In 2010, Children’s Museum director Jane Werner and Drew Davidson from Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center ( ETC), got to chatting at a network event. They started discussing the Maker Movement and the ways in which increasing access to physical and digital tools and techniques may enable children and youth to express their interests and make almost anything. They wondered what would happen if they developed a space in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh where visitors could explore, imagine, and create through making as a learning process. Not only would it enhance the educational value of the Museum’s offerings, it would bring more children and families through the doors and encourage them to stay for longer.
In partnership with the ETC and the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments ( UPCLOSE), the Children’s Museum began prototyping programs in electronics, sewing, woodworking, and digital media and studying how children and families engaged in hands-on maker learning.
The purpose of MAKESHOP is to challenge and nurture creativity by offering experiences with real materials and real tools that match visitors’ interests. The people, or educators, are key to the ongoing success of MAKESHOP, and identifying educators who are also skilled makers has proved essential. MAKESHOP educators continue to work hard to prototype how access to various tools, materials, process, and ideas affect the design of visitor learning experiences and facilitation.