Summers are important for me as a teacher. This is the time that I work in my garden, plan for next year, and immerse myself in professional development. For me PD comes in many forms. I read a metric ton of middle grade and YA books for the classroom library. I travel. I go to conferences and institutes. Most of these I go to once. In fact I was SO disappointed in National Endowment for the Humanities Institute that I may never apply for one again. And then there is Constructing Modern Knowledge.
I have attended this Institute on the banks of the Merrimack River in charming Manchester, NH four times, and I would like to go back next year – and the year after – until Gary Stager decides that he is done doing the literal heavy lifting. What makes CMK different is its grounding in the idea that we are adults, we are smart, we are learners, and we crave engaging our minds in some good, hard fun.
Gary brings together a room full of people eager to connect with ideas, technology, each other, and materials from origami paper to an inflatable moose head. Whimsy meets arduino and Little Bits, cardboard comes to life, carnival games are created, art is made, and partnerships are formed. I like to go to CMK because Gary assembles a group of facilitators who are masters at their work. Over the years I have been tutored by Cynthia Soloman and Artemis Papert as well as worked with Tracy Rudzitis and Sylvia Libow Martinez. Yes, there are men there as well, but I have to tell you how truly wonderful it is to be at a conference/institute where women are really front and center as designers, makers, and thinkers.
Making and the maker movement is so often gendered: white boys making robots that are designed to be better than another school’s robot. Although FIRST robotics tries to emphasize team work and cooperation in problem solving, the object of the exercise for so many teams is the TROPHY or being first or best. While CMK has all the trappings of a maker-space, it is really a creator-space where cooperation, creativity, and fun are front and center. Favorite projects (for me) that emerged this year were a Marie Antionette-ish wig made of paper that featured whirling elements and an explosion of bees (click on the picture!!):
— Claire (@pritchclaire) July 13, 2018
a carnival game made with Makey-Makey that required teamwork and cooperation to complete, a rabbit-proof garden (really, take a look at the pic!):
So grateful to meet these awesome people who made me see the beauty of learning, thinking and collaborating that I didn’t want to stop making! I’m sure our team can generate more ideas of creating a rabbits proof garden. #CMK18 #makered pic.twitter.com/8ITzPFuZ2f
— May Li (@mayli522) July 14, 2018
and any of the programmed embroidery projects.
Really, if you want to see the scope of the work and the joy, check out #cmk18 on twitter.
And I haven’t even touched on the presenters – this year they were James Loewen and Carla Rinaldi, and we’ve been treated to Lella Gandini, Edith Ackerman, Leah Beuchley, Alfie Kohn and Deborah Meier, and Derrick Pitts. I MISSED the year that Super Awesome Sylvia was there!! And there is music and art and beauty.
Every time I go I get the same thing – inspiration. It’s never boring. It’s empowering. It’s my tribe.