the importance of students learning to maneuver, create and program objects within a 3D space.
  8. It can be very overwhelming. There is a lot to experience and to see. I highly recommend doing some research — watching some YouTube videos, read some articles, talk to past attendees — to get a sense of what you are about to experience. It is almost like visiting Disneyworld for the first time, you have a rough plan so that you won’t feel as if you are missing anything.
  9. When you see something that excites you gather all the information you can at the time to include contact information. After leaving it is very difficult to make these contacts
  10. Go both days. There is so much there you need two days to take it all in.
  11. 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!
  12. Check out 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.
  13. Read the literature, and get the magazine.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Plan to be there all day. (I would definitely go two days if I could afford it. One day to just go around and another to do the hands on activities.)
  17. Wear comfy clothes and shoes.
  18. Join in, any chance you get.
  19. Take a notebook with you because you will never be able to remember all of what you saw and what inspires you.
  20. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, participate, and act like a kid.
  21. Be as open and friendly as possible because Maker Faire offers a unique venue that encourages open-source and sharing process of everyone’s projects while allowing everyone to connect and create rather than consume.
  22. Prepare questions for some of the established company booths such as Intel, TinkerCad, MakerBot, Arduino, and more asking about how to incorporate new technologies, hands-on learning projects, and tools into the classroom. Because Maker Faire is very personable, whimsical, and down to earth, it’s the perfect place to network with the individuals at these companies.
  23. Go to the talks; they are super informative. Make sure to check out Maker Education Initiative’s education talks!
  24. Go early and talk to the makers to get the inside scoop on the usefulness of the project and do some problem-solving to figure out how you could bring it into your classroom.

Be sure to check out our previous posts about why teachers love Maker Faire:

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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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