On Saturday, May 2, the Achieve Foundation of South Orange Maplewood introduced Maker Madness in the Columbia High School cafeteria. Over 1,000 people engaged in hands-on learning, making, doing, and creating of “things” from play-dough to circuitry, to electric origami, book art, electronic clothes, straw sculpture, computer coding, and flying drones, among others. With over 30 stations led by Maker Mentors, including SO/M teachers and volunteers from the community who specialize in relevant fields, the event served to showcase STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) education in its most creative and integrated form.
Achieve’s executive director, Deborah Prinz, observed that Maker Madness succeeded in its goal of offering access to an array of hands-on activities that make learning relevant and enjoyable to students across gender, racial and economic lines. “Thanks to sponsorships provided by local businesses and families, we were able to make this event free to the public,” stated Prinz.
Sarah Iozzio, Achieve board member and chair of its STEAM committee, oversaw a group of remarkable volunteers who turned the event around in a matter of months. “Event co-chairs, Larry Boyer and Aileen Nicoletti led the committee, creating the plan and bringing it all to fruition,” explained Iozzio. “We had no idea what to expect in terms of turn-out, and when we saw what a gorgeous day it was outside, we never imagined that hundreds of families would show up, and stay for hours.”
By the end of the day, the Maker Mentors were visibly exhausted, but thrilled by the kids’ fascination and enthusiasm. Maker Mentor Scott Sinkler summed it up, “I had a feeling that Demolition would be popular, but the scale WAY exceeded my expectations. There were kids who sat in one spot for several hours, and few got frustrated or lost interest. I bought 50 or 60 little screwdrivers to hand out as prizes for kids who participated, but that idea was absurd. I ended up handing them all out randomly, as there were hundreds of kids who came through…”
After the event, local parent, Ben Vitale told Terry Woolard, SO/M Supervisor of Educational Technology: “I attended with my wife and our two daughters, who are at Marshall and SOMS. Fantastic! They didn’t want to leave. Now this is how to use technology in our school… teaching kids to be makers, not just users. Thanks to you, Achieve and everyone else for organizing this.”
Enjoy the photo gallery below; click on any photo to begin. All photos credit Achieve Foundation.