Creative play, imagination and STEM subjects are a great combination for getting kids engaged in learning.
Alice Brooks learned when she was little that she could make the dolls she wanted, with the tools her father gave her and her own imagination.
At age 8, she was very comfortable with tools, and excited about building toys. As it was, she also built up her own confidence, and interest in majoring in engineering whn she got older.
Years later, Brooks and business parter Bettina Chen are manufacturing Roominate, a building kit for girls that allows them to create anything they can imagine, from dollhouses to farm animals.
Brooks and Chen are among thousands of people who are part of the “Maker Movement,” an energetic and creative groundswell that ties folks together in pursuit of creativity, individual passions and the magic that inventing brings to life. “Making” or “hacking” — the terms are used fairly interchangeably — are celebrated with expos, open laboratory sessions, achievement badges for little makers, TED Talks for the entrepreneurial, articles, blogs and more. Companies are jumping in with a new raft of toys that offer hints — but not instructions — leaving children free to decide what to build or do.
Think of it as “do-it-yourself” meets STEM, the national push for excellence in science, technology, engineering and math. Add in the arts, as many makers and hackers do, and you have STEAM.
Then you’re really cooking.
The Maker Movement, as it’s known today, formally began in 2005 with Make magazine, according to Thanasi Glavas, vice president of Change Hive in San Diego. The concept’s heart started beating, though, even before toys like Legos and Erector Sets encouraged kids to build whatever they could conceptualize. Magazine founder Dale Dougherty felt passionate about it, greatly boosting interest, said Glavas, a longtime maker who also organizes local maker expos.