This weekend brings the annual Bay Area Maker Faire, the largest in the world, to San Mateo, California. Since their inception in 2006, Maker Faires have provided opportunities for people from all over the world to celebrate making, network with fellow makers, and most importantly – share what they’ve made. While often the final step, showcasing what you have created and sharing the process remains just as important as the product itself. When a maker shares their work, they have the opportunity to inspire, learn from, and teach others. This is why, as a part of the Maker Promise, signers are encouraged to create showcase opportunities for students.
These opportunities to showcase work engages and leverages a core value of maker learning – audience. An audience, which might be attendees at a showcase event, a user test of a student design, or viewers of a piece of student produced media can make projects more authentic by guiding students to make with a certain person or group in mind. Utilizing design processes which encourage the practitioner to put themselves in the role of someone else allows students to practice empathy and perspective-taking. When students have expectations of sharing their work outside the classroom it can greatly increase engagement and determination.
Over the past five years, the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) has strongly promoted and supported maker education efforts in Sonoma County schools and beyond. In supporting these initiatives, SCOE became the first county office in California to create a makerspace designed to provide hands-on professional learning experiences for educators, has hired a full-time curriculum coordinator for maker education, launched an annual national summit on maker education, and has facilitated makerspace experiences at several statewide conferences to introduce the educational power of making to new audiences. To further its commitment to 21st century teaching and learning, SCOE has put a strong emphasis on STEAM education and inquiry-based, open-ended exploration. This shift has coincided with California’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which emphasize the importance of crosscutting concepts and science and engineering practices.
The annual science fair as it existed in Sonoma County was no longer in line with these county, state, and national educational shifts. As a response, members of the Sonoma County Office of Education researched other types of student events to replace the county science fair. The result was the first-ever Synopsys-Sonoma County STEAM Showcase, hosted by SCOE on Friday, March 3rd at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. From a demonstration of pollination that involved Legos and plastic parachutes, to a dance interpretation of a chemical reaction, the STEAM Showcase demonstrated the innovative, engaged learning happening across the county. The event provided over 320 student participants a contemporary, relevant alternative to previously held science events, such as the science fair and science olympiad. Students from Transitional Kindergarten through 12th grade—including some from special education classes—showed up to share their work focused around the theme of Cause and Effect, the crosscutting concept highlighted at the event this year. Find out more about SCOE’s investment in maker education and see some of the resources they have developed to lead in shifting education to improve students’ college and career readiness.