“Do. Make. Break.”
That was how one of our Upper School (high school) students responded today when John Gomm kicked off our Makerspace New Horizons workshop by asking about the guiding principle of makerspaces.
We had to pause for a second as the brilliance of her statement soaked in a little. While we remarked to the class how much we liked that answer, we had to go on to our project for the day. It wasn’t until I got home tonight and had some time to reflect that I realized how good her answer really is. It’s only three simple words, but they have so much meaning embedded in them.
- Do – Take control. Don’t sit around and wait for something to happen. Take initiative and make it happen yourself. This also reminds me of a talk I saw at the 2014 Annual CUE Conference by Chris Fitzgerald Walsh, The Power of ‘Do!’ in which he advocates transforming the structure of education administrations to be more like a startup company.
- Make – Do what? Make something. Make anything. It doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try. The process is more important than product, especially at the beginning. Perfection comes after many instances of when things…
- Break – After you make it, try to break it. Push your creation to its limits and find out how to make it better. There’s also a lot of fun inherent in this word. Think back to when we were kids. How much fun was it to see how high you could build a tower of blocks before it came crashing down in a wonderful cacophonic mess?
Fail fast. Fail often.
Though we’re grateful we didn’t, the answer John and I wanted to hear from the students was, “Fail fast. Fail often,” a slogan popular among makers and entrepreneurs. However, the word fail is almost unspeakable in a school setting. It stirs up a lot of fear and anxiety. Failure is such a catastrophic concept in schools. I’m sure it doesn’t help that many of us as students had a least one teacher who had a “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” sign posted somewhere in the classroom. Ironically, this quote is attributed to Ben Franklin–one of our country’s most famous inventors.
We shouldn’t give “fail” so much power. It’s just a word, and I think it’s important to teach kids to pay attention to the context in which that word is used. Learning and growth can’t happen without failure.
Another way I like to look at it is if you’re not failing, you’re not trying. If you do nothing, you’re guaranteed that nothing will happen. Students need to know that making mistakes is better than procrastinating or getting caught-up in too many picky details. The fact that you failed is at least a sign that you’re trying to “Do” something.
Creating without fear and boundaries
Jessica, one of our facilitators here, made a good point that we’re trying to get our students to create without fear and boundaries. When the fear of failure is gone, creativity skyrockets. This why we feel makerspaces are so important to student learning. They provide a place where students can make lots of mistakes and still have fun. Failure is no longer a procedural dead-end fraught with disappointment and self-doubt–it’s a doorway that just opened to new possibilities.
Thanks to our students, we now have two great slogans to power our makerspace!