Thanks to funding from IMLS, I had the opportunity to travel all over Michigan over the course of the last summer. I was able to take advantage of great opportunities to meet new people doing interesting work in unexpected locales. The things that I learned the most about had to do with professional practice, particularly in libraries and similar community spaces, as well as the way people connect with creating things:
- People from all backgrounds and walks of life can get something out of making even simple objects with their own hands, without a plan.
- Types of traditional fabrication, such as soldering-torch jewelry making, decorative woodworking, or furniture reupholstering, are still maintained in certain spaces and appear to present an avenue for interesting economic development.
- Developing partnerships between local organizations that may not have worked together in the past is one of the most powerful ways to sustain new programs such as out-of-school STEM programs (National Research Council 2015).
- Continuing on the theme of out-of-school programs, the variety of peripheral STEM learning opportunities was very inspiring to me, from LEGO/FIRST robotics clubs to partnerships with local community colleges.
- The relationship between local, regional, state, and federal STEM initiatives isn’t always straightforward, but investing time in understanding this network can give life to programs that would otherwise be prohibitively challenging to implement.
- The natural beauty of northern Michigan is not overstated.
Going forward, I’m curious to explore how people turn a hobby or casual interest into a way to give themselves a little extra support, and how young people can rediscover something elemental about what it is make something with their own hands, from scratch. Look forward to some more reflection on our summer of co-learning next month!
National Research Council. Identifying and Supporting Productive STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015. doi:10.17226/21740.