I started to seriously read about STEAM education last November because I care about how to transmit these scientific, creative and social skills to my son. One book helped me understand how to do it. I devoured Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators. I keep a notebook filled with lessons learned by researchers, practitioners, educators, and facilitators who were in charge of imaging and running makerspaces in libraries and museums. All that researching made me impatient to see a makerspace in action.
But finding a makerspace for young kids in Montreal is a real challenge. As far as I know, the only place is the creativity factory Fabrik. When I called to inquiry about this temporary exhibition happening now at the Montreal Science Center, they told me that kids 8 and up have a better time. With the parents supervision, younger kids can do it. It’s true! My 5 year old boy enjoyed doing the easier challenges with us.
Fabrik takes a traditional approach to how makerspaces exist in a museum. Fabrik proposes 6 stations to children. Each station, called shed, is designed around an open challenge. Each shed comes with supplies. But they aren’t new like you would do at home. All participants reused and recycled the same supplies over and over. So, you build with foam pieces, balls, boards, flags, paper plates with holes or cuts. This add to the challenges.
The most fun activities for us happened at the Pond, the Balcony and the Alley. Overall, my son was able to:
- Make a floating boat with a carrying charge (the Pond),
- Find a way to descend a rubber flashing bouncing ball from a balcony without lighting the ball (the Balcony),
- Build a wind-powered car (the Alley) and
- Grasp the basics of making a closed electronic circuit (the Shack). This challenge was dull to do. They suggest to build an original light structure but connecting the plastic sheets and containers together was hard with the materials they supplied.
- We tried the Clothesline challenge but gave up because the last available pair of wheels were broken. And it was getting late.
- We didn’t try the Garden Shed because it seems too advance for our son.
What I experienced at Fabrik confirmed what I read in the book. I spotted the playful moments, noticed the learning and heard the frustrations from kids and parents who experiment. I saw inquisitive minds in action, people who try to figure out a way to solve the challenge, kids who are in charge of making, and the pride of achievement when they succeed. Our son enjoyed every minute of it!
If you want to give this tinkering space a try, you have until September 11, 2016. You simply need to pack your imagination and desire to build from scratch before you go to the Montreal Science Center in Old-Port.