Education / 2013
Central Educational Network Based On The Apprenticeship Model
At the Los Angeles Makerspace we are built on the premise of connected learning and the need to re-imagine learning. An important part of the learning process involves both mentorship and social support in order to guide people towards knowledge and expertise. Research has shown repeatedly that when people have more access to expert peers, mentors, and coaches, learning is much more effective and resilient. Additionally, teaching and helping others can be one of the best ways to learn more too, independent of one’s current level of expertise.
Our idea is to extend LA Makerspace from a weekend tinkering space to a central educational network based on the apprenticeship model with weekday after-school programs. We want to develop our space into a rich environment where students can create peer mentoring groups and have access to experts in the community to establish mentoring relationships through project-based learning.
In the spirit of sharing with everyone in LA and beyond, we will be sharing our learning practices and curriculum licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA hosted on P2PU.org, an online educational platform and community. Our goal is to provide passionate learners, both those traditionally designated as teachers and students, with civically-engaged project-based learning opportunities tied to STEAM subjects. The P2PU platform gives anyone in the world an opportunity to learn about topics they might not otherwise have access to, connect with others who share the same interests both online in the P2PU class, and create their own communities around a project. In addition, we are linking STEAM-related learning to citizen action by enabling people to mobilize science and engineering to make an impact in their neighborhood and around the world. Learning from the ground up from the basics of how to construct electronics to how to calibrate gathered data to how to test theories and develop other models. The opportunities presented are for these learners to connect with the research and advocacy communities around Los Angeles and beyond, learning how to both be scientifically literate and apply science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics in a meaningful way.
Our idea will impact the Education Indicator through higher test scores from our participating students, a more diverse population joining STEAM majors, an increased percentage of college graduates, highly competent citizens ready to compete with a highly-educated workforce and a really passionate and fun community to be.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
We are incredibly proud of the achievements our organization has made in the past year. We could not have done it without a passionate board of directors (4 women, 3 men) and an extremely supportive community.
In less than one year we have opened a space in downtown LA, hired two staff members and programmed more than 40 successful events and workshops including programming, design, citizen science, film, woodworking and food science hacking.
We have had a lot of support and attention localling in Los Angeles and nationally. The White House - Office of Science and Technology Policy wrote about our incredible efforts: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/12/12/making-makers-los-angeles
We ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and reached our goal in the first 30 hours, proving that there is demand and interest in the maker movement and project-based learning.
We have developed and have begun running a student research program whereby students are mentored in the development of their own research projects as well as getting them involved with current research projects. Our current partners are the environmental monitoring group Safecast, the American Physics Society, the West Side Science Club, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, University of Southern California, and the California Institute of Technology.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
American Physics Society, California Institute of Technology, CRASH Space, Central Library Teen’Scape, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Safecast, University of California Irvine, University of Southern California, West Side Science Club, Science Teachers And Research
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
The ultimate goal for LA Makerspace is to connect students to the larger world of research, design, and development. In the process providing the academic and professional support needed for a meaningful connection between students and research partners. To this end LA Makerspace seeks to accomplish three goals:
LA Makerspace seeks to improve students’ abilities in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) fields as measured by traditional metrics such as an increase in the participating schools’ average California Standards Test scores in math and science, as well as a corresponding increase in math and science scores for Advanced Placement exams.
We seek to increase student interest in STEAM fields, particularly from traditionally underrepresented populations, as evidenced by an increase in the percentage of students from participating schools choosing to major in such fields after graduation from high school.
LA Makerspace seeks to strengthen the academic and professional skills needed to succeed in college, particularly within a STEAM major, as evidenced by an increase in the percentage of students from participating schools who graduate from college with a STEAM major.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
The LA Makerspace is committed to fostering innovation and embracing community. We chose Downtown LA / South LA as our neighborhood as it is conveniently within reach of public transportation, providing ready access to a variety of neighborhoods independent of their socioeconomic status.
LA Makerspace provides shared physical resources otherwise unaffordable or attainable by an individual or family. It provides a fluid workspace in order to facilitate the collaboration, inspiration and encouragement of others. The maker movement, as it pertains to education, seeks to build the confidence, analytic skills, and creativity of those involved by establishing an environment centered on the creative act. This collaborative and project-based approach to learning runs counter to the current trend in education of defining academic success in terms of standardized tests, especially at the cost of hands-on programs such as shop, art, and laboratory science. It is a place to learn about engineering, design, and research through both organized classes as well as open-ended projects.
As an educational endeavor LA Makerspace provides a community meeting point for projects ranging from robotics to filmmaking, as well as a shared lab space for community members to develop their own projects and work with partnered research institutions within our citizen science program. This community of practice also includes the running of teacher workshops whereby current educators meet, with students and professionals, to design and test various projects to run in and outside the traditional classroom.
LA Makerspace bridges the gap between academia and the community-at-large by establishing a peer-to-peer mentorship network and giving members the chance to apprentice into a whole variety of fields ranging from industrial design to data analysis. The ultimate goal for LA Makerspace is to foster productive community members.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
Ultimately success would be LAUSD incorporating our methods and practices directly into their schools because they recognized that we have successfully met our key performance indicators of higher test scores from our participating students, a more diverse population joining STEAM majors, an increased percentage of college graduates and highly competent citizens ready to compete with a highly-educated workforce.
Through our mentorship network and community of researchers, designers, and other professionals we will also develop Los Angeles’ reputation as an innovation center in fields beyond entertainment through the cross-pollination of various fields. Research institutions in Los Angeles will improve the practice of education through the establishment of apprenticeship programs in affiliated research and development work. Custom manufacturing centers, built around newly-affordable technologies such as 3D printing and laser cutting, will allow the design and retail to occur together in near real time throughout the city. Finally, the students who participate in this project, being creators as well as consumers of education, will create a far more dynamic city in their adulthood.