I just returned from the 2016 World Maker Faire in New York City. It was AWESOME. There was a great education forum on Friday, followed by two days of touring booths loaded with creative, hands-on ideas.
What I really wanted were ideas I could immediately implement in the classroom – without having to invest in expensive toys, tedious training, or hiring experts. Oh, and they also had to be interesting, engaging, and fun for students. Here’s the 5 ideas that made the biggest impact on me:
- Lock Picking
I know this sounds weird, but this was one of the most popular booths at the fair. Kids were jammed in here all day, trying to outwit locksmiths. Basically, people were provided with locks, tools and some basic instructions. And they loved it. I can’t tell you how many students I have encountered over the years who speculate about breaking into locked rooms using paper clips, toothpicks and/or bobby pins. I’m sure many of them actually tried it when I wasn’t looking! Students love a good challenge and love to show adults how smart they are (and, conversely, how our safeguards are a joke!). Talk about your problem solving! Talk about easy to implement!
- Cooking With a Giant Magnifying Glass
This booth was about recycling trash into cool and useful items. This particular example was an oven of sorts that cooked food by magnifying the light of the sun. The glass they employed was from an old TV. This is both simple and environmentally friendly. Imagine what students could dream up.
- Enhanced Books
Here, the artist created books that contained electronic tablets. On the screen could be actors acting out the story, or a Google presentation/MS PowerPoint flashing through pages of text/images. Students could easily construct these frames and leave space inside for tablets or even their own smartphones. There is the hands-on work with the books/frame and the creative work in developing the video portion. Simple and elegant.
- Camera Obscura
A camera obscura, or pinhole camera, is a simplified camera. Light comes in through a tiny opening and projects an image onto a surface inside the box. It is totally easy for students to make and yet provides them with all kinds of insight into old-school photographic science as well as the science of light.
- Hair Dryer Mazes
Admittedly, I have no idea which subject this project would best be connected to. But, it looks fun and easy for students to create. You get a hair dryer and install an L-shaped piece of PVC piping into the end pointed upwards. Students use the air blasting out (and upwards) to keep a ping pong ball aloft. Then, while keeping the ball in the air, they navigate it through a maze of hoops or other obstacles. Principles of flight? Air currents? Problem solving? Sure. Fun? Absolutely.
Sure, there are probably projects out there that are more academically challenging or focused. But, if you are new to the world of maker and are looking for a way to get your feet wet without investing a ton of time or money, these ideas would be a great first step.
Where you at the fair? What were your favorite booths? I would love to hear from you and compare notes.