This blog series on the Maker Movement was written by Steven Worker, 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology Education (SET) Coordinator at the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Steven coordinates the California 4-H SET Initiative, an effort to strengthen youth science education in the 4-H Youth Development Program. In this role, Worker manages professional and volunteer development for educators, coordinates program and curriculum development and evaluation, and resource development. Worker is a PhD candidate at the UC Davis School of Education studying (qualitative case study) the co-construction of design-based learning environments by youth and adult volunteers in out-of-school time. Follow Steven on Twitter at @sworkerpt.


Introduction to Making and Tinkering in 4-H

The Maker Movement has gained recognition as an approach to involve young people in technology-based projects. Make:® has tremendous potential to give Extension and 4-H an opportunity to “re-brand” some of what we already do well and authentically. As Paul Hill, Dave Francis, and GaeLynn Peterson state in their Journal of Extension commentary: “The Maker Movement embraces the idea of igniting the spark in young people to create, collaborate, and develop 4-H science abilities.” 

Defining Maker Movement

The Maker Movement is a technology-based extension of do-it-yourself culture emphasizing a spirit of innovation and creativity. Make is typically seen as the use of digital tools to design, create, and share projects with an emphasis on exhibition and not competition. Lee Martin (2015) argues that the Maker Movement relies on three pillars: the use of digital tools (e.g., 3D printers, laser cutters); community infrastructure (including meetings, maker spaces, fairs, magazines, and websites); and dispositions including playful activities, growth mindset, and positive role of failure.

Defining Tinkering

Tinkering, frequently found in science centers but related to Making, are hands-on and open-ended activities where youth explore materials while building something. Tinkering is often associated with play, as people try out ideas, make adjustments, and experiment with possibilities. This way of designing has been promoted as a way to improve interest in engineering and as a model for work in the disciplines. Tinkering is a powerful place to learn; Mike Petrich, Karen Wilkinson, and Bronwyn Bevan (2013) argue that tinkering must be intentional: “learning through tinkering is not serendipitous: it comes about through a process of design decisions and principles that create specific types of opportunities for learning”.

Why Making and Tinkering?

Climate change, drought, food deserts, and energy issues will require innovative and creative solutions, so we need to prepare our young people to become creative problem solvers. Partnered with the 4-H program, with its emphasis on civic engagement, Making and Tinkering will be powerful approaches to engage youth in open-ended thinking and problem solving around social and environmental issues.

Guided Making & Tinkering + Real World Environmental Issues =

Development of Creative Problem Solvers

Together, Making and Tinkering (shorted to M&T), are exciting approaches to structuring a learning environment that may spark, nurture, and deepen young people’s interest in learning STEM.

Relevant References

Blikstein, P. (2013). Digital fabrication and ‘making’ in education: The democratization of invention. In J. Walter-Herrmann & C. Büching (Eds.), FabLab Of Machines, Makers and Inventors (pp. 203-222). Bielefeld: Transcript Publishers.

Honey, M. & Kanter, D.E. (2013). Design, make, play: Growing the next generation of STEM innovators. New York: Routledge.

Sheridan, K.M., Halverson, E.R., Litts, B.K., Brahms, L., Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T. (2014). Learning in the making: A comparative case study of three makerspaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505-531.

Vossoughi, S., Escude, M., Kong, F., Hooper, P. (2013). Tinkering, learning & equity in the after-school setting. Paper presented at the FabLearn Conference, Stanford, CA.