In the Globe and Mail today there is a feature article called Remaking the way children learn and play. Reading articles like this one reminds me why I wanted to do the Working Hands media project in the first place. The research I have being doing for the past two and a half years has shown me this topic is both timely and fascinating. I have learned about the serious problems we are facing:
- the shortages of people in skilled trades that we have now and will increasingly have in the future
- the disconnect with our objects where disposal, not repair, is often the preferred option
- the removal of industrial arts from schools
- the overwhelming amount of content available and the great ease we have in consuming it
- the disparity between how our bodies have evolved and the lifestyle we live
I have also learned about many positive initiatives. Ever since the first one in 1950 in Madrid, Spain, there have been hundreds of competition events for those who are starting off in skill trades. In addition to national competitions, every two years the best from the each country compete in a WorldSkills Competition. In 2011 I had a chance to visit and film at the 17th Skills Canada National Competition in Québec City. It was quite inspiring to see young people so passionate and dedicated to their trade.
It started in 2006 in the Bay area. It is now happening all over the world. Maker Faires are gatherings for all-ages of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. In 2012 I attended New York City’s Maker Faire. It was very COOL.
There are now opportunities and places for kids and adults to do hands-on activities year round. Makers Spaces are popping up everywhere including libraries. The Globe and Mail article talks about MakerKids which is a makerspace for youth in Toronto. In Oakland California there is The Crucible where forges roar, sparks fly, glass bends, neon glows, and creativity explodes. There are websites like iFixit which wants to build a global community of people helping each other repair things. We have toys now like GoldieBlox that want to disrupt the pink aisle and get girls building.
There have been scientific studies done to show the positive benefit of using hands in a complex manner and the effect on learning and our sense of well-being. In a complex manner, which does not include the use of the keyboard, refers to activities like handwriting, building, repairing and even repetitive tasks like knitting. Even using a tablet has been shown to be more effective for children’s learning compared to using a laptop. It is no accident that Montessori schools have designed their flash cards to have the letters made with sandpaper.
Yes it is an exciting time to tell these stories. The world is changing rapidly; the state of our environment, economics, technology. Some of the answers to moving forward, I believe, rest in our hands.
UPDATE: I just read another great article on the Makezine website. How to Remake the World by Making with Kids gives you the point of view of the Co-Executive Director of MakerKids.