3 Challenges As Hands-On, DIY Culture Moves Into Schools

[I just had a chance to participate in Studio A, a 3 day workshop sponsored by the Avonworth School District with funding from the Grable Foundation. The workshop linked Arts Integration + Human-Centered Design + Project-based Learning. Here’s an NPR article that looks at some of the key issues that we, educators, experienced and overcame as we realized that if it’s good for student learning, we need to find ways to integrate it into the school program. ]

Take a look this summer inside some of America’s garages, museums and libraries and you’ll see that the “maker movement” is thriving.

This hands-on, DIY culture of inventors, tinkerers and hackers is inspiring adults and children alike to design and build everything from sailboats and apps to solar cars.

And this fall, more of these chaotic workspaces, stocked with glue guns, drills and hammers, will be popping up in schools, too.

But the maker movement faces some big hurdles as it pushes into classrooms.

Here’s the first big one:

Schools “are not thinking about it as an instructional tool,” says Chris O’Brien, a former teacher who helps schools create maker and project-based learning spaces in New York City.

He says schools make a big mistake if these programs are merely a popular elective with the hip teacher, or the place to go after school to play with wood, cloth or a 3-D printer.

Schools that embrace making, he says, need to find a thoughtful place for maker projects in the school’s curriculum. Otherwise, he warns, maker spaces could “go by the wayside and become an after-school program.”

Linking maker-based projects to classroom curriculum and academic standards, he says, will help “ensure that students will learn, but also that the maker movement won’t become just another educational trend.”

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