Back to School with Making

Me at any Maker program

Me at any Maker program

Every time I think of planning Maker programs, I think of this meme. No matter how many Maker programs I plan, I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. But, I’ve learned to embrace this. Being a Maker isn’t about knowing what you’re doing: it’s about tinkering, taking risks, and being willing to learn.

Back to School time is a great time to embrace new programming ideas. If you aren’t running Maker programs yet (or are looking for a new idea), why not start with Un-Making?

Un-Making is a chance to take things apart and see how things work. It’s an opportunity to break things and practice using tools. Un-Making is about process rather than result. At the end of an Un-Making project, you will have a pile of random parts, not a pretty finished product. Un-Making gives participants a chance to explore and interact. Some students may walk away from a project with intricate knowledge of how a computer is put together, others may simply walk away knowing how to use a screwdriver. The takeaway is up to individual participants: you are there to facilitate.

Photo credit: http://hastudia.blogspot.com/

Photo credit: http://hastudia.blogspot.com/

How to Start:

Put out an all-staff request for broken appliances and old computer parts. Or, go to your local thrift store and see what’s there. Get a variety of items: old toasters, keyboards, TV’s: whatever you can find. Once you have gathered your items, cut off any electrical cords. This will ensure that students won’t plug things in, thus eliminating the risk of electrical shock. Some people fear that electricity can be built up in old electronics. If this is a concern, lock everything away for a week before cutting off the cords to make sure that items haven’t been powered up recently.

Screwdrivers come in all shapes and sizes.

Screwdrivers come in all shapes and sizes.

Next, buy or collect screwdrivers of all shapes and sizes. Hardware stores sell basic screwdriver sets. Staff members may have old tools they can donate.

How to Run an Un-Making Program

Have a drop-in program where teens can socialize and take things apart. Think about holding the program in a central location. This way you can attract more participants, especially students who don’t normally think of attending library programs. Invite people to stop at the table to loosen a screw. You might want to pre-loosen harder screws to make it easier for kids to start. This gives teens an opportunity to try something new, whether they choose to spend five minutes or an hour with you.

Benefits of Un-Making

Righty-Tighty, Lefty-Loosy: Un-Making gives students a chance to practice small motor skills and learn how to use basic tools.

Confidence: Un-Making has made me more confident in my own fix-it skills. The other day, our microfilm machine was on the fritz. “Old Me” would have said “Nuts to this! I’m calling for a repair!” However, “New Me” said “Let’s see what I can do.” I found our microfilm machine’s user guide online and discovered that it was an easy problem to fix (cleaning a dirty lens). Five minutes later, our machine was back to its old self. Yes, cleaning a dirty lens isn’t the most challenging of tasks, but Un-Making gave me the confidence and inspiration to even attempt to fix the machine.

Now What?

Was your program a success? Do you have a table full of random parts? Turn your Un-Making into Re-Making! Check out these fun crafting ideas:

Photo credit: Instructibles.com

Photo credit: Instructibles.com

Floppy Disc Notebooks

Keyboard Ring

Have you found/invented any cool Re-Making projects? Let us know in the comments.

About Jaina Lewis

Teen Services Librarian at The Westport Library in Westport, CT since 2006. Minnesotan at heart. Current chair of Teen Tech Week. @jainalibrarian
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