Tinkering, making, creating and playing. These activities are finally being recognized for what they are – an essential part of a child’s education and development. The Maker Education Revolution that began in Makerspaces across the world over 10 years ago is finally breaking down the barriers into the mainstream – and into our classrooms. And that is a very good thing for our communities and our planet.
A Maker Education:
1) Promotes a ‘Growth Mindset’
Author and psychologist Carol Dweck proposes two mindsets that the growing brain can take on – one is called the fixed mindset and one is called the growth mindset. When children take on a fixed mindset, they believe that they are good at some things and not others and that their skills just come to them naturally. With a growth mindset, the learner believes that they can become good at something through doing, learning, experience, etc. Learning and development is something you work at, not something that just happens.
Children who have developed a growth mindset tend to be more resilient, handling challenges better and pushing themselves passed obstacles. Maker education fosters this Growth Mindset because of it’s emphasis on not knowing the solution to a problem and then developing and learning through the process: “It’s not just a matter of what you know, it’s a matter of taking risks and perhaps failing and learning from those failures.” Learning how to fail – and subsequently picking yourself up, reflecting and trying again – is a crucial skill for navigating our constantly changing world.
2) Develops Character and Purpose
Learning-by-doing not only helps children become resilient in the face of challenges, it also works to develop character and a sense of purpose:
“That is one of the most important outcomes a maker educator sees…Learning how to make things, being involved in maker-centered education, helps young people develop a sense of agency in the world, a sense that they can change the world.”
At the heart of making is the concept that all students are creators. Rather than memorizing facts to regurgitate on a test, young makers are encouraged to bring what they know to a problem in order to solve it or to use their skills to design and build a project. Whether it’s hacking stuffed animals to incorporate LED lights or designing laser cut cars to race, these activities are important precisely for the reason that they instil a sense of confidence in the child’s ability to act on their environment.
3) Deepens Social and Emotional Skills
Not only does making help children learn to effectively problem-solve, it teaches them to effectively problem-solve TOGETHER. Maker education places a big emphasis on collaboration. Children are encouraged to work together to improve their project’s design and to help each other overcome obstacles. The game suddenly shifts to become less about who is ‘winning’ or getting A’s to something more important: working together to create something valuable, to make things better.
Maker education encourages active listening and empathy for others, which leads to a whole range of beneficial outcomes. Some are even proposing that the maker movement is evolving into a ‘changemakers movement‘ for these very reasons:
“Making is a fantastic way to engage many students, but it’s only the first step toward an even greater revolution. The future of education cannot be about giving students the skills to fill jobs; it must be about giving them the skills to create jobs. This requires more than technical skills, it requires empathy, context and innovation. The heart of innovation is not technology, but people. Great innovators are able to deeply understand human needs and create useful solutions. Innovation simply requires empathy and experimentation.”
4) Enhances Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
Learning through play – also known as ‘tinkering’ – is an engaging and creative way to bolster critical thinking and logic skills, which are crucial for all kinds of academic subjects: everything from reading and writing to mathematics and science, and even the process of test-taking itself. Tinkering is also associated with ‘design thinking,’ the process of developing new technology prototypes, new works of art and improving inventions that already exist. In other words, tinkering lays the foundation in the mind for innovation to occur.
5) Making is a Powerful Force for Inclusion
Perhaps one of the most important reasons children should get involved in Maker Education from an early age is the culture of inclusion that the Maker Movement fosters. This is something that should not be overlooked in discussions about Making, but is so very important: “While maker education is often defined in terms of 3D printers and Arduino boards, it’s really the culture around making, rather than the act of making, that makes it essential to learning.”
Maker Education presents a grand opportunity to attract students who are under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. As this research demonstrates, when STEM subjects that use a traditional lecture format for teaching also incorporate active, hands-on learning, average exam scores go up amongst minority groups. Research is also beginning to emerge that suggests women who are involved in maker education develop skills and interest in computer science and engineering.
Engaging in making opens a door for those typically excluded from some of the most critical subjects: science, technology, engineering and math are tools that literally shape the fabric of our social structure. In this way, Maker Education is a bridge to the future: we will only progress as a species if we start looking at the problems we face from different perspectives. And that’s only going to happen when we put the tools that shape on world into the hands of those that come from all walks of life.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein
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