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S.T.E.A.M. Maker: Finding Our Groove

S.T.E.A.M. MakerFinding Our Groove

(October 1 and 3, 2013)

"I love being the baker! It makes me feel so alive!"

Reflections from our  S.T.E.A.M. Maker program at Talking Stick Learning Center don't get better than that. How do we know we are on track and doing what we should be doing? We feel alive and happy and at the top of our game.  Can you imagine for just a moment if all learning felt like that?We are finding our groove! The homeschoolers in Maker focus on process: results are not as important as doing. We are creating and making because we want to. Each young person in the program has his/her own goals and projects.

One young person brought in supplies to experiment with cooking eggs. He found several young people anxious to help and many willing to be tasters. What is the best way to cook eggs?  On a griddle!  How long should they cook for? Our Maker chefs experimented with various cooking times, the amount of spices, and they took orders from friends, changing the recipes depending on personal preference. Is there such a thing as the supreme egg?  It seems to be highly subjective, as most making is.  Some like their eggs firm, some soft,  and others, spicy. We are finding our own individual styles in all that we do.

S.T.E.A.M. Maker

On Tuesday we watched a short clip from Creativity, Innovation and Change, an online course from Penn State University where  Dr. Jack V. Matson, Dr. Kathryn W. Jablokow, and Dr. Darrell Velegol discussed the importance of keeping an idea journal. They encouraged us to record our dreams, our thoughts, and  ideas; and to capture our doodles, cartoons and sketches in a way that works for us. The idea journal helps to keep track of our creative ideas, to maintain habits of observation, and to give us a collection of resources and information for our projects.

S.T.E.A.M. Maker

In his book Innovate or Die!, Matson encourages us to make friends with the idea of failure and encourages us to see failure in a positive light.  To quote Thomas Edison, "Failures? Nonsense. I'd say 9000 successes. I've learned about 9000 formulae that didn't work."  I gave the young people in S.T.E.A.M. Maker a challenge that Matson often gives his students: to make a consumer product guaranteed to fail.  Initially, our group had some strong reactions to the idea:

"Fail? Why would we want to make something that is going to fail?"

"I can only think of ideas that would work."

"I don't like to fail."

For inspiration we looked through The Klutz Book of Inventions , a book filled with brilliant, improbable inventions. The group got started on the project and became engrossed in the possibilities. Some young people came up with multiple products and continued creating designs during the rest of their Maker time. We discussed that we sometimes refrain from trying things when we think we might "fail" in our mind or according to someone else's standards. Having an assignment that is meant to fail can feel very liberating.  A partial list of consumer products they came up with are as follows:

  • a dehydrating spray that gets dog poop off your shoes
  • a mother's helper that throws sheets out the window and into a washing machine
  • apples with chocolate in their centers- all the nutrition of fruit with the taste of chocolate
  • a cord that can transfer battery power to different devices
  • a "lefty" pencil
  • EPM, an electric plucking machine for eyebrows
  • a self-filling ice cream
  • a self-filling cat bowl that sends alerts to your phone
  • a dog bone that never loses flavor
  • a dieter's spoon with a big hole in the middle
  • a personal Ned to eat your extra food
  • a tiny winter hat that only covers one spot of your head
  • non-sticking Band-Aids - they won't hurt when they come off!

It was easy to see that many of their ideas were either plausible or had the seed of a great idea!

S.T.E.A.M. Maker

S.T.E.A.M. Maker

On Thursday we continued to discuss what failure means to us and watched a clip from Morgan Spurlock’s Failure Club on yahoo.   We are getting to the place where failure is another word for learning. Failure, we will not be afraid of you.

For an update on some of the Talking Stick  S.T.E.A.M. Maker projects, I give you to Manya who created the article below as her maker project this week.

Maker Update by Manya

All the kids at Talking Stick are very busy; including me…Well, I’m writing this, so that counts too.

M was at first trying to build a fire on the pebbles outside but didn’t succeed. (Last week we learned how not to be disappointed or give up if we fail at something.) She did get the leaves she was using to smoke but had to come in because it was in fact a very sunny day, good for fire building but not for bare backs. Now she is working on her long term project: a fashion trend for all four seasons. She is pleased to announce that her summer category is complete!

S.T.E.A.M. Maker

S was experimenting with India ink for the fourth still life in her long term project. She decided “it was challenging." Now she is doodling, “looking for a new style.”

S.T.E.A.M. Maker

During free time some of us dozed and others climbed trees. Inside most of us had a long debate about the electronics rule at Talking Stick. Those who had this debate basically wasted all their time on that so we got an extra fifteen minutes which we used to play many rounds of a version of a game called Mafia. All an all we thought the free time was way too short and suggested a different schedule, but maybe we just enjoyed it so much we forgot the time.

After Talking Stick hours are over the staff kids have free time while the facilitators debrief.  Most worked on or finished their Maker projects, including me writing down an exciting announcement!

Z is having a bake sale at Talking Stick (if allowed by Awbury staff): one on a Tuesday at the Garden Classroom and another on a Thursday at the Cope House. Anyway, this special bake sale is in fact a fundraiser for Philadelphia Women Against Abuse.  Z is using the money to buy things off of their wish list. More information will be coming soon.

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