Thursday, August 28, 2014

Making Peace with Makerspace

Makerspace has been the buzzword for a few years. I usually like to try out new ideas. They keep me learning and keep my library fresh and vibrant. So I was feeling guilty when the new school year started and I hadn’t read the book yet, and I hadn’t figured out how I was going to try to incorporate makerspaces into my library program.
I finally realized what was behind my reluctance to get started. I want to share my thoughts, but let me just say, if you’re doing makerspaces, that’s great for you. It’s just not right for me.
I have high schoolers. A good portion of them come from CommArts, a high-performing college prep magnet school. But what I say next seems to apply to most of my students—not just the CommArts kids. They all seem to be inundated with planned activities all day long. They go to classes where they participate in organized activities for seven hours every day. They need quality down time…time to socialize…time to just hang out and talk to friends…time to figure out who they are and who they’re going to become. That awareness comes more in social engagement than in planned activities.
When my kids were little, I organized their birthday parties down to the minute. Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, then the piƱata, then the hula hoop contest, then hot dogs, cake and ice cream…you get the idea. One day, I realized they didn’t want me to plan their parties anymore. They just wanted to hang out with their friends and do whatever. I had to let go and trust that what they were doing is what they SHOULD be doing.
I believe free time is important for kids to develop their personalities. Humor me while I quote an interesting pin from Pinterest. Miss Minimalist quotes Claude Debussy, “Music is the space between the notes.” In her article, “The Space Between the Notes,” Miss Minimalist says, “The space between notes allows them to resonate, reverberate, and reach their full measure of expression.” Later, she says, “Think of every possession, every activity, every moment of your life as a note in your symphony. When a musician composes a song, he doesn’t fill it with as many notes as possible—instead, he chooses just enough to make a pleasing melody….When we cut out the background noise, we put what’s truly special to us in the spotlight.”
I think kids these days are bombarded with background noise--sitting through class, trying to learn new things for seven hours a day. I’m sure the last thing they want is an organized activity waiting for them when they come to the library. In the library, they get to choose. If they want to volunteer to shelve books or work in the bistro, they can. If they want to sit and read silently or work on homework, that’s an option, too.  If they want to play Magic the Gathering or Yu-gi-oh cards with their friends, there’s room for that as well. Play chess, do a puzzle, read a newspaper, just sit and talk with friends—the possibilities are all there for my students. We have after school clubs—Chess Club, Book Club, and Anime Club.  I guess, when you look at it, all those activities can be called makerspaces. So I’ve been doing makerspaces all along. A rose by any other name.