People learn in many different ways, but many learn best by building things.
Building toys such as LEGO bricks offer powerful and open-ended experiences for younger children. Unfortunately, as shop classes have closed over the past few decades, there remains very little infrastructure to nurture older kids who want to expand beyond construction kits.
The Young Makers Program is intended to create such an infrastructure. We're building a community that brings together like-minded young people, adult mentors, and fabrication facilities. Mentors help Young Makers find a project vision if they don’t already have one, and then work with youth to realize that vision. Along the way mentors expose the underlying math, science, and engineering principles behind the projects and teach tool usage and safety. Collectively the members and mentors foster a collaborative culture of creativity, innovation and experimentation. Maker Faire becomes the deadline and offers a stage for the resulting projects to be exhibited and explained. Monthly meetings at the Exploratorium will be used to build the kind of collaborative culture we feel is crucial to the program. Namely, an open-ended culture that encourages cross-disciplinary projects that meld math, science, and art, and a culture that teaches the importance of trial and error as a means to success.
The Young Makers Program is different in several ways from other activities such as robotics competitions and science fairs. In particular, there are no winners and losers, and the projects are cross-disciplinary and youth-driven. And, just like Maker Faire, anything that’s cool is fair game.
(We have some more details on our FAQs page.)