Youth maker movement: creating, risk and reward

What makes the maker movement important to youth development?

Do it yourself (DIY) projects have sprung from house swapping and rehab reality TV shows into Pinterest pages, college knitting clubs and the maker movement. In libraries, schools and free-standing nonprofits, maker spaces are popping up as places for creative, like-minded people to gather and create. Thinkerers are emerging from their garages and basements to swap ideas and share their inventions at maker faires across the county. According to Michigan State University Extension, youth are getting involved and for good reason: there are clear benefits to youth development:

  • Experiential learning—By creating stuff, whether physical objects, computer programs or ideas, youth “learn by doing” and often create something multiple times, learning from each iteration.
  • Healthy risk-taking—When making, something mistakes are bound to happen with things going wrong. These “making laboratories” allow youth to create errors safely and feel accomplished when the third try at a project hits it out of the park.
  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) topics—Youth might make a robot, a video or a quilt. The open space, peer input and adult guidance available in the maker environments help lead to more in-depth conversations about the science and technology involved. Exploring these topics early allows for interest to build towards careers in STEM fields.
  • Design-based thinking—Aspects like working on hands-on projects, sharing open space with peers and tweaking a product until it is just right are conducive to thinking skills that dominate creative fields and are becoming important overall in fast paced, ever changing job markets.
  • Entrepreneurship—Maker spaces give youth that critical place to create from which can lead to products, micro-businesses and tons of associated life lessons from becoming a youth entrepreneur.

Michigan 4-H youth experience these benefits in a variety of settings with projects and experiences that often focus on making. Experiential learning is at the core of the 4-H approach to youth development programming. Experts within MSU Extension support exploration of content components like entrepreneurship and science and technology. In addition to available resources and curriculum, check out Maker Space: anytime, anywhere for tips on making any environment a maker space.

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