UBC professor introduces Maker Days to African educators

Maker Days inspires participants to integrate ‘making’ into the classroom

UBC Okanagan’s Maker Days has gone global.

Master of education students from Aga Khan University discuss their Maker Day project assigned to them by UBC’s Susan Crichton during the Maker Days workshop in Tanzania.

Maker Days debuted at the university’s Innovative Learning Centre last November, when educators from across the Okanagan explored how ‘making’ (designing hands-on problem solving) could become part of their everyday teaching.

Faculty of Education Associate Professor Susan Crichton says Maker Days is part of the contemporary Maker Movement that encourages invention and prototyping—an intentional shift of the learning focus to innovation and exploration. It’s a grassroots movement that features experimentation and innovation across engineering, science, art, performance, craft, and education.

“The Maker Movement helps educators introduce trades and technology, and the professions inherit in them, to students as young as five,” says Crichton, director of UBC’s Innovative Learning Centre. “This helps young students add skills and abilities to their toolkits without making career limiting decision at an early age.”

This summer, Crichton, together with colleague Dr. Lillian Vikiru, introduced Maker Days to educators in Dar es Salam, Tanzania where 82 participants, including local principals, administrators, and guests from the Tanzanian Ministry of Education, spent a day at a workshop with Crichton. All were introduced to design thinking, inquiry, and experiential learning through small group design challenges.

“Maker Day exposed the educators to the power of making and constructionist experiential learning,” says Crichton. “But more importantly it empowered them through an introduction to design thinking.”

Prof. Pauline Rea-Dickins, director at Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development, says the Maker Day event was well received and she loved the buzz and excitement that filled the room during the activity sessions.

“Maker Day provided a great opportunity for the participants to experience design thinking and innovation by creating prototypes of tools that could be used to solve practical everyday problems,” says Rea-Dickins. “They were creative, worked well in small groups, and experienced the kinds of stimulating challenges that we should be offering to our youngsters in schools—to get them engaged and excited about learning.”

For Crichton, however, it goes much deeper than that. The Maker Movement, she says, inspires makers, not consumers, by re-claiming the human spirits’ desire to create, innovate, play, and tinker. The process of designing and making is more important than the end product, she says.

Local principals, administrators, and guests from the Tanzanian Ministry of Education, spent a day at a workshop with Crichton.

“UBC’s interest in supporting the Maker Movement globally is personal empowerment through relevant problem-finding, problem-solving and human-centred design—it’s a proactive stance in the world,” says Crichton. “When you design from a stance of empathy, you can actually change the world, but when you design from a stance of consumerism, you just create stuff.”

Crichton was invited to facilitate the Maker Day, and funded the workshop with her grant from the Canada-Africa Research Exchange Grants program.