Last month, Mozilla kicked off the annual Maker Party season, three months of global events for folks to come together, teach the open web, make art, and play with creative technology projects. They are also a great place to go fishing for some pretty big knowledge because you get a taste of so many fun, action-packed learning experiences. At a Maker Party, you might find yourself hacking the New York Times using Mozilla Webmaker Tools, building a robot and bringing it to life with Scratch, programming your own mobile games using App Inventor.
Today I read someone describe exploratory learning as “the hard way” to learn. I think they were trying to say that exploratory learning means going through often dense, seemingly endless material to ultimately discover aspects of oneself. “Fear not!” we champions of exploratory learning proclaim. Such tedium is not the manifest destiny of all exploratory learning—it simply cannot be. Of course it’s true learning new skills and literacies can feel like you’re just inching along, and yet with most passions in life that lead us to our beloved ‘flow-state,’ we must first and inevitably recognize and nurture the impetus to learn through those early frustrations.
Cheerfully, it was my duty to organize the second annual Pittsburgh Maker Party. With the success of the 2013 Party at TechShop Pittsburgh haunting me, I knew 2014 had to be on point. With 12 other organizations at the ready, 10am-2pm on August 2nd at the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh’s Strip District neighborhood was a flurry of squeegees and paint, circuits and play dough, coding, and even gardening. More than 200 attendees—learners young and old—met, made, and learned while connecting to some more extensive programs for the new school year. Music filtered through three levels of stations as folks wandered about at their own pace, munching on the glory that is a Pittsburgh Lomito Truck sandwich. Of course, thankfully, the Society for Contemporary Craft just so happened to not only be the best place ever to hold a Maker Party, but they were the most helpful and gracious hosts one could ask for, opening up their extensive and impressive studio workspaces to a bunch of enthused kids.
Now, back to the word ‘learn’ for just a moment more. In English, ‘learning’ can sound like as passive a verb as they come, yet learning is the most all-encompassing, mind-devouring, time-consuming, and dare I say intoxicating experience one may have. That’s what gives Maker Parties their vibe and why they are such the success they’ve become. But then again, you’ll probably have to try one out to see what I mean.