Week in Review: Maker Camp, Summer 2016, Session #1
Last week was an incredible week. Maker Camp is always amazing, but these Makers really brought it. This group was invested, engaged, and above all, kind. Creativity oozed, paint splattered, steel burned, and PVC met bench grinder.
Our theme this week was Creating Music. In the mornings, we met for circle, and shared our gratitude and appreciation for the good things in our lives, and each other. It’s a remarkably nice way to start any day. From there, we moved into the Creation of Music. Tessa McClary — local piano teacher, composer, and piano and vocal artist — led us in creating music with our voices, with found objects, and with the musical instruments we created during the week. Tessa herself finished a small flute, and one of our students created a working bamboo flute as well (it’s harder than it sounds, actually.)
We know that music lights up our whole brain, so it’s a fantastic way to enter into any exploration. It is the best mental warmup I know. The truth is, training our minds to be disciplined is only possible when we are (or can be) motivated to an end. There are many ends we might seek: developing a skill; building something we need or want; being a part of a team; making a difference; getting a good grade in a class. Of these, getting a good grade is, in my experience, the least compelling. (But sometimes we just have to do it.) It can be a necessity, and when a meaningful experience can be held in a space and given a grade, that is the best “school” experience. On its own, however, this is still an external goal. Real passion comes from inside us, and is, as a respected colleague told me, a “combination of motivation and skill.” While we as mentors can present opportunities, options, and ideas, we are most successful when we can give them space to continue to develop skills they enjoy, and find ways to develop skills they may not even know they need with fun and enthusiasm.
The other truth is that the diversity of humanity is such that not everyone derives pleasure from the same things. Winning is nice, but just like in any sport, winning can’t be the only thing we want from it, or eventually we will leave it. The experience of doing anything is what must eventually become what we love, or we will cease doing it. Finally, not every activity needs to be competitive. In fact, the ability to collaborate, take input, and continue developing our skills without feeling the need to “beat” another person, but instead to “win” the challenge in front of them, is a critical skill in most disciplines: engineering, medicine, technology, and the arts. (Do you want a doctor who is motivated to ‘beat’ another doctor, or who can carefully dive into your care needs, collaborate with other highly-trained professionals, and whose primary aim is to save your life?)
My love affair with Make is that there are no grades, and there is nothing to be won but intrinsic satisfaction, community, competence, and experience. In short, all of the things that matter at the end of the day, when no one else is watching. When you have created something, no one can take what you have learned away from you. The experience is yours, and is portable: it travels with you to your next adventure.
“I don’t know how yet, but I know I can figure it out.” – Maker, age 9.