February 2015 Meet-up: Maker Spaces
What was this Meet-up all about?
Last month Hive NYC and Stoked on STEAM hosted a conversation about maker spaces—how to create them, the difficulties and triumphs in maintaining them, and what benefits they bring to the communities they serve. A panel of four guests were invited to share their experiences as Maker Space educators, facilitators and directors.
More than thirty people attended, representing large and small organizations, from classroom teachers to program directors and everything in between. Attendees were given time to ask questions, network and connect on ideas related to Maker Spaces, culture and practices.
Who was on the Panel?
Hive NYC and Stoked on STEAM selected a panel of four individuals working in a wide range of Maker Spaces. The panelists were selected to represent NYC’s diverse and evolving Maker culture. Each panelist had an eclectic collection of professional experiences to draw from and brought a different perspective to the discussion.
David Wells, Manager of Creative Making & Learning at New York Hall of Science, brought insight into implementing maker-related programs for people of all ages, and running maker education initiatives that use local artists and makers as guest facilitators.
Arlene Ducao, an MIT graduate and educator working at Lower East Side Girls Club, discussed the importance of creative computing and the ways the young people she works with explore the relationship between sound, landscape and themselves.
Beth Dukes, an Education Coordinator for the New York Public Library’s newly-launched Out of School Time program, shared her experiences from collaboratively designing and managing an after school course, where students design a social justice-facing technology-based project by creating digital and non-digital media in a Maker Space.
Tracy Rudzitis, a middle school teacher for the NYC Department Of Education, reflected on starting a lunchtime Makerspace at her school and reconfiguring her computer lab space into a STEAM lab, where students work on projects that connect the physical and digital worlds.
Check out the panelists’ full bios here.
How was this Meet-up organized?
At World Maker Faire 2014, Hive NYC was introduced to Anneliese Haines, Program Director of Stoked on Steam. This started a conversation about various ways Stoked on Steam might get involved with the Hive NYC community, deciding over the weeks that followed that leading a Meet-up would be the best way for them to begin participating in the network.
Planning for the Meet-up began in November 2014. Anneliese Haines, L Nichols and Christina Chestnut from Stoked on STEAM joined me in this process. After proposing some ideas via email, we followed up with three planning calls and one in-person meeting over a three month period. We used the time to choose a topic (Maker Spaces), format (panel discussion) and date (February 19, 2015). We brainstormed a list of potential panelists, mapped an agenda, discussed timing, noted equipment/space needs and decided how to proceed with outreach. During these conversations we learned a lot about our respective organizational goals, programs and offerings.
What was the Agenda Breakdown?
10:00 – 10:30: Breakfast, Sign in and Attendee introductions
10:30 – 11:40: Panel – Christina moderating
- Christina introduces panelists via bios.
- Each panelist has three minutes to introduce their Maker/Educational Space
- Q&A/Discussion lead by Moderator
11:40-12:00: Networking/individual conversation time.
Why was this chosen as a topic and format for a Meet-up?
We decided the topic of Maker Spaces was very relevant to both of our communities. Stoked on STEAM works with a lot of educators with an interest in the practice. Hive NYC has several organizations who are running or are just beginning to run Maker Spaces and related programming. Given these shared objectives, we felt the topic would be of interest to a wide range of people—and liked the idea of opening the event up to non-Hive members and organizations doing similar work.
Hosting a panel was a way to showcase the expertise each of our organizations has to offer. The blend of panelists was intentionally curated to cover a wide range of professional applications of Maker Spaces.
What was discussed?
Christina Chestnut lead a very engaging discussion with the panelists. She started with a pre-populated list of questions and let each panelist respond in their own way. For the second half of the discussion questions came directly from the audience. The panelists had a lot of value to offer, with each of their responses adding something new to the conversation. What follows is a sampling of discussion questions and panelist responses. A full recording of the discussion is available here.
What is a maker space? Is it more than a physical space?
“It is a space where you make things and that is the only credential you need. It is about the ‘I can mentality’—the idea that you can do this, whether you are using paper and tape or digital programs, having that ownership and coming from a perspective of what you want to do. We expose kids to the potential of materials and tools, but then what they do with that it is really up to them.” – David Wells, New York Hall of Science
What is a Maker?
“It is more about the process than what is being produced. The goal is for students to think about things in new ways and come up with great solutions and innovative ideas. A maker is someone who is engaged in the creative process regardless of where that leads.” – Beth Dukes, New York Public Library
We have all this stuff now what do we do with it?
“One of the first things for the facilitator is to figure out what the bunch of stuff is. I was brought in to teach in a Maker Space that had already been built, and had equipment, some of which I knew how to use, some of which I didn’t know how to use and some of which I still don’t know how to use. The learning process has been partly on my own just tinkering (to facilitate the learning) and partly with the girls, figuring it out together. The more technical overhead, the more I have to spend some time on my own.” – Arlene Ducao, Big Data Fellow at MIT E-Lab and teacher at NYU, MIT, and the Lower Eastside Girls Club
What do you do with kids who say they can’t do anything?
“You have to make sure that kids are not overwhelmed. The project I am doing now is circuit related, but they can choose their own projects. You have to provide enough steps for them. We are creating instructables documenting the kids’ projects, so the learning will be coming from them. My hope is for more projects where students generate ideas and provide something for kids in the future. You don’t want to give a kid something so difficult that they can’t do it at all.” – Tracy Rudzitis, Middle school teacher for the NYC Department Of Education
How do you make programs that are inclusive to a lot of people?
“We market the idea that you will learn how to do things—we don’t teach them how to use ‘Moma Art Lab’ on the iPad, but they learn how to use it by playing with it. Framing it in those terms has been really helpful especially for middle school kids. Using the phrase ‘you will learn’ is in and of itself tremendously helpful.” – Beth Dukes, New York Public Library
Can you speak to the critical thinking of the making process—not the products?
“We spend an absorbent amount of time reflecting on and articulating what we do. We are 0% product and 100% process. I am charmed by the outcomes, but most engaged in how to overcome challenges and facilitate a discussion around them. If something doesn’t work, let the participant go through the process and recognize mistakes, react and focus on how to move forward. This is where critical thinking leads to problem solving. It is not about the mistake, it is about how you react to the mistake. Develop a community in a maker space that supports one another and recognizes making as an organic process.” – David Wells, New York Hall of Science