‘Tis the season – a season that all too often celebrates consumerism. At the MakerBus we’re firm believers in critical making and ethical consumption – after all the maker movement celebrates building, tinkering, recycling, and finding creative solutions to problems.
In the past few years we’ve noticed a big push by companies to commercialize the maker movement. Companies like KiwiCo, Green Kids Craft, and Steve Spangler Science have all started selling monthly “Steam boxes” that promise to ship family-friendly, educational boxes to your home each month.
While we love anything that gets people excited about making and creating, I really have to wonder if these boxes are following in the spirit of the maker ethos.
Let me walk through two possible scenarios.
Number 1: You purchase your child/neighbour/niece/nephew/etc a maker box
In this scenario the child receive an educational surprise in the mail. The box contains instructions (which could be followed as a family or by the child in solo learning) and educational objectives. The box may contain something the child is interested in or may contain something that inspires the child to be interested in something new. Upon completing the activity in the box, the child has a tangible object that they’ve helped assemble.
All in all, Scenario Number 1 seems like a positive learning experience. I really can’t fault the rationale behind this type of learning.
Number 2: You empower the child/neighbour/niece/nephew/etc to lead the learning experience
In this scenario, you let the child create the learning experience. Perhaps you sit down with the child and browse a site like Instructables together looking for a project that meets your share interest levels, experience, and budget. Or maybe you just brainstorm different things you can create together. In this scenario you let the child’s interests guide the learning experience, empowering them to take greater ownership of the activity. In Scenario Number 2 you both have input in the project and can both invest in the experience. While this scenario probably won’t go as smoothly as Scenario Number 1, the possible rewards are much greater. You are building something that is a unique reflection of a time, a place, and a relationship.
I fully recognize that not everyone feels comfortable with building things from scratch or engaging in self learning/teaching. And I also don’t want to give the impression that’s there’s only one correct way to be a maker. At the MakerBus we believe that every single person who is passionate about making anything is a maker. But as you think about buying presents and spending time with family this holiday season, I hope you take a moment to think about how you might be able to shift your focus from commercial goods towards making time to make with friends and family.
On behalf of the entire MakerBus team, we wish you a creative, fun, and joyous holiday season!
What are you planning to make this holiday season? Share your wisdom in the comments. We’d love to hear about your experiences. Also, follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube) for the latest maker movement news, tips, and tutorials – let us help you create fun-conventional learning opportunities!
-Ryan Hunt, MakerBus Co-Founder