I attended a maker workshop hosted by DK this weekend at the American Library Association MidWinter conference in Atlanta. DK was promoting a soon to be published title Out of the Box, highlighting quick activities using recyclable cardboard. In a quick poll of the room participants, we were asked if our makerspaces were STEM or STEAM. There were a few show of hands for STEM, but the majority of hands raised went for STEAM designation. This was heartening because we shouldn’t be just tech based in our educational pursuits. Children are entitled and deserve a well-rounded educational experience and the Arts provide a crucial and unique layer to the development of our next generation.
The librarian sitting next to me half raised her hand in response to STEAM and then stated her makerspace was STEAM plus ‘C’. My heart stopped. I had found a kindred spirit.
You see, a part of our makerspace at Islip High School Library is dedicated to compassionate making. Our MakerCare program provides opportunities for our students to make a difference in the community through making. Each maker project benefits a person or community agency. For example here are a few of our projects: dog and cat toys were made for the town animal shelter, a sleep mat for the homeless, and postcards were decorated and given to sick children in the hospital. You see kindness, compassion and empathy are staple items in our makerspace. And just as, if not more, important as the other staples – glue, scissors and Legos.
With a smile on my face I asked, “C, your program includes C?”
“Yes” she responded “C for computers or computer science.” She wasn’t quite sure which. We all stared at her for a moment until one person pointed out that computers and computer science were already a part of STEM. She knew this, but she hadn’t control of the name of the makerspace. That distinction belonged to someone else. I was disappointed a bit so I told her my mistake and shared details of our MakerCare program. I confessed I thought (and hoped) her ‘C’ stood for compassion. I announced I was “stealing” the name STEAM + C and she responded (as all librarians do) – you’re borrowing the name. That’s right, STEAM + C is officially on interlibrary loan. You see, librarians like to share and we do it well.
Over the holiday break I spotted a beautiful sign and instantly thought it would make a lovely addition to our maker area. I guess we could have made our own sign, but sometimes you just find the perfect item, so why bother DIY. If it’s any consolation to my diehard makers, we did hot glue magnets to the back of the sign in order to hang it. And in true maker fashion, we failed to secure the needed size magnet and had to visit the local hardware store for thicker ones. And then a second trip to the store again as we discovered our magnetic surface wasn’t as strong as we hoped and we needed more magnets to cover the surface. Failure and grit as evidenced from one small sign – a true maker experience.
Just as the Arts help complete a well rounded education, so does service to one’s community as this enables the development of civically engaged compassionate citizenry. And because nice matters.