Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Create, Make, and Learn ... Oh My!

Reflecting upon the intense, but exciting, week of learning at Create, Make, and Learn in July, coupled with both a busy month constructing a physical “maker space” classroom in our school in addition with an interdisciplinary curriculum and schedule involving five educators and three grade levels is making my head swim.  In a good way.  But, swimming and swirling nevertheless.  Much like the fabled Mad River that runs through the heart of Moretown, as is the inspiration for our “creating and making”.

We ask our students to take risks everyday.  We cajole them to step outside their comfort zones.  We nudge them to explore new ways of learning.  We guide them toward deep inquiry.  We try to light the sparks of curiosity and to nurture the stamina and perseverance it takes to keep going.  In a sense, this foray into collaboratively building a “maker space” at the Moretown School is a lot like being a student.  I’m being asked to stretch, to think about new possibilities, to step outside my library “silo” to co-plan, co-teach, co-create, and co-make a model of innovative learning for our students. It’s messy and unwieldy and grows larger by the addition of many cooks in the kitchen, but boy is it exciting and full of possibilities.  Thank goodness for laughter, smart colleagues, innovative administrators, and a shared vision to “raise the roof”, literally.  (Yes, literally.  We removed the ceiling tiles from our space!).

So, back to the essential question.  What is at the heart of creating and making?  Let’s look closer at their definitions:

Create: bring (something) into existence.
synonyms: produce, generate, bring into being, make, fabricate, fashion, build, construct

Make: form (something) by putting parts together or combining substances; construct; create.
synonyms: construct, build, assemble, put together, manufacture, produce, fabricate, create, form, fashion, model

My first impressions are that these are powerful verbs.  “To bring (something) into existence”.  Who doesn’t think about birth?  Powerful stuff, indeed.  To be more metaphoric, creating in a school is about the birth of ideas, of bringing ideas to fruition. We do this with students by creating learning environments for them that allow them to produce good questions, to generate  ideas, and to make/build/fabricate/construct meaning, be it concrete or mental.  The learning environment that is best for these germinations is a constructivist (a la John Dewey), hands-on, student-centered, and project-based environment.  Messy and unwieldy, too.  But, rich with possibilities, risk-taking, and growth.  

Which brings me full circle.  Innovative approaches to student learning require innovative approaches to teaching. Being a singular teacher-librarian in my bricks-and-mortar library does not lend itself to this kind of teaching, nor learning, for my students.  I am inspired by my colleagues, and validated by my administrator who sees my role as an educator who can help guide our students toward authentic creating and learning.