STEM Maker Workshop: Be a Maker

I’ve been trying to sign G1 up for a STEM Maker Workshop for some time now but the timing never seemed to work out for us until now. The goal has always been to extend his experiences beyond school with activities that add to his schooling experience rather than simply replicate them with more of the same. So when we look for extra-curricular activities, we try to look for something that is:

  • Different from what he’s already doing at school.
  • Hands-on and involved because we learn better when we engage multiple senses.
  • Practical with real-world benefits.

To make the most of the learning experience, it has been recommended that we adopt the Universal Learning Style of the Human Mind, keeping these two points in mind:

  1. Students benefit from encountering information in multiple forms.
  2. Students’ interest is kept alive by novelty and variety, so regularly turning away from textbooks and blackboards is key.

The Maker Movement

The shift to “making” represents the perfect storm of new technological materials, expanded opportunities, learning through firsthand experience, and the basic human impulse to create. It offers the potential to make learning more child-centered: relevant and more sensitive to each child’s remarkable capacity for intensity. Making is predicated on the desire that we all have to exert agency over our lives, to solve our own problems. It recognizes that knowledge is a consequence of experience, and it seeks to democratize access to a vast range of experience and expertise so that each child can engage in authentic problem solving. – Scholastic

Why “making” is the most powerful way for kids to learn – it:

  • helps them understand what they are capable of.
  • empowers them to drive their own learning.
  • is multidisciplinary – it allows them to take the learning from one subject into another.
  • teaches problem-solving – an essential 21st Century skill.
  • is fun – learning is always more effective when it’s fun.
  • allows educators to bridge the gap between what students are passionate about and what they’re learning in school.
  • encourages them to ask questions and embrace mistakes.

Children learn best through discovery, play, and experimentation

Making helps children develop the maker’s mindset: to ask questions and embrace their mistakes as part of the learning process.

Making encourages students to pose their own questions and pursue answers in an organic way. In contrast to a “single correct answer” approach, making is a mindset, a way to approach problem-solving through experimentation and play. Mistakes are a part of learning, since they show that students are pushing the boundaries of their capabilities. Every mistake made is an opportunity to incorporate feedback into a new design, a way to solve challenges previously unforeseen.

Questioning can be a powerful form of learning. Research shows that students learn more deeply when they can apply classroom-gathered knowledge to real-world problems. Asking questions provides context that helps reinforce student learning, and it helps students transfer their learning to new kinds of situations, including ones outside of the classroom.

True learning is a continuous cycle of curiosity, investigation, experimentation, research, and reflection. – Edutopia

STEM Maker Workshop

These workshops are run by Florence Wong who is a former software engineer from Staffordshire University turned homeschooling Mum. Her “Be a Maker” STEM workshops provide the perfect opportunity to encourage kids to learn about STEM the way it was meant to be learned – through tinkering, getting their hands dirty, and making their own observations.

STEM Maker workshop

In her recent series of workshops, the children learned to make stuff that taught them various STEM concepts along the way. In G1’s workshop, they learned how to make:

A Hovercraft

STEM Maker workshopSTEM Maker workshop

One part boat, one part airplane, and one part helicopter a hovercraft is a vehicle that traps a cushion of air underneath itself and then floats along on top of it. The air cushion holds it high above waves and land obstructions, making the craft superbly amphibious (equally capable of traveling on land or water or gliding smoothly from one to the other).

The basic mechanism of a hovercraft is very simple: there’s an engine (diesel or gasoline) that powers both a large central fan, pointing downward, and one or more other fans pointing backward. The central fan creates the lift that holds the craft above the waves; the other fans propel the craft backward, forward, or to the side. A rubber skirt (with or without fingers) traps a cushion of air under the craft. – Explain That Stuff

In this exercise, the kids learned the physics of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, engineering concepts, and motors.

Slime

STEM Maker workshop

Less practical in the real world compared to a hovercraft but definitely fun and exciting for any child. In this activity the kids learned how to make slime out of water, glue, borax and food colouring. A couple of kids accidentally made silly putty when they added too much glue into the mix and discovered a whole new set of physical properties. G1 eagerly shared the recipe with me so we could make more slime at home. Apparently, you can also use laundry detergent if you can’t get your hands on borax. Great! Now we’ll never have to buy slime from the toy shop again!

In this activity, the kids learn about chemistry – chemical reactions, polymers and crosslinking.

Robotic Arm

STEM Maker workshopSTEM Maker workshop

Another practical application in the real world, the robotic arm activity teaches the kids about:

  • Biology (specifically the anatomy and physiology of the arm)
  • Engineering concepts through the construction of a simple robotic arm

Related:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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