Maker Faires are hot and quickly spreading throughout the country with the mission to “entertain, inform, connect and inspire these thousands of Makers and aspiring Makers.” The first official Maker Faire, sponsored by MAKE, happened in San Mateo, CA eight years ago and since then these community driven events have popped up all over the world, culminating with the World Maker Faire in New York City (which is huge!)
These events open up the world of creativity that most attendees were not aware existed in their local areas. Maker Faires are where hands-on projects, learning, STEM, art, creativity, school, community and family all come together for a day of exciting activity to blur the lines that normally define them each as separate entities.
If, perhaps, you are searching for a Maker event in your area but don’t see one planned anywhere close by- it might be time to plan your own! It’s really pretty easy and an ideal way to get conversations happening and relationships building between schools, parents, organizations and businesses in your community- and when you plan your own, it’s tailored to your area and customized for the students you are intending to reach.
Last week, a great group of educators in Portland, OR pooled their connections and personal talent to host the first annual Rose City Make N’ Take. Here’s the 5 easy steps it took to pull off:
1. Get the organizers into a Google Hangout. Have an organization gooru to get everyone together and use a scheduling site like Doodle.com, making sure there are many options in order to find a good meeting time for everyone. Keep planning notes in Google Docs and share during the Google Hangout “meetings.”
2. Leverage community and parent connections. Many great organizations like SparkFun, Surplus Gizmos, ADX, Tinker Camp, PDX Young Makers and DIY.org Club of Portland were eager to set up booths and offer activities like laser cutters, LED pop-up cards, Scratch programming, soldering kits, underwater robots. Of course, we couldn’t let the organizations have all the fun. We tapped into our personal talents and hosted boots for origami, sewing, soda bottle rockets, Ubuntu-laptops and button-making. As last minute addition, everyone contributed cardboard to have an area for the Imagination Foundation’s #Cardboard Challenge inspired by “Cain’s Arcade.” With just a little digging, it really simple to find things for the students to make- whether it be from parent or teacher expertise or businesses or non profit organizations around the city who would love the chance to get some hands on time helping students in their communities.
3. Find a space. Luckily, one of our team members offered his school as the perfect space to hold the event. Not only was it donated, but the cafeteria, gymnasium, computer lab and outdoor courtyard all flowed together perfectly. Attendees could survey what was being offered, what was crowded and what was open- making it very easy for everyone to get a chance to try everything without having to wait in lines, get bored, etc. Also, we planned for perfect weather, so there could be a rocket launching and underwater robots outside- we highly recommend that. Basically, any open space with tables and a little creative planning would work- just don’t forget to think through the supplies you’ll need for the day- things like scissors, tape, signage, etc. and, of course, don’t forget the power cords!
4. Have food. Be prepared, once students get there they will not want to leave so you need to keep them fueled up. We did not have a budget to cover food but wanted to keep the faire as low cost (basically free) for attendees. Two local restaurants loved the opportunity to sell some quick and easy food to our captivated crowd. Setting up a pizza and bento stand kept our participants nourished and happy- and ready to find the next “maker” activity.
5. Record and share your success. When planning any event, you will be unsure of how many people really show up and how it will actually turn out. A couple of good teacher organizers, some enthusiastic support from the school parents and the local community, good food and fun activities- it’s pretty much guaranteed a slam dunk. Take pictures, video and post some social media and the word will get out- fast! Set the date for the next one. Local Maker Faires are just too fun to be a one time event and the more students and school communities are exposed to the maker culture, the faster it will infiltrate our classrooms.