Lap 1 - Cognitive Gearing

Building a Maker Community

Cognitive Gearing is our attempt to define a core set of identities and values in our Maker|Design|Engineering program at MVPS. While the origin of our program stemmed from an exploration of a PK-12 scope and sequence, we quickly realized that culture, identity, and core values are what really define a community. In our case the idea of a maker community - not makerspaces - were what were going to define success.


Ready to dive in? One the things we hope to share through these lessons is a true "behind the curtain" look at how we developed our program. We don't want to imply that our language and designs are exactly right for your program, but by sharing our process we hope to spark some research, design, or iteration efforts at your own organization. We imagine that if we had these resources at our fingertips 3 years ago, we could have accelerated much faster. We hope the same is true for you.

Jim mentions in the video that we started with a core set of identities. While that is true, Artisan/Hacker/Tinkerer and the core values that go with them didn't happen by chance. We worked through a discovery and empathizing process that burned a lot of post-it notes in order to uncover a few gems. Here is a messy photo album what what is quite literally our origin story and the prompts that got us there.

  • Stakeholder Needs and Expectations: Name all of the stakeholders in such a space and describe their needs and expectations (and hopes and dreams)
    • Tell the story about how this group of teachers would use and learn in the space.
    • Tell the story of how students will learn in and use the space.
    • Tell the story of how the administration would like to use the space.
    • Tell the story of how the broader community will use the space.
  • Makerspace Outcomes: Describe the skills, knowledge and habits students will get from their experience in the makerspace.
    • What is a skill and how will the makerspace help students grow their skills?
    • What is knowledge? What knowledge will the makerspace will help teach?
    • What is a habit and what are the habits students will have after their experience in the makerspace?
    • How will skills, knowledge and habits change as students learn, grow and age?
    • Tell a story about the culture students will experience in the makerspace.
    • Tell a story about how a safety violation will be handled.
  • Language Exploration: Map the current language being used in the space and around the space. Explore the terms artisan, hacker and tinkerer.
    • What does it mean to “produce” in the space?
    • How do you produce without a goal in mind?
    • Are the terms artisan, hacker and tinkerer exclusive? Do they connote exclusivity?
    • What’s missing in the language? What is not being described?
    • What does it feel like to be part of this maker community?
  • Culture Exploration: Using the Osterwalder/Gray Business Culture Map (Outcomes, Behaviors, Enablers/Blockers), map the desired culture in the new makerspace.
    • What does it feel like to walk into the space?
    • What kind of behavior does the space invite?
    • How does behavior change over time as students become more responsible and successful?
    • How does the space encourage failure and experimentation?
    • What does “done” mean? Are there different definitions?
    • We create an environment where….. therefore, people…… which means we get…….
    • What rituals, symbols and actions will support the desired culture?
    • How is a safety violation handled?



REFLECTION PROMPT: When you watched the intro video and listened to Episode 1 of the podcast, what themes seemed to stick out? What are the aspects of a community and why would someone want to join yours? What language is inherent to your school the might be important?

HELPFUL HINTS: Try using these two "want ad" tools from MVIFI.

  1. What would would you look for in a teacher applying into your maker community?
  2. What would you look for in a student wanting to play in your maker community.


  • Excerpts from The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich, including a few words from Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKEmagazine; Leah Buechley, founder of the MIT Media Lab's High Low Tech Group; and our own Mike and Karen, about the work that is near and dear to our hearts and minds.
  • Chapter 2 of Invent to Learn, by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary S. Stager. This chapter explores one interpretation of the difference between tinkering, making, and engineering. Tell us what you think in the discussion forum.