Keeping it Weird

In Ian Leslie’s book Curious, he describes both an old fashioned definition of the word – eccentric, offbeat, weird – along with the more common one – eagerness to learn something. The HIVE, I’m proud to say, has become a weird place – a curious place – and I’m loving every second of it. While a world language class is happening in one area of the HIVE, students are making and breaking things in another. Machines buzz. Gliders fly. Lights blink. Maybe 50% of that “noise” is attributed to my Tech, Engineering, and Design class. Just as often, though, all that buzzing is from a visiting art class, innovation diploma, impromptu student drop ins, or impromptu teacher drop ins. It is interesting to imagine what school would be like if learners “dropped in” to learn what they needed on demand?

Vern Weird

In short, I rarely know what is going to happen next. Want to build longboard? Me too. Do you think we can get adults to play cornhole in the middle of a work day? It happened. Do students show up outside of class to make trophies, video games, art, and vinyl sticker “tags”? So far they have. It is a weird place and one that I believe is inspiring creativity and agency by redefining some school norms and allowing students to learn through making which just might add more context and additional skills to core classes. Myself included! Some recent tweets give you a sense of a typical day in the HIVE:

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Beyond the pure fun factor of seeing creative builds and happy faces on a daily basis, I’m feeling so encouraged that we are indeed building a strong and healthy maker community. By design, I’ve resisted the pressure to offer a “this is how to use the makerspace” session en masse for two reasons: 1) I believe strongly in learning by doing, and this can be hard to pull off in a large group, and 2) I’m trying to consider the varying degrees of users from our user map (see page 12 in our DEEP DT Playbook). Those students in my class are definitely direct users, and I believe their work is attracting fringe users – those impromptu drop ins. Every once in awhile we have the opportunity to entertain an extreme user. One that comes to mind is the student who left Mount Vernon in middle school but returned to work on a senior project for her new school after learning about our work with 3D printing. Another extreme user might be visiting groups like Watershed School, Pace Academy, or teachers participating in the 2016 national ATLIS conference. Each of these are an opportunity for me to collect stories which I believe are the currency that will attract more of the mass users. It may be a weird and curious approach, but perhaps that just comes with the territory.

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