“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…” ― Rainer Maria Rilke
What can you do to promote STEAM, create community, develop connections to curriculum, and is something everyone enjoys? Those were the questions that we lived the answers to in a series of Make-a-thons the MFSC hosted around Manhattan.
It’s been almost a month since the Manhattan Make-a-thon finale. I’ve written a little about it for internal emails and our Web site, but it was about the event itself, less about the deeper purpose of the event. However, there were many purposes, and trying to condense the experience to one main point has been challenging. For me the one point that crystallizes most clearly is community.
Being part of a community is something we do all the time, fitting in, learning how to adjust and tack with the winds of life. We are parts of different communities — the community of home life with our families, the community at work and school, at centers where people we know mingle such as the gym, church or temple, the playground, the greater community of New York — we are parts of all of these communities.
But how do we create community? How do we pull together parents, children, teachers and staff, to create a bond even if it’s for a short time? We do this by gathering around a shared goal, think of theater, teams, bake sales, all of these are community builders. During the Make-a-thons we built a roving community that traveled all around Manhattan and brought together people who shared a joy in making and trying to see what would happen if…
What would happen if … we took all the builds from the five other Make-a-thons and put them around the atrium in Tweed, the DOE’s headquarters, and connected them all with Rube Goldbergs? What would happen if everyone who stepped into Tweed that day was part of the making, from youngest to oldest, from the security to the pizza delivery guy, everyone making something, be it a difference, a joke, or a link in a paper chain?
What would happen if, for a day, we didn’t worry about making a mess or making a mistake or making it work, just trying to see what would happen if?
The answer we found was we created a community of spirited, helpful, wonderful people who all rolled up their sleeves and made.
When we held the Teacher’s Make-a-thon at Hunter I spent most of the time eavesdropping on conversations between the teachers. I had listened to conversations at the elementary, middle and high school events. Each time the conversations were the same, what would happen if… the difference at the teacher’s event was the added question, what would happen if I brought this back to my school? That question will be answered in a host of mini-Make-a-thons in classrooms around Manhattan. In those classrooms a community of makers will come together to build and, no matter what the outcome is, they will be successful because they will build a community together.
The communities we created, and the questions we asked and answered, or didn’t answer but tried to answer, were powerful and real. We could not have created the experience that was Manhattan Make-a-thon without our community members and now it’s time to say thank you.
My amazing and talented Design League Interns — Aayman, Avijit, Brenda, Ayana, Samantha, Jahmil, Mehereen, Malcolm, Mansi, and my own daughter Ariana — worked with me to put together bags, packets, cut templates, organize and schlep. For my first year out of the classroom this was the closest I had to kids and they were amazing, I look forward to working with them again at coming events and cheering them on as they figure out what questions they want to ask in their lives. Thank you for being willing to help make all of this happen!
MOUSE worked with me to make sure the Design League Interns were able to get the best working experience possible and use the skills they’ve been developing with MOUSE. Thanks Maggie and Jeremy for helping create an internship program that, if I have my way, we will repeat again next year.
Amy Sacks put her all into pulling off the elementary school event and then volunteered to work all the other events. I truly adored working with her and with teachers because if you say something needs to be done and get distracted, when you turn back it’s done. Amy has only just started her teaching career at her school, PS 15, and students are lucky to have her. Thank you for having a limitless supply of energy and being a doer as well as a maker.
One of my first workshops over the summer included the incomparable Lliana Villegas, the Tech Coach for PS/IS 96. Together we thought up ways to challenge students around making paper roller coasters, how to speak about community, how to create an environment where every member could and would want to take part. Thank you for being a willing partner in this experiment and bringing ideas and opportunities with you wherever you go.
Material for the Arts gets another shout out for the recycled rolls of register tape that were PERFECT for our paper chains. And of course, the greatest thanks goes to the MFSC team, Rosemary Tafaro, who was the money, Kelly Santora, who helped with the shopping, Dorothy Robles, who helped arrange our event at Tweed and drove the get-away-car, Joe Melendez, who brought Scratch and Makey Makeys to our project, Frances Urroz, who I share a messy office with (at least messy on my side) and never complains, Greyston Holmes, who always keeps his calm even when drapped in paper link chains, and everyone who came to events or cheered us on (Greg, Stacey, and Patti), thank you for the support. And thank you Yuet, for asking that first what would happen if…