“Making” A School Open House Magical

Maker News
“Making” A School Open House Magical

It all began in 2008 when I published my article on Compressed Air Rockets for Make: Magazine volume 15. Since then, Air Rocket Works has brought rocket fun all over the world through launch events and kits (LEARN MORE). Then in 2012 when my kids were four and seven, we went to our first Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was one of those events where the kids didn’t want to leave at the end of the day. We all came away exhausted but filled with creative inspiration. Since then, we became participants in Maker Faire and it became the weekend we could hardly wait for. 

In 2016, after teaching middle school for over 20 years, my maker and teacher world collided. I was hired to start the maker program at Steindorf K-8 STEAM School in San Jose, California. Steindorf was a brand new school with 500 students and working with a creative team of educators was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Read more about my journey as a maker and the Steindorf Maker Lab I coordinate. Steindorf is one of the few public schools with a full-time makerspace teacher.

After a few years of having a traditional Open House at Steindorf (like all the other schools in the district), we decided at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year to attempt our own School Maker Faire. The date for Open House was already set, so we decided as a staff to transform this traditional one hour showcase into a three-hour faire with classroom exhibitions, musical performances, food and maker stations. With a small team of seven teachers and a $2000 budget, we worked through the details, from bicycle parking to volunteers, to maker station supplies. We used a website we created to communicate new information to parents as it rolled out. When May 4th, 2022 rolled around, we were ready to go!

Because multiple events were going on at the same time, we created a simple schedule with the afternoon festivities. The fact that many things were going on at the same time, made it feel like a real festival. The School Faire started at 4 and then we had our opening ceremonies at 4:30 with our own Steindorf 8th Wave rock band. The hundreds of families attending went wild! After that, classrooms and campus exhibits were open for hands-on exploration and maker stations kept families busy with Nerdy Derby racetrack cars, go kart rides, paper and tape rockets, take apart stations, a life-size digital fish tank, fable themed 16 hole mini golf course, card making and tons of other DIY fun. Weaved into the schedule were additional string and drama performances along with our Little League snack shack open for burgers, hot dogs and other satisfying treats.

In classic Maker Faire fashion, the biggest regret in the end was that families didn’t get to do everything they wanted. That’s the sign of a good Faire, always wanting more! To say it was a career highlight for me would be an understatement. Just like the Maker Faire I loved for so many years with my own kids, we left totally exhausted but thrilled that we provided our school community with an incredible new tradition that we’ll look forward to for many years to come.

Want to host a School Maker Faire at your school or bring more making into the curriculum? Find out more about registering for the School Maker Faire Program HERE. Or engage with the community of educators working to bring hands-on learning to students one classroom and project at a time at the Make: Education Forum.

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Rick Schertle

Rick teaches middle school in San Jose, CA. He’s a contributing writer for MAKE and leads after school making clubs with kids. He designed the compressed air rocket for MAKE 15 and the folding-wing glider in MAKE 31. With his wife and kids, Rick loves all things that fly. Rick is the co-founder of AirRocketWorks.com.

View more articles by Rick Schertle


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