In the past couple of years, academic people have been all excited about making things. I didn’t get what the big deal was, since I’m pretty much always making something. I thought it was nice that people were taking a break from reading and writing and teaching to make stuff, but didn’t see why it was such a big deal all of a sudden. I’m still not sure of the all of a sudden part, but recently I took part in two maker’s days which added to my understanding of this making trend.
Both days were sponsored by the Northern California Writing Project. The first day was a tech one, and we learned to code HTML. I struggled with it a little, but managed to create a page of text with a photo that I liked pretty well. My brain was stretched past its usual limits that day. I can’t say I’ll be doing more coding in the near future, as it definitely needs practicing to get good at it, but it was fun to learn this new thing.
The second makers day was just last week. The word went out that we were going to be making things, and did anyone want to teach how to make something. Four of us said yes, we could teach something and the day was set. It took place at the home and workshop of Writing Project member, Kim Jaxon and her husband, Jeff. The setting couldn’t have been better.
We began the day with a lesson in making rockets out of cardstock and colorful masking tape. As you can see, lots of tape went into these creations. After we all had one made, we had to go outside and shoot them off using a very fancy rocket launcher made of PVC pipe, an electric sprinkler head and a bicycle pump. We were shocked by how high they flew.
After the rockets, we learned to make tissue paper puff balls which are all the rage on Pinterest this summer. They’re good for party decorations or for livening up a classroom.
The puff balls were followed by some cunning origami books which are great as a lead-in to personal writing. Then we made bugs with pipe cleaners and LED lights and batteries, followed by Peter teaching us to make chain maille. Not us, exactly, because I did not learn this lesson at all. Somehow it was too convoluted for my maker’s brain at the end of the day, but the outcome is so cool that we took the pieces home to try again later. Probably with YouTube to show us when we are fresher.
We ended the day making rocker launchers of our own. So cool! My daughter and I teach in the same school, so we made one for the future delight of our students.
By the end of the day, I was exhausted, and I’d learned a lot of new things. And now I think I get the maker thing. We worked on making these things, and weren’t always successful at first. One rocket was held together with masking tape and when it blew apart at launch, we saw that it wasn’t strong enough. Packing tape was needed for strength, and the masking tape just for decoration. We learned that if you pull too hard on the tissue paper in the puff ball, it’ll tear, and that it works best if you alternate pulling out from the top and then the bottom, rather than just from one side at a time.
We tried things, failed and tried again, a different way. We could see our mistakes, learn from them, and try again. That kind of learning is largely missing from our academic efforts. We might know that something we’ve written sounds a little weird, but the ‘what’ isn’t always obvious. We might not completely understand something we’ve read, but we often let it go with getting the gist of it. And we accept that as okay.
When you make something and fail, it is obvious. It works or it doesn’t. You can see whether the light comes on or it doesn’t. You try again, and maybe fail again and even again, and you learn something from each failure. Each time you come out with a new understanding of the project you are working on. You realize that failure is part of success, part of growth, and you learn not to be diminished by it. You go back and back until you either get it or don’t, but no matter the outcome you have learned something with every try. And it is in the failure that you find the success of the lesson.