When we think about improving science and technology education for Canadian kids, we often imagine a classroom setting. However, multiple studies tell us that hands-on, collaborative, and unstructured environments are vital to opening young peoples’ minds to the joys of learning.
Parents and educators play an important role after the bell rings. From visiting a local science centre to enrolling in a camp or after-school program, there are plenty of ways to connect young Canadians with science learning.
After-school programs often have access to special equipment or technology that isn’t otherwise accessible inside the classroom. With science and technology becoming increasingly important in a range of industries, hands-on learning can have a big impact on career awareness.
A great example of this learning model is MakerKids, a Toronto-based ‘maker space’ just for children. Inside, walls double as tool storage, design projects are always in-progress, and thoughtful kids engage hands-on with technology, in pursuit of creation. And lots of Minecraft.
Browse the gallery and meet some of MakerKids’ students.
Named ‘Best Kids’ Workshops’ by Toronto Life, instructors guide youth through creating motion-activated cat alarms, advanced Minecraft skills, and much more. Children are empowered to experiment, share, and learn out-of-the-box thinking.
At MakerKids, the broader ‘maker culture’ movement is thriving. Maker culture, a tech-focused offshoot of DIY culture, is a subculture for tinkerers who enjoy creating or modifying things. Learning is emphasized through doing. Makers are best known for creating robots, furniture, software, and art – just like kids enrolled at MakerKids.
“Our programs are unique, in that, we don’t just teach STEM and technical skills, but we incorporate social and 21st century skills. Kids learn, with confidence, how to take risks, think outside the box, work with others and develop extraordinary solutions to problems,’ says Jennifer Turliuk, founder of MakerKids. “Kids need role models to show them what is possible, what is available to them and that it is okay to experiment and try new things.”
Thousands of 8 to 12 year olds are enrolling in camps, after-school and weekend programs, and parties. Kids arrive eager to learn about robotics, coding, and software and ‘graduate’ as enthusiastic high school science and technology students.
“Like many eight-year-old boys, my son loves Lego. One time he built an entire 1,300-piece Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon set all by himself,” said Ryan Lennox, Director and Senior Counsel of Amgen Canada. “It’s amazing to watch him use his imagination to build and create – and we encourage him to do this because not only is he having fun, but he’s learning at the same time. STEM learning is really what’s at the heart of the Maker Movement and that’s why it’s so great to have a maker kid. We can’t wait to see what he builds next.”
Like Canada 2067, MakerKids’ mission is to excite kids about science and technology. Projects at MakerKids engage STEM in one form or another, whether the kids are learning to code or applying hands-on engineering skills, the universality of science and math is undeniable. And the best part? It’s a lot of fun.
Maker spaces nation-wide are changing children’s perceptions of STEM. When students are treated like young problem-solvers, they learn that STEM is rewarding, fun, and has a positive social impact.
For young Torontonians, there’s no better place to fail, experiment, and try again than at MakerKids. If your region doesn’t have a maker space, consider approaching a parent group, local business or school board to start one.