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Entries in young makers (2)


Mortal Coils & The Transfer of Skills

Every year, our family sits down at the table to discuss what skill we will transfer at Maker Faires across the country. The idea of doing something more "techie" and cool is always a temptation but, for one reason or another, we always come back to a simple, traditional craft that requires a skill to complete. The skill itself varies but always manages to tie into something that is at the core of STEM, something that is pivotal to truly understanding some complex technology later on. This year we chose wire. 

Wireworking can be seen throughout history in civilizations that have come and gone. The intricate coils were not only symbols of cultural significance but, they reminded the curious eons later that we are all, in our humanity, bound by our mortal coils. Humans have a lifecycle, they are pounded and daresay, hardened, by life's challenges as they walk a thin wire we call the timeline of history. What humans make of themselves, how they are remembered, isn't in what they made, but what they transferred to others- be it a memory, a smile, an artifact, or a skill. 

This year during Maker Faire at The Henry Ford, we will be using wires to create and connect. It is our hope that in highlighting traditional wirework, the wires that were used in so many of the wonderous specimens of innovation and technology within the museum will be seen in a new light. We look forward to seeing you. ~AG





Flaming Stars & Burned In Memories

This evening I went out and looked up at the stars. The smattering of constellations littered across the blue-black backdrop made me think about how generations of people looked to the stars to somehow see themselves more clearly. The fire burning light years away guided the navigators and explorers, heard the grandfathers pass on stories of their grandfathers while lover's made confessions and bare-footed children chased fireflies. We would have no idea that Orion had a belt or the Little Dipper poured out into a larger one had not someone pointed them out to us methinks. As a child, sitting around a campfire, my Uncle Mark guided my eyes upward as he explained how the pointer stars led to Polaris, my North Star and guiding light. He was a carpenter by trade, a master woodworker who was perpetually curious and passionate about transferring his skills to my brothers and I... those memories are forever burned into my memory and branded on my heart. Although he has been gone for many years now, his legacy shines on in my children and those they inspire.

This past Summer at the Detroit Maker Faire, we as a family invited a number of kids from a local FIRST robotic team and Kettering University in Flint Michigan to come and teach leather working with us at The Henry Ford. It was a surreal experience for everyone involved. The idea that one learns twice by teaching, that they gain a deeper understanding when they serve others by transferring their skills, is a life changing event... Later that evening around the campfire in the backyard, our invited guests talked about what Maker Faire meant to them and how, despite being dog-tired and completely spent, that they could never just "attend" a Maker Faire as a consumer ever again, that they felt compelled to continue to give back and transfer their skills. Those kids felt what our family has felt for so many years... they felt like the luckiest people on the planet to have spent the weekend surrounded by and rubbing elbows with the most bold thinking, wildly innovative and vibrant makers in the world. Under the stars, those kids found their North Star, a way to use the skills they had learned to Pay It Forward to others. Needless to say, those same kids were at our front door at 5 in the morning when Maker Faire came to our local Barnes and Noble stores later that Fall... each and every one of them eager to teach strangers the skill they had acquired that Summer with our family in stores across Michigan. It got me thinking.

In early January, we invited those same kids over to take part in our family's yearly Maker Faire Project deciding day. In following with our core mission of teaching a skill to share, we narrowed it down to either woodworking or glasswork. Our children, (Ben 16), Noah (15) and Abi (13) have never lived in a world without being surrounded by makers and craftsman or Maker Faire. Abi was 5 years old when she taught at her first Maker Faire. As the kids have gotten older, their passion for spreading the Maker Mindset and Hacking Education have only deepened. I suppose that is why I was not surprised when they asked if we could rent an RV and take their band of newly minted Makers of Merit across country with them to San Mateo to teach. Our eldest kidlet Ben said it best... "Some people want to burn the world down and some of us are just happy being the campfire that is warm enough to hear just one more story." I looked across the table at my children and their friends. Like every old oak, our lives are told in rings, 365 day rotations collected and cross-sectioned for some future generation to ponder. The greatest gift an old oak could ask for is to be made into something useful, something that inspires others to be a better version of themselves somehow I suppose... My husband and I looked at these young saplings (in keeping with the metaphor) and could not be more proud. 

We look forward to teaching the ancient artform of woodburning... and although we hope that no campfires are started at the table, we do anticipate some incredible stories and burned in memories destined to inspire the next generation of young makers.