The Compassionate Maker: #Make a Difference in the World

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Last year around this time a former student barely 18 years old passed away suddenly. Tragic and senseless, that was the impetus of compassionate making as an outlet for teens in my school. The idea to make for others to alleviate or help in making one feel better whether to heal wounds caused by grief or to assist local community agencies is one of the cornerstones to compassionate making. I wrote about this experience in Teacher Librarian called The Compassionate Makerspace: Grief and Healing in a High School Library Makerspace. The article details the collaboration between Mrs. Volkmann, our Interact Club advisor, and myself and how students came together in the makerspace to create a memorial to a peer.

I work regularly with service based clubs in my school. Advising. Assisting. I used to lead the Interact Club, a rotary based club for teens, with the guiding motto Service Above Self. I’ve always had this sense of helping others. There are so many in my school who share this same philosophy so collaboration is easy.

Making for a cause or to benefit another being is not a new idea. Mankind has shown compassion for centuries. What is new is the way we can foster this emotion. As teachers and maker leaders, we can model and facilitate compassion in children and we can do that with the availability of makerspaces. While STEM is a major focus for many makerspaces (and rightly so) there’s no need to exclude crafting. And while my teens love to craft for themselves, I also have many who come in to make items for Mother’s Day or an Aunt’s birthday.

I welcome this.

I embrace this.

I facilitate this.

Expanding on the work we’ve already done, we have dedicated an area for our MakerCare activities benefitting others. We don’t have a specific service learning  requirement at our school, but many students need service hours or activities for resumes. A sign-in book to log and keep track of their hours resides in this area.

Many character education programs, in my opinion, don’t work. They ‘talk’ about being compassionate, kind, helpful. One of my favorite sayings adequately describes my sentiment, “Acta non verba.” Deeds not words! You’ve got to do something. #Make a difference!

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This September we’re starting with our furry friends in need. We’ve all seen shelter dogs, whether on TV or while on a visit to a facility. Bored and sad in a kennel waiting for a forever family to bring them home. How simple it is for us to make a difference in their lives using a few upcycled fabrics. Old, stained, worn fabric from tees, jeans, and towels can have an extra life. Simply call for these items to be donated to your library. Once collected, cut the fabric into strips and braid. Who needs expensive pet store toys?

My two shi-poos love their homemade toys. (I make theirs from the lone sock bucket in my laundry room. You know how it is, two socks go in and only one comes out….Btw – what’s up with that?)

If you want to get fancy find some old tennis balls. Tennis clubs and high school tennis teams are good place to ask for free ones. Why spend the money? I’m fortunate my school has a tennis team and we also have a local tennis club. Make a slit on both the ends, then push your braid(s) through. Voilà dog toys!

This year some of our projects will go overseas, such as Little Dresses for Africa, and many will stay close to home like our dog toy project. Either way, our teens are making a difference in the world – local and global.

I hope you’ll join me here on this blog as we document and discuss the successes and failures of our MakerCare program. Let’s build a community of caring, compassionate makers.

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