Let’s face it. At 18 or 19, most kids really don’t know what jobs are even out there, let alone what skills they need to pursue those jobs. Heck, I would bet that at 36, most people still don’t know what career options are available and how their skills fit those careers. College and career readiness have become some of the most popular buzz words in educational policy in recent years. But really, what is career and college readiness? Most people in the education industry point to academic qualifications, such as proficiency in reading and math, as well as 21st century skills, such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. Rarely do you read about schools preparing students for the future by actually exposing them to the jobs that exist in the world today. How, then, can we expect them to make an informed decision about what to pursue as a career? With the exorbitant cost of higher education, I certainly don’t want to take a gamble that my children will suddenly figure out what field they’re interested in during their freshman year of college.
Childhood is a unique phase in people’s lives because this is the only phase where they have the time and freedom to explore a variety of interests. And the maker movement is the perfect platform for this exploration. “The key to making is using authentic tools to create meaningful projects. It is a natural fit for the STEM subjects or the arts, but historical research, producing documentaries and writing for an audience are also forms of making” (Martinez and Stager). We are at a point where we no longer should be asking students what they want to be when they grow up, but instead should be asking, “What do you want to be today.” With computers and mobile devices at their fingertips, children can be amateur photographers, film makers, graphic designers, or music producers today. And tomorrow they can practice architecture, engineering, web design, or sculpture. By providing them with a variety of tools and materials, children can make real-world artifacts that solve real-world problems. We do not need to count on schools to have a “killer makerspace filled with state-of-the-art technology, proper ventilation and comfy working conditions” (Martinez and Stager). Every classroom and home can be a makerspace as long as kids have the materials and support to learn by doing. A solid childhood maker experience will provide the real foundation for college and career readiness.
The maker movement: A learning revolution (Martinez and Stager)