Summer is good for many things, one of which is professional reflection. Ok, it isn’t one of the more exciting of summer things, but it is still a good one.
This summer as I’ve done some professional reading and lots of personal playing, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany.
I’m a maker.
Yep. That’s my big epiphany. I make things and I like making things. I like cooking. I like sewing. I make pottery. I like gardening. I like to get my hands on power tools. I like designing things and then working on making them. Walking the aisles of craft stores and hardware stores gives me a bit of a buzz. I like writing purposeful things that I can point to and say “read this. I wrote it and I think you’ll like it.” I think this qualifies me as a maker.
Summer, to me, is a great time because I have more time to play and make stuff. During the school year, time is at a premium and while I still might have time to make something, I have significantly less time to play. It is all about churning out a product. Get dinner on the table. Check. Whip up that item for the birthday party this afternoon. Check. The Hallowe’en party is in 10 hours, mom and I NEED a costume now. Sigh. Check. I do all of these things, and I like them, but it isn’t very fun. It isn’t always joyful.
But then there is summer play. I’ll go to my mom’s pottery studio and play on the wheel there just to see what I can throw, without necessarily worrying about the end product. I’ll whip up something in the kitchen because I’m inspired by the gorgeous produce around me and not because everyone is starving. This is the joy of making.
In our schools and in the educational buzz world, maker spaces are big. I’m all for them; letting students get their hands dirty and make something is a worthy project, and I’ve talked about it a little before here: https://kkeerybishop.commons.hwdsb.on.ca/2016/01/16/thinking-about-maker-spaces/ But as people jump on the maker space bandwagon (and, I must stop here and say that I really admire the bandwagon jumpers for at least trying new things), I wonder if we need to think about what this is going to look like in our classes?
When we plan to make our schools and classrooms maker spaces, are we going to:
- allow students to play?
- allow students to create joyfully?
- allow students to discover and explore?
Or, are we going to:
- limit their creativity and expression to fit in our boxes of what is acceptable to create?
- create a prescribed checklist of conformity to make sure we are all making and thinking the same?
I recognize that educators are in a quandry. We have a specific set of skills and knowledges that we are required to provide learning opportunities for and to assess and evaluate, so there are going to be checklists and guidelines. While we are still following curriculae and evaluating students’ ability to achieve, it has to happen. But educators are pretty innovative people. I have confidence that there will be plenty of educators that will find ways to honour the curriculum and the requirements of teaching and still find opportunities for students to play, to make and to create joyfully.
Maybe, when it comes to us planning our maker space opportunities during this coming school year, we need to be reminded of the joy we felt in the summer when we just made something because we loved to play.
Are there any other joyful summer makers out there? How do you see balancing the needs of your maker spaces in a curriculum-based classroom with the need to allow students to play and create joyfully?