Last spring the staff from the Bay Area Discovery Museum, located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, asked the Creativity Lab to run a short professional development workshop introducing their staff to some of the making activities that they can offer to their visitors. Working to “ignite and advance the creative thinking of all children”, the museum provides a space for students, families, and schools to explore the arts, sciences, and nature.
In the spring of 2016, they will be opening an early childhood Fab Lab! The first of its kind in the country, the space will be equipped with the most recent technologies, like 3D printers and laser cutters. The space will provide younger children the opportunity to learn how to use these technologies to invent and create. Because part of our mission is expanding access to maker education, we jumped at the opportunity to help.
At the beginning of the session, participants created a paper circuit mural board, learning about electricity while also experiencing a maker-led session first-hand. After a presentation on the history, philosophy, and benefits of maker education, they explored and learned about making projects that they could introduce at the museum. Projects spanned from low-tech “squishy” circuits ( a project that uses home-made play-doh to power light-bulbs and sound emitters) to more advanced digital fabrication tools, like the 3D printer and laser cutter. The day ended after a more in-depth converstaion with museum staff on the integration of making into their programs. Questions included how to introduce digital fabrication to preschoolers and how to come up with new projects for children of different age groups. We suggested that they introduce kids to web-based programs, like Tinkercad, that simplify the 3D design process yet still allow kids to explore and create. For new ideas for different age groups, we included a number of online resources, like the Maker Ed resource library, the Tinkering Studio’s “Featured Projects”, and our own project guides. We even broke off into small groups to brainstorm additional projects.
Setting up the first FabLab space for younger children, the Bay Area Discovery Museum will undoubtedly have more questions and face more challenges. However, in true maker fashion, the staff have committed to learning by doing: they will experiment with the space, troubleshoot challenges, and explore what works. By creating this space, they are gaining a deeper understanding of what making can be. We cannot wait to see their prototype this spring!