On 21 and 22 December 2015 we organised a Make-a-thon for kids of 11 to 14 years old in Fablab Erpe-Mere. In these 2 days, they learned how to build and program Arduino-based electronics, how to design in Inkscape and how to lasercut parts. In the end, they all had to build and customise their own robot arm, based on the MeArm.
Kids without any programming experience were installing new Arduino libraries from GitHub, can you imagine!? They were even interested in maths - using the map() function for a linear transformation - because they needed it to drive the servos and make robot movements in 3-dimensional space.
“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” - Socrates, 4th century BC
I always disagreed on this quote - even when it came from Socrates. Little children are incredibly eager to learn, asking questions about everything, wondering about things we don't understand ourselves and for which we often don't give a good explanation..
These kids want to understand the world, and for that they need to construct their own unique mental models based on daily experiences, explorations, physical and emotional interactions, a lot of trial-error behaviour, observations, knowledge, ... Context is super important.
Every parent will tell that their kids are different, so why are we treating them as being all the same in education? It doesn't make any sense.
Give babies, kids and students the rich learning context they need, and try to anticipate on their diverse interests and pace. That's something we want to achieve in our STEAM-focused workshops, make-a-thons and bootcamps. Again and again, we witness how far we can go together with them and how they grow on so many levels. I am sure that Socrates would have liked to see that!