I am a believer in the power of making things. When I was a camper I felt empowered, capable and noticed in the Arts and Crafts department at summer camp. If I could have chosen where to spend my time you would have found me there. Jack on the other hand struggled in Arts and Crafts. He felt incompetent and cornered by the lame often glitter covered projects. Jack was the classic camper distracting from and devaluing the creative space. The forced interaction and coercion into making projects that were not interesting to him made him hate being there. Yet today Jack calls himself a maker and an engineer. He is a maker of websites, catapults, fires, tree houses, and more. Making things is a powerful tool that humans have to control and be competent over their environment. Making things is essentially the process of turning a concept or idea into reality.
PROCESS OVER PRODUCT
What if arts and crafts at summer camp could unlock for kids that they can do make or be anything they want with their lives? That they could experience, maybe for therst time the process of turning their idea into a reality. That is the environment we hope to create in a makerspace.
CRAFTS COAST TO COAST
Jack and I had a chance to embark on an adventure to learn more about the camp world and why camp is a valuable and important institution for kids. Along the way we did some serious thinking about what the point of arts and crafts is. Often when we were visiting camps and talking with camp directors they glossed over their arts and crafts areas, in general, A+C Departments were not the most intentional piece of programing. We wanted to turn that idea on its head.
A DIFFERENT GOAL
If the goal is to create project that campers can take home to mom and dad and hang on the fridge, then pre-designed, cookie cutter crafts make sense. But what if the goal was bigger and grander than that? What if this environment could unlock for kids that they can do, make and be anything they want. A space like that could be incredibly powerful.
BACKGROUND ON THE MAKERSPACE MOVEMENT
Dale Dourety is the founder of Make Magazine, and the first Maker-Faires. Dales argument is that we are all makers, he is noted as one of the founders of a movement sweeping across the country and the world. Makers are people reclaiming their roots as tinkerers, inventors and creators. Often times making is about the process, and the point is to see if some crazy idea can be done. Who is better at asking those crazy questions than a kid at camp!?
Maker-faire's are places where people share what they are making, Dale calls them the largest “show and tells” on the planet.
Community spaces where mainly adults share tools, ideas and space in order to make and create what they are interested in.
Often times Makerspaces are synonymous with technology like 3D printers and computers, Makerspaces house everything from woodworking and metalworking tools to sewing machines and pottery wheels.
WE ALREADY HAVE EVERYTHING WE NEED
It would be SWEET to have all of those resources at summer camp, but for us it isn’t in the budget… YET! If the goal of the space is to provide a space for kids to unlock their potential, to create, invent and make things that are important to them then we already have everything we need. We use traditional A+C supplies, along with re-purposing pre- designed/cookie cutter crafts, to supply the loose parts to create new projects. We already have a space and staff. We simply re-design the space, staff structure, and culture of arts and crafts, to reflect the goals and mission of the program.
DEFINITION OF A MAKERSPACE AT CAMP
A makerspace is a place where kids are free to engage in meaningful self-chosen work A makerspace is a community of people collaborating and supporting each other a makerspace is a place where people can develop and practice skills that lead to competence
The real difference between A+C and a makerspace at Stomping Ground is access to nutrients and the culture. In the Makerspace everything is fair game. Campers have access to all of the materials. Culture starts from the top of an organization, modeling the culture that you want in your Makerspace starts with the tone you set with your staff. A successful Makerspace culture starts with the ability to say “YES” to campers.
Providing structured offerings in a Makerspace is simply providing another nutrient. If campers want to build pre-designed projects we have that too. The key here is that what ever project they choose to spend their time on is something that they felt intrinsically motivated to pursue. The key to a successful autonomous zone is to feel choice full and self initiating.
Structured offerings can also help campers achieve desired goals within the Makerspace. If a camper is excited about making a change purse they will naturally seek out the skill of using a sewing machine. Following their curiosity they will talk to an expert or find a structured offering that affords them that skill.
EXAMPLES OF STRUCTURED OFFERINGS
- candle making
- figure drawing
-bamboo bow making
The makerspace at Stomping Ground is a reflection of our values of self-direction, community, and empathy. In the end the makerspace is just a place for kids to play and be themselves while making things. The rest of camp is built in the same image whether kids are choosing to play soccer, swim, or just hangout.
LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK
CAMP DIRECTOR/CHIEF HEART OFFICER
Camp Stomping Ground is a summer camp located in Central New York, near the city of Binghamton. But you don't have to be from New York to come! We get campers from all over the country who drive, fly, and run in to be a part of making the magic with us each summer. Join us this summer!