Maker Educator Affinity Group Meeting

Discussing challenges to equity in the making programs.

On December 12, 2017, After School Matters and the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative convened maker educators from across Chicago to discuss challenges to equity and access in our work. The meeting took place at the After School Matters Michael and Karen Lutz Center, an incredible new out-of-school time hub for teens. As After School Matters continues to build out the Center’s programming, the gathering provided an opportunity to learn from the expertise of other maker educators and centers.

Supporting Equity in Making:

Marcelo Worsley, Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences and Computer Science at Northwestern University shared his thoughts and recommendations on equity in the maker movement, based on his research. His presentation, Equitable Making Practices for Informal Learning Environments can be found here. Dr. Worsley shared additional resources, including Meaningful Making, research on family making by Ricarose Roque, and Connected Spaces, a tool for bringing together makerspace developers and program providers. 

Worsley outlined the following recommendations for promoting equity in out-of-school time spaces:

  • Making should be meaningful.
  • Efforts for inclusion and diversity need to be intentional.
  • Frame activities around generative themes.
  • Position facilitators as designers.
  • Promote making at home.
  • Incorporate strategies that improve ideation.
  • Advocate for multiple designs.
  • Explicitly build on prior knowledge.
  • Personalize (rather than standardize) the learning experience.

Facilitated Discussion and Conversation:

After School Matters Chief Program Officer, Adrienne Curry, welcomes participants.

These recommendations provided a springboard for our facilitated discussion, which focused on two key questions:

  1. How do we support the development of identity and social capital around making and innovation?
  2. How do we better celebrate and recognize innovation in our spaces?

Through our conversations and sharing of experiences, the following trends surfaced in answer to these questions:

  • Celebrate “failure.” Reframe failure as part of the design and making process, while guiding students in dealing with and learning from what didn’t work. Some participants spoke about creating a “wall of failure” as a way of valuing student work and the process of ideation.
  • Develop a youth council. Makerspaces should provide opportunities for youth to have voice and to express their concerns and priorities.
  • Provide opportunities for “showcasing.” Rather than waiting until the end of the program to showcase student final work, participants described the importance of incorporating feedback, reflection, and “show and tell” to the daily work in their making programs. In other words, honor process, as well as product.
  • Incorporate mentorship. Develop natural opportunities for students to mentor one another.




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