Why Don't I Like the Sound of 'Makerspace'?

In this line of work we tend to bump into the terms 'Maker Movement' and 'Makerspaces' quite often. Every time I do, I shudder just a bit. I just don't like it, but why?

I think it's similar to the reason I started this blog- I felt that teachers in classrooms weren't taken seriously in educational policy because our work usually isn't considered research. After reading so many studies in grad school I really wondered where the teacher's voices were. It's similar to all the hype about maker spaces. Why isn't just making things good enough on it's own? Making things, building things, tinkering, inventing are things children do with no prompting at all. With a little scaffolding they can take these creations to levels of ingenuousness and beauty that astound me every day.

In researching this issue I found this excellent article by Debbie Chachra that argues that making is seen as valuable because it leads to products that can be sold:
"A quote often attributed to Gloria Steinem says: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” Maker culture, with its goal to get everyone access to the traditionally male domain of making, has focused on the first. But its success means that it further devalues the traditionally female domain of caregiving, by continuing to enforce the idea that only making things is valuable."  (why-i-am-not-a-maker)

But I'll argue further, that the only things that are seen as worthwhile are 'makes' that use technology and can be hashtagged. The other day I was reading a story about a man explaining something to a woman that she already knew- the trendy term 'mansplaining'. I realized that I get the same feeling about that as I do about the maker thing. I don't know if I'd equate the Maker Movement with mansplaining- maybe it's PhD-splaining. But either way I find it belittling to the (mostly women) teachers and children who were teaching and learning, making and even using technology before the maker manifesto was a twinkle in anyone's eye.

To quote Lauren Britton in another series of articles: "The idea that ‘we are all Makers’ is repeated constantly through the discourse of the maker movement, yet the power and opportunity purported to emerge from this movement is strongly focused on STEM education and the ‘tools of production’. It is frequently said, as quoted above, that making is not limited to the tech experts or pro-amateurs, that cooking, coding, and beekeeping are all making (which is true) and that all are equally valuable (which much of the discourse would actually reject)."

I've been making things all of my life. Some of the things are more highbrow like fine art, and some not, like sewing clothes. I've been helping children make things for a really long time too. I know how much new understanding I have gotten from the processes I've used, and how much learning children gain from the same. Why isn't this kind of making taken seriously? Why must it be rebranded and codified? 

Lauren Britton again:
"If technical tinkering, STEM, and digital fabrication are the economic forces that will empower Makers, and women and people of color are not participating in these activities in a visible way, that power will remain unequally distributed. When gender is discussed in relation to the maker movement, the conversation starts with the notion that Making creates a unique opportunity for inclusive participation, and is quickly followed by the question ‘how can we get more women to participate?’ Generally, the responses focus on transforming women, on areas that need to be corrected, such as raising confidence, creating more woman/girl friendly learning environments, increasing ability in math and science, and so on. The women themselves cause the problem; they lack confidence, they are unable to learn in the ‘normal’ STEM environment, they do not embrace their full capability in math and science. It is the women who are deficient."

I am hopeful that as more voices are taken into consideration in our modern culture, that creativity, intuition and beauty can find real, permanent places in schooling. I hope through my own work I can show that science, engineering and technology aren't inherently more valuable than the 'soft skills' that I possess, even if they are historically more highly valued. I hope I can keep on providing media and materials to children. Maybe one day the school where I work will build the new space that many of us have dreamed of and talked about. This space will be huge and have woodworking tools and maybe a forge next to the easels and sewing supplies. Pippin and I have been calling it our workshop.


Dragon Story

here is a try at embedding a Slate digital story-see it full size here- https://slate.adobe.com/cp/ELcc7/
Does anyone know how to make it less narrow?



The Dead Bird and the Secret Color of Angels

"I put a moon. A moon inside for the bird to shine, and a moon on top"
Penny, who just turned four

"On the folk-tale quest, encounters matter, be they with people, animals, luck or death. What is important in the quester is the readiness to encounter..." Jay Griffiths, A Country Called Childhood

The children in the Garden room found a dead bird outside one day. They did a lot of thinking about the bird in their classroom with Teachers Sara and Tiffany. They also came to the studio to make a coffin with caretaker and carpenter Pippin, and to decide how to decorate the coffin. I asked them what they thought would happen, now that the bird had died? During these conversations children would begin to sing. I started to pay attention to children's spontaneous songs.

Jeb (sings)
Bird, Bird, Bird
you will be dead,
please will you turn into a 
angel, or angel, or angel, or,
a angel bird...

Annabelle (sings)
I really love you bird,
be well soon,
maybe a lovebird,
will come and help her,
lovebird please,
lovebird please, please come...
me Where will the bird go when she dies? 
Aedan Another bird might come and get her. Take her to a .. maybe to a farm house.
Eleanor I’m making a friend for her. This is the bird here. This is the bird and she’s flying all the way to…..
Riley heaven!
Eleanor No. Here’s the bird, and she’s flying all the way to… us. And this is just her and she’s going to make a circle, and she’ll come back here.
me Wait. Do you think a new bird will come around and fly back to us? Our red cardinal bird will turn into a new bird and come back?
a friend for the bird Eleanor
Eleanor Yes. I drawed a new friend so she will know a way to come.
sings 'little cardal its ok to cry but we’ll be here with you, 
you are ready to die. 
when you’re with us you’ll be tucked in, 
we love you, little birdie we love you.'

Riley (sings) 
Cause if they don’t die, cause she’ll still be sick. 
They would be never seen again in the forest.
don’t worry about a thing, 
but if you love us, we love you too, 
and when you are with us don’t worry about a thing 
(keeps singing in the background)
Aiden Wings wings. Those are her wings. Maybe my Mom gonna love that.

love bird Annabelle
Annabelle (sings)
'I really love you bird, be well soon,
Maybe a love bird will come and help her.
Jeb (The Love Bird) That’s another spirit, Annabelle thinks. And there’s also love-squirrels.
me how do you get a lovebird to come?
Annabelle maybe you sing a beautiful song.
Jeb (sings)
'love bird please, 

lovebird please, please come…'
Lovebirds are the color of real angels. Well sometimes... maybe brown or something.
It’s a very good secret.
the bird and heaven Alice

Alice Well, she can’t fly to heaven...
Annabelle Maybe we could carry the box to heaven
me Oh, do you know the way to heaven?
Annabelle Well I think I been to heaven but it was a loooong time ago, and I don’t remember. My Mom doesn't know.
Alice Is heaven a box?
me It’s usually thought to be a big space, with things that you like.
Alice Is heaven a building?
Annabelle I can draw a map, well, I… I think I know how to get there but the bird is kind of pinkish to me, so I’ll need a pink marker.
a map of the way to heaven Annabelle
me sometimes they say that heaven is over the rainbow.
Annabelle Oh! I know, cause I have a over the rainbow story and I know how to get there!
Alice I don’t know about it.