I did not grow up a Maker. At least, I didn't make as much as I wished I could. I discovered my passion for science early on in my life, and though I had an early interest in drawing, painting, music, and sculpting, I didn't see any way to implement my creative efforts as I pursued my career interests. It always seemed like I was required to choose between taking an art class or taking another science class, and because I was always more or less conditioned into thinking my only chances for success were to study hard in the traditional way, I chose more STEM classes. How would I get into college if I didn't pack my coursework with only core subjects? How would I succeed if I didn't study and prepare for the traditional education system? Though I obviously didn't ask myself these questions specifically, my experience in high school led me to ignore my creative endeavors in favor of preparing for college and the "real world."
Of course, we know a college education is important. I hope that my future students will be able to see that. However, I think that shirking students' interests in favor of priming them for college isn't the way to get everyone interested in science, or STEM in general. What I didn't learn in high school is that science requires a lot of creativity. Science isn't only concerned with solving problems, it's also important that scientists are well-equipped to find problems. Coming up with problems and their solutions needs an open mind to create ideas and formulate experiments. This is why my Maker philosophy centers on joining the creativity associated with less scientific subjects with the rigid logic we see in STEM. I don't think it's fair that students like me, with interests in both art and science, have to choose one or the other. I hope that as a science teacher I can incorporate lessons that create an environment where students don't have to make a choice. Making to me means being able to bridge the gap in learning styles and allowing all students a way to access the content, whether they prefer rote memorization or freedom of expression.
Maker Education is powerful because learning comes in many forms. Recently, I was reading a book about learning to draw, titled “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” which identified some common perceptual mistakes beginner artists face in their journey towards proficiency. A good sum of the book discusses the importance of using both sides of the brain: the creative, conceptual, big-picture right brain, and the rigid, factual, detail-oriented left brain. I found myself fascinated with the notion that the current, traditional education system ignores right-brain centered education. History and mathematics and science are all taught with a focus on memorization rather than conceptual understanding and identifying the meaning behind the knowledge many are required to absorb. I feel that Maker Education is at the crux of this issue; a pedagogy that inspires students to use creativity in their problem-solving will increase interest in, understanding of, and impact of their education.
My Maker philosophy doesn't only revolve around the idea of choice in education, but also the idea of accessibility and agency. A lot of making can be inaccessible to low income communities, but some aspects of making, such as programming and "upcycling," can make their way into many classrooms in America. These parts of making allow students to express creativity and scientific endeavors without having access to a full Makerspace or many of the expensive tools to which well-off communities may have access. In addition to being a creative outlet and increasing learning by doing, I hope that people can see making as a utility. The works of Paulo Freire show that education can work to solve problems in impoverished and well-off communities. Finding problems in the community and working together as future scientists and engineers allows students to work to make their world a better place through innovation and creation.