BY LAURA FLEMING
November 5, 2014
In most people’s minds, the “maker movement” in education is associated with STEM-related concepts and technology-based activities. There is good reason for that; it’s an approach to project-based learning (PBL) that encourages experimenting, building, and playing with different concepts. However, my entry point into this hot trend has been primarily through the unusual route of literacy.
This maker movement isn’t necessarily something new. For years in my library, I have allowed opportunities for my students to play and tinker with reading and writing. As a library media specialist, I felt that I had the scope and the affordances to make that possible, to enable activities that were outside of the sometimes strict classroom regimen. Those early experiences were my first attempts at creating a maker culture.
I have always regarded myself as a student of learning. I started collecting secondhand education books during my first years of teaching. I learned early on that educational theories and practices are cyclical and things once old are eventually new again, often reappearing under the guise of a new name. One of my favorite books in that collection—and the one that led me to tinkering with literacy—was called If You’re Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book! by Marjorie Frank. The playfulness of the writing is reflected in its whimsical graphics and nonlinear structure. The author herself writes about the “joy that fooling around with words” has added to her life. I remember distinctly how just looking at this book made me want to have fun with reading and writing with my students.