Shanna Miles, Media Specialist at South Atlanta High School in Georgia, is preparing to pitch an ambitious idea at the YALSA President’s Program Monday, June 29 from 10:30 a.m. to Noon. She will advocate for “America’s Next Top Maker” in front of a panel of librarians and business leaders for the chance to win cash and technology prizes provided by YALSA,, Makey Makey, and 3D Systems.

We wanted to catch up with Shanna before she heads to San Francisco for ALA’s Annual Conference.

KM: Hi Shanna! Can you give our readers a short description about the project you submitted to the Shark Bowl?
SM: I submitted a project called “America’s Next Top Maker”. In a nutshell, it’s a maker competition with an American Idol component. Students are given a backpack with the tools they’ll need to make a project, whether that be a song, a short story, or an app. They present their creations to the student body (I work in a public high school) and the students vote. The winner gets to keep the backpack o’ tools and goes on to create forever.

KM: What was your inspiration for “America’s Next Top Maker”?
SM: I wanted to introduce my kids to making in a way that was competition based and had an end project in mind without the icky stench of grade chasing. It couldn’t feel like homework and it couldn’t be “just for fun”. All kids like to play, but my kids live in an urban environment with harsh realities and they are sensitive to activities that seem to waste their time. Play has lost its value in a lot of ways. I want them to reclaim play as useful and fun. They need to see that work can be fun and vice versa. Reality television shows are the game shows of our time so it seemed like a natural fit.

KM; In what ways were/are teens involved in the project?
SM: Teens drive the project. I’m just a tool master, checking items in and out. I’ll introduce the kids to the software, but they’ll be responsible for working with the tools they’re provided to come up with something grand. I want to be hands off with it so they can struggle and triumph under their own will.

KM: How is your community involved in the project?
SM: We’re hoping to conscript a few volunteers from Georgia State University’s Digital Aquarium to assist kids in the finer points of app development and we have alumni who are versed in the latest beat making software.

KM: What are you updating/changing as you get ready for the Shark Bowl at Annual Conference?
SM: I think the program is fleshed out as much as it can be at this early stage. Changes really depend on resources, but that’s the beauty of the program, it can be scaled up or down. It can be tempting to add components to a project, but simplicity is best.

KM: What are you most excited about in getting ready for Shark Bowl?
SM: I’m excited to interact with the judges. I love talking about my kids and their unique gifts and needs. They have a lot to offer and they deserve opportunities to shine, too often their creativity is overlooked.

KM: Anything else you want our readers to know?
SM: I’m knee deep in YA as I review titles for the 2015-2016 Georgia Peach Book Award, so if you’ve got great recommendations of newly published titles featuring diverse characters tweet me @labellamedia

Learn more about YALSA Shark Bowl and don’t forget to attend the YALSA President’s Program on Monday, June 29th from 10:30 a.m. to noon to see the sharks and pitches live.

About Kate Mcnair

Member of the 22x20 Taskforce

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