That’s right, we’ve extended the deadline for our Call for Makers…the new and improved deadline is Friday, July 28th. We wanted to make sure everyone who wants to participate had a chance to apply, and one item on our application form needed some tweaking to be just right. (Nobody said making was a perfect process…even online). So – there’s still time!
And, as always, if you have any questions or concerns, or just need a nudge to apply, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s what we’re here for!
When we talk about making, we often talk about the things that people make, but the process of how people make things is just as important. Regardless of what it is that you make, making anything involves exploring new ideas, taking risks, making independent choices, and even making mistakes!
Here at Boston Children’s Museum, we encourage all of these activities through our philosophy of self-directed play. Supporting self-directed play means empowering children to learn by exploring their own interests and deciding for themselves what those interests are. For us adults, that often means taking a difficult step back and allowing children to do things differently than how we would do them. Within a safe environment, taking risks is a healthy exercise for children and helps them grow, build their confidence, and make informed choices. Doing all of these things often means making mistakes, which can be difficult for both adults and children to accept, but by making mistakes we learn to chart new paths forward. Supporting self-directed play can be really hard (!) and really uncomfortable (!) but it also leads to amazing bursts of creativity and innovation, and lots and lots of fun.
BCM isn’t the only place you can find self-directed play in action. On a recent trip to New York City, I visited Governor’s Island and discovered play:ground – an adventure playground where children create, design, and interpret “a world of their own making.”
To adult eyes, the space may appear as a just junkyard, complete with old tires, slabs of wood, and tools. But to children, the area is a safe space (monitored by trained adults but away from parents, guardians, and caregivers) where they can engineer their own adventures.
This often means that children need to negotiate the physical space, including unfamiliar tools and materials, and also negotiate with each other in order to work together and solve problems. They can build anything from obstacle courses to slides to climbing walls, and everything in between! Children who visit play:ground – and other adventure playgrounds – have the freedom to make their own choices instead of relying on adults to supply answers or solutions.
We’re looking forward to facilitating more self-directed play and making opportunities here at BCM as we approach our 2nd Annual Mini Maker Faire in September. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about play:ground, visit their website here! To learn more about the history of the adventure play movement, here are some additional resources:
“Heating things up to super-hot always changes things to make them different, right Mommy?”
Questions like this one sometimes make me wonder if my first grader got hold of a playbook along the lines of “Phrases that will Make Your Mommy Beam!” But no, he seems to have cooked this one up on his own. We’re standing in 90 degree heat around an iron pour demonstration at a “fire arts festival”, and he is so transfixed by watching the suede-clad volunteers pouring blaze orange molten metal into sand, that he doesn’t notice the heat. My two year old is more interested in the hot dogs than the hot metal, but still gives it more attention than he gives most anything else I want him to look at.
Other parents question why I often choose this sort of destination for our family outings instead of the usual kid haunts, but there’s a certain magic to watching real people make real things, and my kids respond to that. As a maker and a scientist (and a former farm kid) I can tell you from experience that I learned far more about the way things work, and the way the world works, from rolling up my sleeves and tinkering with stuff than I ever learned from a textbook or a lecture. (Apologies to my alma mater, which will remain unnamed). So when I watch my kid earnestly marking up a steel plate to indicate which parts will have a design welded on and which parts will have designs cut out, I know this is a kind of learning that stretches across disciplines and beyond spelling quizzes. And when I see him pen a design inside a part that is surrounded by a cut line, I bite my tongue for a minute to see if he catches this before he passes it to the welder. (He does).
This, then, is why I’m passionate about helping to produce events like the Mini Maker Faire. What if a family shows up at the Faire and a kid sees a live pot-throwing demo for the first time? Or a craftsman working wood on a lathe? They may never pursue that exact trade, but the mental exercise of watching something that is produced by manipulating a spinning object is absolutely riveting. And maybe when they go home that night and happen to glance at the leg of their kitchen table, or the ceramic bowl they’re eating soup from, they think, “I bet I know how this was made! Cool!” Now that’s a gift I want to give my kids.
What does it mean to be a “maker?”
At Maker Faires across the world, and here in Boston, “making” can mean anything from designing circuits and using 3-D printers to more traditional building and arts and crafts activities. Maker Faires celebrate innovation and creativity – two things that can be found at Boston Children’s Museum every day!
As the site of the Annual Boston Mini Maker Faire, the Boston Children’s Museum encourages children and families to explore different ways to play, learn, make, and collaborate with other visitors. Throughout all of our exhibits, and in special programs and activities, we inspire our visitors with everyday objects and materials.
Our KEVA exhibit holds 10,000 KEVA blocks – the perfect open-ended challenge for budding engineers! Visitors design structures that use all kinds of different shapes, like circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles. Our visitors make buildings, bridges, boats, trains – even entire cities! And of course, towers are always popular.
Studio A is another exhibit that showcases our visitors’ creativity with monthly projects designed around different artists, cultures, or themes. This month, we celebrated papel picado, a traditional Mexican folk art that involves paper cutting, often for festivals or celebrations. Using tissue paper, scissors, and hole punchers, visitors make elaborate designs they can take home or display in our exhibit to share with others.
Sometimes at BCM we even do projects with our visitors where they can collaborate to make one thing, like mixed media sculptures that involve recycled or everyday objects. We often keep these big projects to display our visitors’ artwork in the Museum – see if you can spot them on your next visit!
-submitted by Leah Swinson, STEAM Specialist at BCM
Read more about why TIME magazine thinks a Maker Faire is a great introduction to science and math concepts…and a fun outing for the whole family:
Here at Boston Children’s Museum, we’re already busy getting ready for the Maker Faire – but in reality, it’s always Maker Season here. Working at a Museum gives our whole team unique opportunities to create stuff – whether it’s a new exhibit prototype, an activity for a visiting school group, or even a – dinosaur-themed gown for an industry conference. Yup, that happened.
Earlier this year, thanks in large part to the support of one of our Faire sponsors, Autodesk, we acquired an amazing new toy – a CO2 laser cutter. Huzzah! We cut wood. We cut paper. We can cardboard. We cut plastic. We even cut leather! Because digital fabrication is emerging as a skill set we believe every child should have access to, our entire STEAM programs team here at the Museum is honing its skills with cool tools like this one.
Around the same time, we proudly cut the ribbon on a new dinosaur exhibit called Explore-a-saurus. With a bit of help from our friends at Jaywalk Studio, we were able to offer visitors laser-cut, 3-D dinosaur puzzles to take home as a memento of their encounter with our new dinosaur friends. This activity was an amazing conversation starter with both kids and adults, many of whom had heard of a laser cutter, but had never seen one in action.
So when I was asked to put together a Project Runway-style gown for a museum conference fashion show for a colleague – a gown that would represent at least one of our exhibits – naturally the challenge I set for myself was: it will be dinosaur themed, and it will involve the laser cutter. Like many makers, I learn best by having a specific project for which I need to acquire new skills.
Several hours later, I’d become much cozier with Adobe Illustrator, I’d hot glued my fingers together, and I’d gone through a couple sewing machine needles, but I was a happy Maker. And perhaps more importantly, I’d make the outfit entirely with things we already had around, instead of purchasing new materials.
Let me know what you think:
We’re back for Year Two of the Boston Mini Maker Faire, and this year’s Faire promises to be even bigger and better! Join us on Sunday, September 17th to get your fill of making, tinkering, learning, creating, and more. Our Call to Makers will be open soon, so spread the word!