October 20, 2014

Maker Summer: A Global Project Offers DIY Opportunities

From

During a maker party at the New York Hall of Science, kids used
MaKey MaKey circuit boards and Scratch programming language.
Photo courtesy NYSCI

Tinkerers of all ages are flexing their creative muscles during the Summer of Making and Connecting, a global project geared to empower digital crafters and match people with maker activities, online or on the street.

Running from June to mid-September, the campaign offers dozens of ways for kids, parents, and educators to make stuff digitally during the summer months and beyond. The venture is sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation in partnership with the National Writing Project (NWP) Educator Innovator and the Mozilla Foundation.

“People really love to play and make something,” says Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, NWP’s director of national programs and site development. “There’s a piece deep within us that wants to create, and we’re seeing it across so many domains.”

The project kicked off in June with the Maker Party, an online happening linking interested makers with design events, maker camps, coding challenges, and other activities. The idea was for people to bring their do-it-yourself spirit and apply digital tools to remix, collaborate, and share their creations over the open Web. Summertime makers are using the hashtag #clmooc on Twitter and elsewhere to tag their projects. You can also follow activities on the NWP Educator Innovator blog.

Makers can participate in real life, from Brooklyn to Uruguay, at physical events listed on the Maker Party site. Virginia-based educators Chad Sansing (@chadsansing) and Melissa Techman (@mtechman) launched a program called #nerdcamp this spring, and it’s continuing through the summer. On a recent July day at #nerdcamp, a mix of adults and one student were happily huddled together programming Arduinos, open-sourced circuit boards, to work with LED displays.

“The whole point is to tinker and see,” says Sansing, a language arts teacher at Shelburne Middle School in Staunton, VA (and author of the SLJ feature story “Life with Raspberry Pi”). Not all #nerdcamp projects succeed, however. That doesn’t matter to Sansing—and it shouldn’t to participants, either, he says. He especially likes it when grown-ups experience the rewards of “what it’s like to work on something you want to work on, for a long time, where you’re fully engaged.”

Virtual Summer of Making and Connecting participants include Susan Angel (@zsuzsannangel), a sixth- and seventh-grade teacher in Vancouver, BC, who built a short slideshow using Haiku Deck to promote her teaching and learning credo. Valerie Hill (@valibrarian), a teacher librarian at the Lewisville (TX) Independent School District and adjunct instructor at Texas Woman’s University, built a 3-D virtual book about media before and after Gutenberg. Adapting templates that Sansing had made, Techman crafted a page featuring thoughts people encounter while writing.

What happens to this outpouring of activity come September? The Summer of Making and Connecting “is not meant to live in the summer and die,” says Techman, a school librarian at Broadus Wood Elementary School in Earlysville, VA. “We want to bring ideas from the summer into classrooms, public libraries, and to other constituents.”

NWP’s Educator Innovator project is working on strategies to keep the creative connections flowing. And for those who didn’t get a jumpstart on the event this year, NWP and its partners plan to launch another one in the summer of 2014.

“This really is a movement,” says Eidman-Aadahl. “We want every young person to see that they can be a creator and maker of their own life.”

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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