Maker Spaces – A Report from Canada

Kate Pahl is in Canada on the MakeEY project working with with Jennifer Rowsell, from Brock University, who has set up a Maker Space project with three colleagues – Dr. Candace Figg, Kim Pelchat, and Shannon Welbourn.

Kate interviewed Jennifer about this project, and here are her thoughts.

Jennifer: We came together and said, “Lets do a series of Saturday Maker spaces in the gym in Hamilton where we have our Brock campus”. We did three events, one with grade 2 students, one with teachers from the programme and one was a Maker Space Day. On March 25th, we held an open educator day for teacher candidates in our program, educators, administrators, and policy makers. There were 30 people who attended and who went around to all of the centres.

The event took place all day, with 14 different maker centres where individuals would engage with digital and non-digital making practices. They were free to choose them. For example, there was a textile one where you did weaving and knitting and sewing and there was a coding one. We also had a ‘Makey’ one (Makey is a particular approach to the maker movement which involves a kit that a media company has produced) a 3-D printer, a cardboard and straw making place and a duct tape table. There was beading, woodwork, a writing centre, a drawing centre, a virtual reality centre where you could go into an immersive world. There was a little robot station where you programme robots to do things. There was a green room, there was a storyboarding area.

We would spend 45 minutes on each activity and we would just make, and there were about 8 staff members who helped out.

Jennifer interviewed people about how they experience the stations. She also reflected afterwards on the day:

“One of the things that I struggled with about the event was I kept thinking how Making is quite surface and I didn’t see the depth in it in the way I see depth in literature, photographs and film work, but what I failed to appreciate is that this kind of work puts you into a mindful, peaceful way of mind that everybody needs. There were young adults there including a principal and a policy maker.

Everybody whatever age or stage loved the creation process. People made beautiful things. I loved making my thing and someone said ‘I have never seen you so focused’. There is no failure with making. Making is what you make of it. Assessment wasn’t in there. It was about problem solving and taking risks.

It was nice to be surrounded by men knitting and sewing – it was not divided by race or gender – we were all just doing stuff. There was a guy on the corner sewing a Spiderman cape for his 3-year-old.

Making creates a convivial kind of architecture, participation. You don’t have judgement but you are on your own with people alongside. We were talking about Trump and Brock and the weather as we made. We did a lot of laughing and we didn’t know each other.”

Below are some vignettes that illustrate the convivial nature of making and how it pulls on identities and human interaction:

Some vignettes

‘I (Jennifer) sat with a woman from Argentina and she was saying she didn’t do the weaving as she grew up with weaving and she didn’t really want to weave as it reminded her of her childhood and she had done that and she wanted to try the Makey station with the coding…later in the day I found her at the weaving booth and I said why are you at the weaving booth and she said ‘I want to go back to my roots’.

‘I met this teacher and she came with her husband and she said ‘This is our date day’. Her husband made a beautiful blue heron embossed on wood because we had an embossing thing there. She said it has been very ‘bringing together’ this making idea because her husband makes things from old tires on the road and she likes the feeling of making, so it has brought them together as a couple.’

Kate Pahl with Jennifer Rowsell 28.3.2017


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