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This Month’s Learning Innovation: Hands on at the MAKESHOP

How do children learn? They watch, they mimic – and they make. They make things with their hands – and in the process learn all kinds of skills. There are many venues around Pittsburgh that encourage children to “make,” to create, and to learn, but on the forefront of it all is the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

There youngsters and their parents and caregivers can visit the MAKESHOP, a large, colorful space on the Museum’s first floor that is dedicated to making things. Things like cool circuits and animated cartoons; projects out of recycled materials; woven fabric, sewing creations – whatever strikes one’s fancy.

Back in 2010, the folks at the Museum began to “play” with the idea of starting a MAKESHOP – a space where kids could come and “make” things, learn new skills and work with talented mentors, according to Lisa Brahms, director of Learning and Research for the Museum.

“We got together a bunch of really wonderful partners, because although we had a lot of experience with designing interactive experiences with physical objects for young audiences, we didn’t have a lot of experience with the digital realm,” Lisa explains. “So we brought on the Entertainment Technology Center as a partner from CMU. And then we also know that understanding the learning behind what’s happening is really important,” so Lisa connected with the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Learning to reach out to their research lab.

“Among the three of us, we started testing and prototyping MAKESHOP. We did that for a very long time. And in October of 2011 we opened this space,” she says. MAKESHOP offers children real tools and real materials in a bunch of areas, like woodworking, sewing, circuitry and animation. The youngsters are given full control of whatever they want to make, but they can get a hand from one of the many MAKESHOP staffers.

“Making is a movement that’s at the intersection of old and new technologies. It really touches on all kind of STEM learning opportunities like science, technology engineering art and math. But it has it’s own unique flavor as well,” Lisa explains.

MAKESHOP introduces visitors to the materials, tools, processes and ideas of making – on their own terms, Lisa continues. “Rather than offer them a cut and dried project we like to really encourage them to tinker and experiment and explore the processes of making so that they can have their own ideas and take them back with them wherever they come from.

“Here in MAKESHOP we see people learning in tons of different ways and we have the great opportunity of seeing very young children to very older people engaging in making together,” she says.

Coordinating the MAKESHOP is Katie Koffler. “This is a great space for family and children learning. It’s a space where kids can feel comfortable, making whatever they want, learning processes that they might not get a chance to otherwise.

“Making is at the root of so much. I remember making things with my aunts and mom as a child. I learned things like sewing and how to cook, in school I learned how circuits work but this is an opportunity to have lots of expertise and knowledge and people who are excited around you to share those experiences with you,” Katie says.

Katie is referring to the many MAKESHOP staffers, who gently guide children and their parents in the use of tools, computers and recycled items. “We have people who have incredibly different backgrounds here at the Museum. I have a fine arts degree with textiles.” Other staffers have degrees in things ranging from history to early childhood education.

“I think the best part about the MAKESHOP is the co-learning,” Katie says, turning to the four-year-old boy next to her who is intently putting together an airplane created out of straws.

“When you sit down next to a child and they might not know what they’re doing and you might not either,” Katie explains, “figuring it out together is the part that I get most excited about.”

MAKESHOP
PittsburghKids.org

Hundreds Gather For Maker Party

Kids across Pittsburgh have been spending their summer learning through many new and exciting programs at area schools, cultural institutions, educational organizations and more. They recently celebrated their “summer of learning” at the Second Annual Pittsburgh Maker Party, held at the Society of Contemporary Craft in the Strip District.

A few hundred kids and their parents joined educators from Hive Pittsburgh, the Kids+Creativity Network, the Warhol Museum, TechShop, MAKESHOP and Sprout Fund staff at the party, which featured hands-on activities, food and music and learning stations where attendees checked out programs and projects from the Digital Corps, Pittsburgh City of Learning and Hive Pittsburgh.

Among the events: making seed bombs with Gardweeno; blasting away with marshmallow launchers built with inventors from TechShop, creating mini-videos with Steeltown Entertainment staff, and learning the science behind screen printing with educators from The Warhol Museum.

This was the culminating activity of the Pgh City of Learning Summer Campaign, highlighting how important (and fun) summer learning and engagement is for youth before they head back to school in the fall. It also highlighted opportunities to bridge the arts and technology through programs that appeal to, and address the needs of, youngsters.

Media Partnership Focuses on Learning Innovation

WQED Multimedia and our media partners, 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh have been focusing on Learning Innovation for the past months, and have put the media spotlight on everything from innovations in Early Childhood learning to computer science, STEAM and robotics.

The four media outlets, TV, radio, magazine and online magazine, are working together to focus on Pittsburgh leadership in the international movement to “remake learning” and create educational opportunities designed for our times.

Made possible through a grant from the Grable Foundation, Learning Innovation focuses on the Pittsburgh region's need to prepare its young people for college and the work force by building on the basics and connecting students with hands-on learning experiences that develop relevant skills.

Look for new stories, videos and content every month, on WQED-TV, iQ Kids Radio, and on WQED Interactive, and visit our partners at WESA, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh.

Photos



The Remake Learning Digital Corps have been busy connecting digital learning experts with afterschool program providers. These youngsters in Homestead are increasing their digital literacy.



Checking out a possible shot is this student in Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program’s summer Directors’ Workshop.



A student discusses his film storyboard with Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program Director Susan Howard, standing.



Students from Clairton and the Wilkinsburg afterschool group, FUSE, have been participating in Hear Me 101, workshops that develop writing, technical communication and media literacy skills. Students create short documentaries that explore issues of importance to them. Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program provides help with much of the project.



Youth from Homewood explore the digital world with help from mentors from the Remake Learning Digital Corps.



Hundreds of educators attended FlipCon 14 in Mars. Here Aaron Sams, one of the leaders in the Flipped Learning Movement, shares his thoughts. Norton Gusky photo.



Young learners enjoy time on computers at one of assemble’s summer camps.



Making things the old fashioned way at an assemble summer camp.



“Making” is going to be a big part of the curriculum from K-12 at Avonworth Schools. Here teachers are learning how to include making and design into their classes.



Avonworth Schools have been working with the Children’s Museum MAKESHOP on integrating making into all areas of school curriculum. They received help in a brainstorming session from Maya for Human-Centered Design staff.

Spread The News

Do you have a story of learning innovation? A program, teacher or parent who is making a difference? Tell us about it and we’ll share it on our Learning Innovation webpage. Submit stories and videos to learning@wqed.org!

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