As I’ve mentioned this in our (now weekly) #makered chats, I’m working out of a new room this year. Let’s be clear, the stunning news is that there is a, singular and exclusive, classroom, not closet or forgotten corner, for middle school Makers at Flint Hill this year. This is phenomenal.
My MakerEd world is filled with people and schools building incredible spaces. Just check out Vinnie Vrotny’s photos and tweets about their new Innovation Lab, or Hillbrook or Neuva or Abermarle, and you’ll see a bevy of casters, concrete floors and open space.
While my heart says we’ll get there, that’s not where we’re starting. As giddy as I get thinking about those transformed spaces, I have to fight back against my stuff-focused Grinch self. Those rooms will be wonderful learning spaces, but they’ll also be a message to your colleagues and other schools: “To transform learning spaces, first you must call the contractors.”
No. To transform learning, first you have to open the door to students.
One experiment I’m trying this year is starting off with fewer tables and seats than we’ll need. Especially on the first few days, I want students up! Moving, thinking, noisy and active, exploring all the unformed corners of the space.
My dream follow up for this start is to only allow “built” seats in the MakerSpace. This could include student sewn pillows and cushions for milk crates, shaped and stabilized cardboard boxes, one-plank chairs, one-sheet chairs, one-day chairs, or wikiseats.
I decided I needed to build my own before school started.
It’s worth restating at this point that I didn’t thrive in shop class. I didn’t major in EE, and I don’t have a thriving robot factory at home. My investment in the skills and crafts that constitute my corner of #makered comes from my experience as an adult novice, not a lifetime of honed expertise. I have enough experience to use a woodshop safely, but not enough to complete any project with fewer than three trips for materials.
When I start a project, I don’t have an unconscious process that scouts ahead for common mistakes. In this case, I found a neat design on Thingiverse and charged ahead. A more careful Maker would have looked at the brief instructions, looked at the plans, and wondered what might need to change when using different sized plywood.
This is where I started wondering about that.
This does not look comfy.
If the material had matched the plans, these slots would mesh and form a stable, smooth exterior. This monstrosity doesn’t do that, since I’m trying to shove 3mm plywood into 2.3mm slots. It looks like a Westerosi portapotty.
After a frustrating evening, and some napkin estimates of how long it would take me to widen each slot with a Dremel, I started over from scratch. Illustrator to laser cutter to assembly. All told, the project and false starts burned through much of a weekend. While this fulfills the original objectives, giving me a stool to sit on, it’s a confusing artifact
Here’s a physical object that serves as an object lesson for the unimportance of stuff for #makered. Everyone at school is going to see the stool, maybe hear the story, and think about “that class where kids make the stuff.” Very few people from inside those walls will see my remixed project on Thingiverse, where I uploaded my modified Illustrator files with the incrementally wider gaps. No one will see the shift in kids’ perceptions as they realize that there are plans for all the things in their world.
Well, no one will notice… up to the point where we build the GyroGlider!