This last weekend I was back at the Portland Mini Maker Faire making kids kites and sharing the love and joy of kite flying with the fine folks of Portland, Oregon that braved the weather. The weather wasn't bad for the whole weekend, but Sunday we did end up rained out a few hours early.
Before going to the event I had been privy to, and took part in, a conversation regarding activities that 'make kite fliers'. First I need to unpack exactly what that idea/statement means: 'Making a kite flier'. When that idea is being discussed in the kite community, we generally are talking about the point where someone goes from simply owning a kite and maybe flying it a few times through out the year, to becoming completely enthralled by kites and having it become an important focus in their lives. We see this when someone starts asking questions about how they can become better fliers, better designers, better builders. But... It is hard to define exactly where that point is. There is no quantifiable marker that we can use to say 'this is someone interested in kites' and 'this is a kite flier'. It sounds silly to make this analogy, but, like the US Supreme Court once said about Pornography (vs. Erotic Art) 'You know it when you see it'.
In a way, having such an ambiguous definition or starting point makes it really hard to lay out a path to 'becoming a kite flier'. (Which the lack of pathways and pipelines is another issue I will touch on in a later post) The conversation I was having earlier was centered around the idea that doing kids kite making workshops was successful in making kite fliers. This idea is something that I not only disagree with, but take issue with. We are not creating kite fliers, lovers of kites, or encouraging people to go off on a life long pursuit of kite flying by spending five minutes with them building a kite. That is a bit misguided, and grossly overestimates the impact. What it is doing, is exposing them to kite flying, and showing them that it exists.
Recently I have been using the following analogy to help express what I feel.
Giving someone a kite in one of these workshops is like handing someone a book. You don't just hand a book to a person and expect that the next day they will become an author. Even if you hand them a hundred books there is no guarantee that they will become an author. On the other side, it is rather rare to become an author without ever reading a book. So all we are doing at these workshops is giving them exposure to our passion, and hopefully doing it enough that perhaps the one person in one hundred will become a lifelong reader/author/kiteflier.
This isn't meant to take away the impact and importance of what these workshops, maker faires, free kites can have. It simply is changing our perspective of why it is important. If we keep setting this lofty goal of going to do a kite making workshop and expecting that everyone is going to come out of there with a deep passion and love for kite flying, than we are setting our expectations so high that we will never achieve them. The majority of authors don't write books to create more authors. There are those that do, but they are exceptions, they are rare, and they are not who we should cater to. So if we change our expectations and goals of these workshops to say 'provide a rich and deep experience with kites' or 'expose and introduce people to kite flying', we can not only achieve our goals but provide a better overall experience.
Granted, I could be wrong, this could be THE way to create kitefliers and be the very first step... but.. there are not pathways or pipelines for people to follow after that. Or at least, those pathways have not been defined in a way that others can understand.... more on that later.