Thanks to funding from IMLS, I spent much of the summer on the road, working with librarians, educators, and community members to envision and think about community-responsive making in rural and underserved communities. Here are some things I learned (or re-learned) from stepping outside the current maker narratives:
- Balancing traditional maker activities (e.g., log furniture) with new technologies (e.g., CNC routing) remains a challenge, in part due to financial constraints.
- Future Farmers of America and 4-H remain highly influential avenues to making and hands-on learning in communities.
- One powerful, persuasive personality can mobilize many others.
- 3-D printing, seen as a critical tool in many urban and suburban maker narratives, simply isn’t financially viable in many rural libraries, though they might be found in local high schools.
- The maker movement in libraries is codifying around youth and STEM primarily, with a big emphasis on playing with pre-made items (e.g., Snap Circuits, LEGO, K’Nex).
- Despite the current youth and making focus, we got a lot of questions this summer about making and senior citizens, something we’re really interested in, too!
- Underwater remote operated vehicles showed up as an in-class or extracurricular activity in three of our sites. Robotics was even more popular (in part because Michigan’s governor has actively supported and incentivized the incubation of FIRST Robotics programs).
- Incubator kitchens are specially licensed facilities to help nascent food businesses get started. That this is a state-licensed activity tells me there is more support for non-tech-based small businesses than we previously anticipated.
- Multiple communities pointed to farmer’s markets as a hub for creative handmade products.
What did you learn this summer? I’ll be back next month with more learnings.