The Maker Movement celebrates hands-on learning with old and new technologies. It often empowers learners and teaches skills such as creative thinking and collaboration. Because what we make impacts our lives, communities, and planet, the GHSA team is interested in how we teach young learners to make purposefully by considering the impact of their making, as well as the amount of resources or types of materials they are using. As a regional leader in Maker Education, IU1 is a strong partner in this work. Colonial School has a Fab Lab, a classroom reimagined as a makerspace with different kinds of tools and equipment. They also have a mobile Fab Lab, available to other IU1 schools, and have integrated making across the curriculum.
Here are the highlights so far:
- Educators explored the following guiding questions using human-centered design techniques created by the LUMA Institute:
- What do we choose to make?
- Why do we choose to make it?
- What do we use to make it?
- How do we make it?
- Working in teams, the educators considered the opportunities and challenges presented by making in topic areas such as mindset and routines; materials and technologies; and communities and people. They then determined what maker education must consider in order to be taught in a purposeful and sustainable way.
- They completed personas of students and used this information to brainstorm ways in which their students’ interests intersect with sustainable making.
- Educators spent time in the Fab Lab at Colonial School considering how we might make certain invisible elements visible, such as energy use or the toxicity of chemicals, as well as more robust features for recycling and reuse.
- We explored a broader definition of sustainability that includes not only considerations of the environment, but the intersection of the environment with social and economic factors.
- We introduced different design lenses to deepen their understanding and inspire more ideas for curricular integration. These include:
- Biomimicry, using nature as inspiration for innovation;
- Biophilia, designing around our innate desire to be within nature;
- Circular economies and closed-loop manufacturing.
- Each workshop included a visit to a local company that practices sustainable making. We first visited Thread International, a company that transforms trash into sustainable fabric and creates local economies in poor countries, such as Haiti. Secondly, we toured Ductmate Industries, a company in Charleroi that manufactures duct systems and has implemented several sustainable practices. Participants agreed that seeing sustainable making realized not only at a small startup, such as Thread International, but also at a larger manufacturer, was extremely helpful in developing their understanding.
As a next step, we asked educators to declare a “little bet” that they could do within one month to expand the conversation in their schools and jumpstart sustainable making practices. One little bet was to convene a small group of students and meet once in order to introduce them to this topic and see where they might be interested in taking it. Many little bets included taking first steps to create a system of recycling and reuse at their schools, many of which currently do not have recycling programs. Another little bet focused on combatting the idea of “break and buy new” by working with students to fix several birdhouses at the school.
For our next workshop, we will dive deeper into topics related to biomimicry and biophilia, which participants indicated they were eager to learn more about.
As we move forward I am excited by the challenge to continue to ask big questions about sustainable making while also implementing action-based solutions, even if they seem small in relation to the complexity of the problem. We do know these little bets and subsequent actions have the potential to create a culture of sustainable making at each school, which will encourage their students to make with greater purpose and care. We are hoping to expand our work in this area. If you are interested in us hosting a workshop at your school or joining us in other ways, contact Teresa at firstname.lastname@example.org.