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The Maker Education Initiative and Johnson County 4-H

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Imagination, play and science! Who knew these three topics have grown in leaps and bounds as a national movement in the Maker Education Initiative?

My grandfather was the lawnmower repairman in the town where I grew up. He had an eighth grade education, and had never taken any mechanical course work. I asked him once how he learned to fix lawnmowers. He simply stated, "I take them apart and if there is something missing I fix it."

As a child I thought he was amazing. Particularly, because we got to test drive all of his fixed machines! Little did I know that my grandfather had the "maker" mindset. The idea of a Maker is simple in concept but passionate and profound in its core belief of engaging youth in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, crafts, food, music, and more.

What is a Maker?

The Young Makers Program Maker Club Playbook describes a Maker as the following:

"Makers believe that if you can imagine it, you can make it. We see ourselves as more than consumers we are productive; we are creative. Makers seek out opportunities to learn to do new things, especially through hands-on, DIY (do-it-yourself) interactions. Makers comprise a community of creative and technical people that help one another do better. They are open, inclusive, encouraging and generous in spirit."

Dr. Lisa Regalla, National Program Director for the Maker Education Initiative (Maker Ed), recently spoke during the Midwest Afterschool Science Academy Conference here in Kansas City. She stated that the maker space is utilized by "Making experiences that are interactive and process-oriented, providing opportunity for extended exploration and play. It is ok not to finish the task but to celebrate the process."

The idea of working on an engineering project could turn off those who do not consider themselves an engineer. However, Dr. Regalla suggests, "Making the experience about explorations, choices and curiosity through access to a variety of materials, tools, and processes," will be less intimidating than to practice the basic engineering process.

The Maker movement challenges an individual to take normal, run-of-the-mill materials and create new ideas and ways to utilize the materials for the betterment of society. Sure, some of the inventions are silly and fun. But the allowance of freedom in the creative process is considered a nice break from the everyday demands of fitting into a mold.

Dr. Regalla concluded her comments by stating, "Making experiences that inspire the learner to identify, use and re-purpose familiar parts in new ways," was at the core of the a Maker Ed Initiative.

Maker Opportunities in the KC Metro
The main resource for those looking to learn more would be Make magazine. Locally, we have a few active Maker activities. The Johnson County Library has a MakerSpace at the Central Resource Library. The fourth annual Maker Faire KC will be held June 28 - 29 at Union Station.

Maker Education Initiative and Johnson County 4-H
4-H allows for the maker mindset to take place in a variety of venues. Our summer science day camps allow youth to take a plastic cup, markers, toy battery, and some tape to create works of art with their ArtBots.

Creating space for creative thinking, problem solving and imagination could appear as a pile of clutter to an outside person looking in. In the context of a makers space, this pile of clutter has the potential to be the next great musical instrument!