Do you have little ones who build forts for pets out of craft materials and cardboard boxes? Or kids who enjoy fixing electronic gadgets when they break? Are you raising entrepreneurial-minded tweens whose ideas could make them the next inventor, app creator or “Shark Tank” winner? If any of this sounds familiar, you probably have makers “on your hands.”
WHAT IS THE MAKER LIFESTYLE ALL ABOUT?
Makers are do-it-yourself (DIY) individuals of any age who create things using methods such as robotics, electronics, metalworking, woodworking, artistry and crafting. While some create in designated maker spaces, others tinker at home or in the garage.
“Everyone is a [potential] maker,” says Irm Diorio, former executive director of a maker space. “It’s about finding what really inspires you—gardening, baking, sewing, anything you would build with your hands.” Maker projects can be fun or functional. “It’s all about letting your creativity take you for a ride.”
The Maker Movement picked up steam with the launch of “Make” magazine in 2005 and is thriving today. Maker education embraces the concept that learning is best by doing, often called experiential or project-based learning.
“With affordable access to 3D printers and computers, technology is often part of the Maker Movement, but it doesn’t have to be,” Diorio says.
Maker spaces are community spaces and businesses where adults can design, build and work (such as San Diego Made Factory and San Diego CoLab) or where kids can explore, discover and create. Many offer classes for adults or youth and host events for the public.
DIYers often find their tribe at maker spaces, as they bring creative and innovative thinkers together, offering each other collaboration, encouragement and expertise as they work on projects or take classes. Many maker spaces house equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters, wood lathes, saws, welding equipment, sewing machines and other tools that may be difficult to store at home.
Maker spaces are becoming popular in schools where parents, teachers and administrators want to include hands-on projects and a creative outlet in the student learning process.
HOW TO SUPPORT MAKER-MINDED KIDS
How to help children flourish being a DIYer depends on their ages. Here are suggestions to consider as kids grow.
- Encourage natural curiosities, inclinations or interests.
- Start coding with and without technology (unplugged coding).
- Give kids junior-sized tools in a small tool box, a child-sized sewing machine or real gardening tools that are small enough to fit their hands.
- Introduce sophisticated vocabulary (don't dumb it down).
- Provide kids a maker space filled with a variety of tools to inspire creativity.
- Volunteer to start a maker space at your child’s school.
- Provide a coding robot kids can program with a tablet.
- Take a class at SoCal Maker’s Market.
- Create an invention station where kids can access supplies anytime. Find directions for San Diego Family’s DIY STEM kits at www.sandiegofamily.com/for-the-kids/family-science/make-stem-kits-for-kids.
- Use the cool “stuff spinner” at PBS Kids Design Squad Global to discover what to make with materials kids have on hand. Visit www.pbskids.org/designsquad/build.
- Participate in a science fair or student maker faire (or attend one).
- Visit www.sandiego.gov/public-library/idea to see what programs and equipment are offered at eight different San Diego City Library IDEA Labs. Resources vary by location.
Middle School Students
- Encourage an apprenticeship (or job shadowing) with a family member or friend who is an expert in a field of interest (such as computer science, jewelry making, auto mechanic, fashion designer, seamstress or architect).
- Plan to attend a STEM, design or engineering magnet high school.
- Join a robotics club.
- Give kids electronic boards such as Raspberry Pi or Arduino to experiment and create their own products.
- Introduce kids to conductive thread so they can make clothes that light up.
- Experiment with an invention kit from Makey Makey: www.makeymakey.com.
Janeen Lewis is a nationally published writer, teacher and mom to Andrew and Gracie.
LOCAL MAKER-MINDED ACTIVITIES FOR ALL AGES
- Check with local museums (New Children’s Museum, TheNat, Fleet Science Center, San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, etc.) to see if they have upcoming maker exhibits or classes.
- Watch art in action at Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park, where about 200 local artists have working studios. Free to visit and observe.
- Take a workshop at San Diego Craft Collective, which offers classes for kids, teens, adults or families.
- Attend local maker markets for inspiration. Upcoming markets include Queen Bee Market, San Diego Made Holiday Market and Makers Arcade Holiday Fair.