On 18th of June 2018, I participated in FabLearn Europe’18 in Trondheim, NO. My colleague Katrien presented a paper there, which we wrote together. FabLearn Europe – an international conference on Creativity and Making in Education – brings together international researchers, educators, designers, and makers to discuss and explore digital fabrication in education, making, and hands-on learning for the 21st Century.
Katrien presented a paper titled ‘ On the importance of backstage activities for engaging children in a FabLab’. The paper focuses on the potential of FabLabs in relation to STEM education for non-expert users; more specifically, children of 6 – 16 years old. We describe two case studies – ‘Wa Make?’ and ‘Making Things!’ – that are part of a long-term participation process of engaging local non-expert users in FabLab Genk. Although the goal of the two cases was the same (i.e. getting children acquainted with STEM), their setups differed completely. By comparing the two cases, we state that half-day STEM workshops for schools in FabLabs – often funded by government or sector organisations – are not sufficient to form meaningful relationships with non-expert users. This is related to factors such as the school contexts in which these workshops generally take place, the children experiencing “school fun” instead of “just fun”, and the limited focus on backstage activities when organizing the trajectory. Instead, by embedding STEM workshops in long(er)-term trajectories, children go beyond simple, introductory activities, start experimenting and are better able to open up to learning. Therefore, we advocate for shifting STEM education to leisure time (e.g. youth work) and considering FabLabs as more than merely technical infrastructures. After the presentation we received valuable feedback from the session co-chairs and participants.
The conference proceedings can be found online.