Designing Making Experiences (DME) Workshops

Designing Making Experiences (DME) is a two-day workshop, hosted by Aaron Vanderwerff and Angi Chau, where educators gather to engage in hands-on making and design their own making curriculum to take back to their classrooms. The training alternates between the Creativity Lab at Lighthouse in Oakland and the Bourn Idea Lab at Castilleja School in Palo Alto. 

Our focus is to attract educators who are interested in integrating maker-centered learning into their core classes, electives, libraries, and after school programs. Participants have come from a variety of:

  • Settings – public schools, independent schools, informal settings, libraries, and universities.
  • Experience levels – from those who were asked by their principals to ‘start a making program’ to veteran arts & making educators to Americorps members getting started with maker-centered-learning.
  • Locations – although most come from the Bay Area, we have had participants travel from across the country and as far away as China.
  • Grade Levels – School educators come from all grades K-16.

This year we have hosted DME five times with one in August before school started, then two in the fall semester and two in spring.  During our latest session, March 9-10, 2017 we had participants from all over the Bay Area including a team from Washington D.C.

Our morning begins as participants trickle in and are encouraged to create a paper circuit for the mural.  We intentionally give little direction, allowing participants to learn from each other and through tinkering.

Once everyone has added an ornament to the mural, we then discuss our understandings of what “making” is and begin exploring and developing a maker mindset using the Agency by Design thinking routine “Parts, Purposes and Complexities” (PPC).  Using everyday household objects, such as headphones, hair dryers, and bike lights is perfect for this thinking routine which begins by looking closely (and slowly) at the design of the object and is followed by taking them apart to document and discuss its design.

The focus of the first day is getting comfortable with a variety of maker-centered learning techniques and media. In the middle of the day we have short exploratory workshops where we have the opportunity to learn a little bit about different tools and techniques. We ask participants to vote from the following: woodworking, a cardboard design challenge, parts, people, interactions (a look at the design of systems), 3D design & printing, laser cutting, circuit blocks, physical computing (with a Makey-Makey), scratch programming. Based on the top votes we then offer short sessions to get participants started in the areas they are most interested in.

Over the following day, participants generally decide what they want to specialize in that will support the creation of their projects and learn what they need from facilitators as well as fellow participants.

Lunch Break!

To keep our energy up and focus going – lunch is provided. At Lighthouse one of our parents (a caterer) offers homemade Mexican food and at Casti we partake in the wonderful buffet of the cafeteria – so much choice!

Reflection & Design Thinking is an opportunity to work with a partner and get feedback on a problem of practice.  We look at a project/curriculum problem from our partner’s perspective and give constructive feedback.  Along the way, we build empathy by putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.  This short introduction to design thinking introduces participants to the process and methodology and spurs their work forward in ways that they didn’t expect.

Day two of DME kicks off with Angi and Aaron sharing reflections on the history of the making programs at Lighthouse and Castilleja. This is followed by spending most of the day working on our own projects with support from the facilitators and the rest of the group.
Everyone needs to prepare their maker-centered lesson, a prototype of what students would create, and documentation of their process.

Here are a few examples of DME participants work from the March 2017 workshop:

  • Soft circuits combining sewing and electronics
  • Motorized Prairie Schooner
  • A study in cardboard construction techniques
  • A representation of the interconnected pieces of a school model.

After projects are completed, we have participants share their work deeply in groups of three and then with the whole group in a gallery walk. In their small groups, everyone participates in a modified tuning protocol, where they get one more dose of peer feedback and critique to move their project forward.  Then in the gallery walk we all get to see the diversity of each other’s thinking and projects.

Our day concludes with the group coming together to do a final reflections and discussion of the 2-day workshop.  We discuss our thoughts about the workshop using the Visible Thinking routine connect, extend, challenge.

Participant feedback:  

  • “I appreciated the thinking routines: opening something up and looking at something in a more in-depth way, PPC was very powerful. I feel like I have a much better grasp of the universal ideas of what ‘maker ed’ means”
  • “I believe every student who gets access to [maker-centered learning] will gain something from it, versus book and paper”

  • “I really liked the flexibility, especially Friday… I could work on what I needed to and see what other people are doing, kept floating here and there and still able to focus on all the things that are relevant”
  • “I’m surprisingly relieved that it’s not about expensive materials but more about the thinking”

We also want to take this opportunity to thank Tobie Irvine for his two years of service as a Maker Vista Boss!  This was his final Designing Making Experiences training and we wish him luck as he pursues his graduate degree.

About Gary Hall, PMP

I am a goal oriented person with a passion for helping others reach goals. My background in managing projects in technology as well as fitness and nutrition has positioned me to be in the ideal environment here at Lighthouse Community Charter Public Schools.