Making and kids is a natural relationship. Kids love to craft, build, and imagine. It’s pretty incredible to see the difference between children and adults in maker spaces. Children are eager and unafraid while adults are extremely reserved and less willing to actively participate (at least at first). Kids are natural born makers. As a component of my PhD research I ran a workshop specifically for children and attended various events and clubs geared toward children. At our research workshop, we focused on woodworking and built gumball machines.
While Maker workshops and activities are often highly gendered (women attend sewing, men attend welding), this is not consistent within events for children. The gender divide of children participants was nearly an equal 50/50 split with an ethnic diversity not often seen in Maker spaces. The other children’s events I attended, spanned across too great a time (many hours on many different days throughout many years), so it’s difficult to say if the gender and cultural diversity continued – but I observed that kids of all ages, gender, and colour attended these events. No data is available based on income; it is likely that maker activities and events are frequented by those with higher incomes – this represents a key area for consideration when developing policy for making, to ensure there is access to kids of all income levels.
Preliminary data from my PhD research suggests that making functions as an effective educational method that improves the well-being of children including their self-esteem, reduced anxiety, and confidence. Parents also reported observations that making made their children more calm and focused. A lot of research exists suggesting making improves well-being, anxiety, and depression in adults. More research is required regarding the benefits making can have in the lives of children.
While my PhD research did not focus specifically on children, these outcomes raised a lot of questions regarding making as a positive solution for various issues emerging within Canadian public schools. To explore these connections I am involved with the leadership of two projects:
Eco-School Program at Wellington Hall Academy
At Wellington Hall Academy in Guelph I am beginning a longitudinal study to track behavioural and psychological changes in students as they participate in a hands-on ecoschool curriculum. This project was put on hold due to COVID-19 and will reactive when the time is appropriate.
Forest School at Mount Wolfe Farm
At Mount Wolfe Farm we are starting a forest school to explore the connections between making, relationship to the land, and storytelling. This project is just starting (Winter 2021) and is in partnership with:
- The Toronto Regional Conservation Authority
- Peel Region
- Town of Caledon
- International Craft Consortium
- Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience
- Leadership for the Ecozoic