The City Avenue campus has opened a brand new makerspace this year. We are grateful to have a new place to call home (with supplies! and plenty of storage space for projects! and new tools!) and thrilled by the opportunities it opens up for the whole school. We will likely be writing a lot about the makerspace this fall: how we entered on the first day of school with an empty room as a blank canvas, how we have designed the layout of the space to facilitate collaboration, how we are learning to use the new tools we have in the space, how we are holding bi-weekly workshops in the space for everyone in the FCS community, and much more. But for now, I’ll start the year with an update on a small detail: let’s start with the trash can.
Now that there is a home-base for making at FCS, we are eager to find ways, big and small, to let everyone who enters the makerspace know some key things that matter here:
- …that you, yes, you, are welcome and valued. Everyone has something to contribute.
- …that what we can create as a community is better than what we can create as individuals.
- …that learning requires vulnerability: it can be uncomfortable not to know something when others do. But if we can find room for that vulnerability and soften its pinch, we can gain a better perspective on how much we have to gain from each other. We always need to treat each other with respect and care.
- …and that perfection isn’t the goal. We are all unfinished and so are our projects. The makerspace is a safe place to try something, iterate, and try it again as many times as you need.
These themes are important to share in every way we can if we are going to create a healthy culture in the makerspace. So what else can we do besides talk about them? How can we celebrate these themes and fight back against an exclusive clubhouse mentality, against condescending eye rolls to beginners’ questions, against dismissive side comments that can fracture this intentional culture? How can we be sure that moments of intellectual vulnerability have a safe space to exist and don’t suffer death by a thousand paper cuts?
Let’s start by putting that corrosive, negative behavior in the trash. Inspired by Hacker School’s User Manual I have started cutting large vinyl stickers of belittling language to put on the trash can. The next time one student interrupts another with a needless correction — well, actually I know more about this than you… — or assumes another student knows something only because they know something themselves — obviously you’d use this tool to answer the question — we can all point to the trash can and know where to put that kind of language.
What other phrases might make the list? It’s up for the community to decide. (I’m thinking a title sticker that says “Don’t be a” next to the brand name, “BRUTE,” at the top of the trash can would be funny.)
I hope that the next time you feel belittled or stepped on or dismissed that you might come make something — and help make the culture of the makerspace a little bit better.