Maker Faire New York 2017 - Reflection

Posted: October 31, 2017

I have always wanted to be an art teacher, school has always been “my thing”. I am lucky to live my dream every day! But many teachers, myself included, teach in a solitary environment. We don’t share what is happening in our world – behind our classroom doors. So this fall when I got a call, I was surprised by an invitation to attend “The World Maker Faire” in New York! I spent many nights wondering how I had been selected, what I had to offer and what would be expected in return.


My purpose became clear during the first day at the Maker Faire in the Education Forum. There were many speakers and the theme of innovation was strong. However, I was especially intrigued by the ideas and examples of makers with classroom assignments/ideas that made work more relevant, community oriented and meaningful. I was inspired to step outside my comfort zone and try something new – to test my teaching by reaching out to the community and use art to help our school fundraising efforts.

I took the ideas of collaboration, community and relevant work back to my classroom and my Visual Arts 120 class developed the idea for a “Canvas Café”. You may be familiar with the concept, “Paint nights” are often hosted for adults in the evening and you learn a painting step-by-step. My class decided to host a "Canvas Cafe" fundraiser which is a more family friendly event and includes a bake sale and coffee during afternoon hours. Students were excited to bring friends, family and even strangers into their classroom and make some money for our school too!

The first step was to pick a painting and order supplies. I taught the Visual Arts 120 class the painting, then we discussed the difficulties we had and created solutions to those problems. For instance, one student complained that they weren’t a good drawer. From this feedback, we decided to create templates so that our customers would have a guide if they needed drawing support. Students also helped figure out the cost of materials per person and how much we should charge per canvas to make a profit. Finally, students had to decide how the money would be spent. We decided to give half to the school and keep the other half to fund a collaborative senior project. Many teachers were inspired by the event and want to help me plan another one for December. I look forward to working with my students to make improvements on our previous event. On the day of the cafe, I had student facilitators help teach the painting to our community group. Students demonstrated techniques, helped problem solve, and encouraged painters to keep going!

It was great to see students volunteering their time for a school event, showcasing their work and talking to the community about the art program at DRHS.

After I stepped out of my comfort zone with the Canvas Café, I was encouraged to try something new again. Inspired by the Maker Faire booths that were filled with technology - the Visual Arts 120 students were tasked with creating a sculpture that addressed a social issue. We looked at the UN Sustainable Development Goals and their list of world issues. Students picked issues that they felt were important, then found a partner that had the same issue(s). Next, students were asked to develop a plan to make their sculpture interactive. Students were told they could make the interactive part of their project low tech (like a collaborative mural) or high tech (something with technology that might light up, move or make sound). I showed students some of the things I saw at the Maker Faire – like a booth where they used old toys to make new mini robots that moved with simple circuits. We looked at Jie Qi and her paper circuitry and talked about giving technology context and meaning.


We reached out to the community for donations of old toys, tools, recyclables and more to get parts for our high tech sculptures. At this point, we are still in the beginning phase of our project but I am excited about some of the ideas and knowledge my students are bringing to the classroom. Students are excited about their work and I am pleased to see some of the more ‘tech-minded’ kids helping others who are clueless – like me. I hope to reach out and get support from administration (to create a maker space), professional development opportunities, students, co-workers and my friends at Brilliant Labs!