Hop on a School Bus for Field Trip Fun at Friday@MakerFaire

Maker News
A small girl pets the nose of an electronic giraffe robot.

The Maker Faire team cares deeply about inspiring the next generation of Makers, so every year we find new ways to reach communities whose kids might not be able to attend otherwise. We’re thrilled that schools have mobilized 3,000-plus students in response to our invitation to FRIDAY@MakerFaire on May 20th from 1pm–5pm.

The afternoon of FRIDAY@MakerFaire is especially for students and teachers to get special early access to all the amazing Makers who will be exhibiting over the weekend. Buses and carpools will bring kids from dozens of cities all over the Bay Area and beyond. Oakland, East Palo Alto, South San Francisco, and San Jose all have delegations of future Makers on their way. We have kids coming from as far away as Klamath Falls, Tahoe Vista, Los Baños, and Los Angeles to see the sights and get into making. Kids from Fiesta Gardens International School will walk across the street to see what’s happening right next door!

Doing it for the Kids

We have opened on Friday to reach students whose parents are unlikely to bring them to Maker Faire. While we’ve been offering field trip opportunities for the past nine Bay Area Maker Faires, it was only last spring that we opened a day early to make it feasible for schools to come enjoy Maker Faire in its entirety. What a glorious afternoon it was!

FRIDAY@MakerFaire is a truly special day for Bay Area schools.

Who Makes It Happen

About half our attendees use tickets that have been sponsored by the generosity of several future-focused companies:

  • LinkedIn went the extra mile by paying for transportation so that a school unable to afford their buses will be able to send students.
  • Startups ThingLogix and Roboterra have each sponsored three classes.
  • Our very own Maker Media donates the remainder of the needed tickets. (I’d wager that, if asked, every member of the staff and crew would pay for tickets out of their own pockets to make this day a reality.)

Through the Maker Fund, you too can give. Founded this year as a special project fund with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Maker Fund seeks to create positive change in the world by inspiring and empowering everyone to become a Maker. Maker Fund donations help to physically transport kids to the Faire by paying for the buses to take them there. It’s all about ensuring that students have the opportunity to see the benefits of STEAM-based learning in action, understand that it can be a professional calling, and get to meet the people whose own lives have been changed by their passion for technical literacy.

Naturally, Makers play a huge part in making this event a success. Thanks to Makers (over 1,300 in all!) for making these additional school-day open hours possible! I’ve been working on our field trip program for years (much smaller, more limited schedule events), and I can tell you that our Makers couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the importance of inspiring the next generation. It’s awe-inspiring.

We couldn’t do this without the teachers who work like mad to pull together buses and permissions; they get how important it is to make sure their kids feel like they can be a part of the Maker Movement, too, just as the tens of thousands of other kids do who come with their parents on the weekend.

Two young girls playing on a light up square floor.
Kids in the Dark Room at Maker Faire Bay Area 2015.

What to Do Now: Invite Kids and Schools!

If you, too, care about opening up the Maker Movement to new communities, here’s what you can do. Reach out to your local school or college and encourage them to come to FRIDAY@MakerFaire. The last day to reserve a spot for a school group is this Tuesday, May 10th.

Louis Kolenda has done his part! Louis used to be the creative director for Smithsonian and now supports a non-profit called YouthSF. “While our focus is the students, we also hope to help promote understanding between lifelong Mission residents and the nascent tech community.” Louis reached out to us to request scholarship tickets for 20 under-served kids, but interest within the YouthSF community quickly grew, and now he’s bringing a group of 120 attendees! He tells me, “None of these kids even knew about Maker Faire, let alone attended. This is so cool, giving them a window beyond the Mission.”

Audra Pittman serves as the Superintendent of Bayshore Elementary School District, right in Maker Faire’s backyard. It’s in the heart of Silicon Valley, but the vast majority of its diverse population qualify for the free school meal program. She wants her students to take advantage of this “great opportunity for our students and our staff as we embark on redesigning learning in our schools. They are immigrants or first-generation children with few connections to the area. This experience is sure to open new worlds for our students.” A teacher in her district wrote to tell me that these students “need to experience something better, something where they can see creativity coming to life. They need to see adults who are passionate about something unique.” Bayshore will send over 200 students to FRIDAY@MakerFaire.

There’s still time to arrange scholarships to make it easier for students from low-income communities to join us.

Four small children stand around a suited up astronaut.

Everyone Is Welcome

Low-income or not, all kids would benefit from more making in their lives. For them, for you, for everyone, FRIDAY@MakerFaire is the time to come to Maker Faire. And if you can get a group of 10 students together, it’s the hands-down best deal on tickets. At just $10/student and $15/chaperone, this special preview day is truly VIP access!

If you are not part of a school group, but still want to participate in FRIDAY@MakerFaire to enjoy this exclusive access while also supporting the Makers and the Maker Movement, we are also open early for a handful of Maker Faire enthusiasts (industry leaders, media, etc.) Purchase tickets.

Two young boys mock fight using oversized cardboard robot arms.
Two young boys mock fight using oversized cardboard robot arms.

What You Can Do Later

After Maker Faire is over, follow up with the groups you invited. Many schools use their visit as a way to launch a making initiative on campus, whether that’s building a makerspace, joining President Obama’s initiative A Nation of Makers, or starting a School Maker Faire. (We are hosting our first-ever School Maker Faire Workshop the morning of Friday, May 20th. Come for the workshop, and then stay for FRIDAY@MakerFaire!)

We expect that the after-effects of these field trips to Maker Faire will be seen years or decades down the road. But the immediate reviews from kids make the field trip’s impact very apparent.

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Find out about all of Maker Faire’s educational offerings and feel free to contact me if you want to join our effort to welcome more kids to the Maker Movement.

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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