1. To Provide a Dedicated Space: Even if just a cart, having a space that’s set up to be inspiring and safe allows kids to feel like they have permission to take ownership and be creative beyond what’s normally accepted or expected of them.
2. Use Real Tools: We have the same real tools that any adult makerspace would have. Kids as young as 3 use drills, saws, and soldering irons. To the frequent question “Can you do this for me? You’re better at it than me,” our answer is “That’s why you should do it! Then you’ll get as good as me.” We’d rather help them learn to do it safely and become more comfortable, or find another way to achieve their goals. This helps them to develop feelings of competence, responsibility, and leadership.
3. Value Process Over Product: Value experiential learning. We celebrate the fact that they’re making, not just what they make. The point is not to take home some shiny object that they’ve made. We emphasize that it’s okay to fail — it’s just an opportunity to learn.
A major part of making is researching how to accomplish goals. Instead of telling kids step-by-step instructions, we encourage them to figure out how to do it themselves, ask other kids, or research it online. We frequently answer the question “How do I do this?” with “Google will tell you!”
4. Be Interest-Driven: We try to let kids’ creative interests define projects as much as possible. If we tell them exactly what to make and how, they quickly lose interest. If they’re following their creative interests, they’re much more engaged.
Every activity we do, no matter how short, we incorporate something creative, something open-ended. Let them make it their own!
5. Encourage Kids Teaching: We encourage kids to share their knowledge with each other and with their teachers. A low student-to-teacher ratio is valuable in any learning environment, so encourage everyone to be teachers. Kids teaching also gain so much self-confidence. When a new kid asks how to hook up an LED and another kid says, “I can show you that,” everyone is growing.
As the kids grow as makers and teachers, we encourage them to volunteer as helpers in classes. The next step is for them to lead classes themselves.
Sometimes kids know more than we do, especially on topics they’re passionate about. In many of our classes, the kids are the experts and we learn from them all the time. We make sure to listen and let them teach us, too.
6. Allow Time for Exhibition: Each program has a presentation to the parents, which kids get really excited about. It helps them to organize their thoughts, knowing that at the end of their project, they’ll have to explain it to someone else. Having a deadline also helps them focus and move forward.
7. Involve the Community: We connect to the community and the global maker community through events like Maker Faire, local community festivals, school fun fairs, participation in online discussions, and interfacing with folks from other maker companies. We work with many other kids’ organizations — Find out what the makers in your community are passionate about and connect with them.