Trace remains of the region’s mastodons were unearthed on Railroad Avenue last Saturday. Several hundred kids poured in and out of the Center for Creative Education’s space that afternoon to play, build, create, design, explore and problem-solve at its Maker Meet Up workshop. Maker Meet Up workshops and conventions occur in different venues, different sizes and scales around the country; parents, kids and dreamers congregate to crunch imaginations, design, create and engineer gadgets and inventions ranging from functional to whimsical to wild.
Bard’s Citizen Science Program brought 10 volunteers who manned various stations to work with kids in math and science-related centers. A dozen stations with projects, art and craft supplies, Legos, electronics and more filled the room. Kids and grownups had a chance to sneak in an education while having fun building Lego robotics, learning math with Starbursts, seeing their “true” selves in reversed “corrected image” mirrors, spinning in centrifugal force, making goo and various artworks.
Event coordinator and CCE education director Stephen Gilman, deep in the throes of trying to open a private, experiential learning high school called Sun River High School, said the point of the workshops is for people to see creative problem-solving at its essence.
“It’s easier to learn through experiencing, hands-on,” said Gilman. “You start with a 5- or 6-year-old and say, ‘Here’s the problem, here’s the skills you need’ and give them guidance throughout how to solve it.”
Gilman feels that employers are asking for students to emerge from school with good communication skills so they can collaborate and creatively problem-solve as well as have polished interpersonal skills. Gilman, a former public school educator, said kids learn when they are engaged, passionate and sucked into the zone where the whole world disappears except for the child and their task.
Bard students from the Bard Citizen Science program brought dirt from the Hyde Park site where a mastodon was discovered in 1997 for the kids to sift through for evidence, perhaps finding real fossils. Other kids found their bliss making stop-motion movie shorts with Lego creations, clay figures or cartoons. Caleb Davidson, 12, of Ulster grooved on the Bard Math Circle, errr, rather perhaps the Starburst candies they deployed. “I was learning math but it was OK anyway,” Caleb clarified.
The theme for the Maker Meet Up is “Burningtown,” said Gilman, a nod to the 1777 burning of Kingston.
“We are trying to create a new conception of learning,” said Gilman. “Teachers want to do this type of teaching, but are racked with standardized tests. Let’s let our teachers teach this way.”
Slideshow image: Sebastien Gliedman, 2 of New Paltz, and his mother Amanda look into the True Mirror. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)