On Thursday of last week (8/16/2018) I headed down to host a workshop for some kids at an after-school jamboree hosted by Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Shelton, Washington. It was a blast! The layout for this workshop involved roughly 120 kids split up into 6 or 7 groups of roughly 15-20 kids. There were multiple stations through out the jamboree, one for wood crafters, a sewing class, some rock guys, story telling, etc.... Each group had 15 minutes at each station. Something that I wasn't fully aware of until about ten minutes before the first batch of kids came through.
I had my package of trusty squiggly sleds (from phantomstarkites.com) that are an easy and fun build. What followed next was a crazy whirlwind of flying tyvek, pen caps, kids, and tangled lines. Fifteen minutes is not really enough time to teach 15-20 kids how to build those kites while they are also trying to decorate them. Lesson learned.
The next day it was on the way back home for last minute preparations for the Seattle Mini Maker Faire.
I will write more on the Seattle Mini Maker Faire in another blog post, because that is a whole other beast,
But there is something I noticed that stood out as a difference between the two workshops. Something I am not sure that I fully flushed out, or if I am seeing things right. Just an observation, and in the true spirit of the maker movement, I am now sitting here about how to create a solution!!
The kids that attended the after school jamboree come from varied backgrounds. The cost of living in Shelton is significantly lower than that in urban Seattle, and I would imagine the income is as well. This is not a commentary on the politics of wages and economic class.
The kids at the Shelton event tended to say a lot of the same phrases, and have the same approach to difficulty. "I can't do this" "I don't know what to do". "I give up". It was as if when they were presented with a challenge, or the threat of unknown possibility, it seemed to much. They were ready to accept defeat, ready to accept that they did not have the skills to tackle the problem.
Now, the kids at the Maker Faire, that is a whole different ball of wax. A lot has been said about 'Maker Kids'. It is where the geeks are, the nerds, the techno-savants. No surprise that there are kids on the Autism Spectrum well represented among the ranks of those that are very excited about the robot they just built. Something else you also notice as the kids and families stream past, is that a lot of them come from stable middle and upper economic classes. Their parents income is able to buy them access to all of these toys and tools.
The comments that most of these kids had were different when they were faced with the same challenges. If they were not already picking up the pieces and trying to figure it out for themselves, they were asking if modifying it would make it fly better.
This year at the Seattle Mini Maker Faire they did open it up for free entry for anyone with an EBT card, and I have no way of knowing how many were in attendance. Realizing that it could have been half of the people walking past and building kites and I would have been none the wiser. Thus pointing out the problems with making gross generalizations based on groups of people.
It did however get me thinking about how can I take this model of what I am doing and take it to more places like the jamboree. I want those kids to feel that freedom to create, to see welcome the challenges, and the difficulties, to embrace failure, to want to experiment. .... and of course..... I think kites are the perfect vehicle for that.