Tips from Dale
We’ve compiled some of the best tips and tricks to make your Maker Camp a great experience from Dale Dougherty, President of Maker Community, LLC.
Add to the camp community.
The network of all Maker Camp Community Partners would very much appreciate your sharing some notes, write-ups, images, and videos from your time making together in Maker Camp. We’ve made this easier than ever before by creating an exclusive online group for our partners. For more information about using this group visit Using Groups. We’ve also made an easy-to-use project submission page.
This kind of communication helps to build the national and international community of makers. We sometimes feature Maker Camp efforts on our makezine.com blog or even in Make: magazine. Ideally, you would share notes, writeups, images, and videos all throughout the duration of your Maker Camp, but if you just really didn’t have time to do it along the way, take some time to share after the fact by answering our end of camp survey.
How can you discover what’s in the physical world around you? Do you see the differences between the natural world and the built world? Take photos that you can share. Draw objects that you see around you. Ask where things come from or how old they are. Where are things made in your community? Explore on-line to see if you can learn more about them. Share your photos, drawings or maps.
Find a new favorite tool.
Tools exist for all kinds of applications. Given an area you’re interested in such as bicycles or music, what are some of the tools, both physical and digital, that you might want to learn to use? Choose a new tool and share it with us.
Do something you’ve never done before.
Sometimes we decide that we’re not good at something and we never try to do it. Part of the DIY spirit is to try something you’ve never tried before, even if you’re not particularly good at it. Think of it as an experiment. See if you like it. Try cooking or gardening or playing a musical instrument. Or try to fix something that’s broken. Share this new skill.
Meet a Maker.
Get to know a Maker in your community. Learn what they do and how they do it. Write a story about this Maker and share it with us.
You can make something for lots of reasons. You might make something that’s a gift for someone else. It could be a cake or a greeting card, and you can add LEDs to either of them. You might make something creative that says something about who you are and what you like. It could be an article of clothing, as simple as a T-shirt or a wearable that lights up or plays music under the right conditions. You might design something that solves a problem — it could be a problem for you or a problem for others. Makers have been known to build devices to check on their pets or while others want a device to open the coop door in the morning for chickens. You could also build a device to monitor the quality of the water or air in your area. You might build something that’s interactive such as a play toy, or a toy car or plane. Paper airplane launchers are popular, as are rockets.
Share camper projects with #MakerCamp.
It’s not enough to just make something—it’s also important to be able to tell others about your project and why it is great. After campers have made something, it’s also important to share what they’ve made more widely. We hope they will see this in action during Maker Camp: thousands of Makers eager to share their work. What do you want people to understand about your campers’ projects? Sharing ideas promotes learning and discovery and can inspire others. Makers want to hear stories, such as, “We did this because….” or “We started here, and we ended up here.” Collect photos, sketches, prototypes, failed pieces of the projects: anything that tells the story of how and why your projects came to be. Share your stories of making social media! Remember to always tag your posts with #MakerCamp.
Celebrate each camp week.
On Fridays, we suggest you end each week with a big party or exhibition to celebrate the projects you and the campers made together, inviting parents and the community as well.
We have suggested a showcase event for each week of camp, and some added touches to make the event even more special. Your event can take the form of a small Maker Faire, a rapid series of slide-shows (a la Pecha Kucha or Ignite), or a short film screening.
Campers could run workshops to teach their parents and other guests any new skills they developed over the course of the week. During the event, be sure to congratulate each camper, and try to get at least one picture of a project he or she made. You’ll want these for your debrief, website, scrapbook, etc.
Producing a culminating event or record of your week fits in well with the Maker movement—something that distinguishes our work in education is our emphasis on exhibition instead of competition. The pressure of a deadline and wanting to put your best work before others is adequately motivating without adding in the extra noise of battle or judges. The attention a project receives is all the evaluative feedback campers need to get a sense of accomplishment.
Congratulate and thank campers.
As soon as you can manage to do so after the end of your camp week or season, reach out to your campers to congratulate them on their good work. Thank everyone who participated in camp. Tell them again that you are very proud of your week(s) together. Share with them and their families links to photos and videos you captured.
Gather camper feedback.
Ask your campers to help you review what your camp accomplished. Turn it into a blog post or a video script. Before you lose touch with your campers, ask them if there’s anything they wish they’d known before they started the camp season. Ask both campers and adults to give you feedback so that next year everyone can start the season ahead of the game.
Document your season.
Organize photos taken along the way and put them in a location that everyone can access. Several free tools help you manage your visual assets and keep them available in the cloud, like Flickr and Google Photos. Make the effort to get an image of every camper and/or project. When kids don’t see themselves in the record, they will likely notice and may assume you don’t appreciate their hard work.
Gather documentation your campers made of their projects.
Keep a record of all the projects that emerged from your Maker Camp in one place, like a web page on your website. Consider telling the story of your camp through a short, edited video, printed camp-wide memory books, project binders, photos in simple frames, a small album, a poster, or a slide-show. When posting images or video, license them as Creative Commons, post in our Maker Camp Group, and tag items with #MakerCamp.
Debrief & share best practices.
We hope to learn more about how we can support establishing more Maker Camp Community Partner sites, and about what works and what doesn’t. Write down notes about what you did, what worked especially well, and what you might change for next year. Share any new projects you added to the schedule (or any improvements on existing projects you made.) Collect data to share with us, like number of campers + adults, budget, successes, and improvements you’d like to see in future seasons. The Maker Camp Playbook is intended to be a living document, evolving as the collective experience of the network and its community of Maker Camps grows. Please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plan ahead for next year.
Help your campers come up with ways to spread the word about Maker Camp after camp is done. Their friends may ask them how they can start a Maker Camp or get involved in the Maker movement. We realize that you need to plan out your Maker Camp program many months before we launch. We hope to have future Maker Camp sessions set longer in advance. Feel free to sample Maker Camp programming from years past to plan your programming, and then bring in our new videos and projects on an as-needed basis.
Keep on making!
We think making is the best way to continue involving your campers in the Maker movement after Maker Camp ends. Start by doing projects you may have missed over the past few weeks, and if you’ve exhausted those, tap into the projects featured in our earlier years or on our website.
Build on your campers’ interest and excitement for Maker Camp by starting your own Maker Faire. Educators use our website to kick-start their effort.
Watch for ways to branch out from Maker Camp into other programming for your site. When one of the Community Partners had adults inquire about being able to participate, they added an all-ages Maker Lab once a month. Many schools have started their own Makerspaces and Maker Clubs after participating in Maker Camp. A few used the projects to launch a season of making that culminated in exhibiting at their local Maker Faire. You can even start a School Maker Faire if your site is a school or youth-serving organization.
Learn more about Creating Your Own School Maker Faire.