Another big theme of last week’s conference, SXSWEdu, was the current Maker Movement.
It seems funny to an early childhood educator that the idea of tinkering, experimenting and testing hypothesis with various tools, is a new idea. This is what children do naturally when they play. It really isn’t a new idea, but it’s rise in popularity and the vast array of products flooding the market is new. There are after school programs, kits, curriculums, and toys that speak to this rising movement. Computer labs and libraries are reinventing their spaces into a Maker Space complete with engineering tools to create towers, robots, and circuits. The exciting part for me, is that these types of educational products are now readily accessible to children as young as five. They can use them to experiment with and learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM), all at the same time.
Maker Inspired Apps
Download the KinderTown app, and find these selected apps under the Science category to accompany the “Maker” in your home:
This app cultivates the experimenter in your child. The app also provides guided tutorials in the beginning to get your child acquainted with the tools and how they function. I found this section really valuable with children, and a great way to discover the app together. The tools in the app include wheels, magnets, claws, wood and plastic. Children combine the parts to make their own unique creation and see if it will solve one of the 50 missions presented in the app. The app combines open-ended experimentation with problem-solving. Your child will not realize they are tinkering with physics concepts such as friction, force, mass, acceleration and more. Parents, after you guide your child through the tutorial section, stick around as the missions become more challenging. Help your child think through trying different solutions to the “Missions” or problems presented. This app is appropriate for students ages 5-8, and is available for .99 (at time of publication for a limited time).
This app is structured like a book but invites exploration into the concept of light through the guidance of a friendly Robot named Bobo. The introduction provides a nice overview to the interactive book about light. The app has moments where children are invited to tilt the iPad while flying through space. As you fly through space, there are stops along the way that present facts, interesting tidbits, and questions to further investigate. The facts in the book are not read aloud to children, so parents, help your child read and understand the information presented. Bobo Explores Light is suitable for children ages 5-8, and available for $4.99.
I think that the most important concept to take away from the Maker Movement is that you can never cultivate your child’s interests with hands on learning enough. Whether it is math, engineering, reading, or art, getting in touch with our children’s interests is an integral part of parenting. Look for after-school programs, summer camps and clubs as part of the Maker Movement popping up in your area too. Now, I look forward to the ways in which “Maker” companies will more closely pair apps with their products to influence children’s experimentation and learning with the Maker Movement.