Curious Wonder - and how to nurture it

Sara Bolduc

on teaching and inspiring future makers 

What makes a Maker Educator tick?Sara Bolduc, Innovation Manager at a maker space in Novato, has been mentoring and teaching maker for 9 years and is speaking on the Maker Education Stage on Sunday. She shares her wisdom with TinkerTech's Claire Comins 

Last year, you ran a make plushies project for your Makerspace at MakerFaire. This year, you’re speaking on the Maker Education Stage at MakerFaire on Sunday. What will you be talking about?

My talk will focus on the impacts of maker-centered learning and how our LunaTech program harnesses that impact to engage middle & high school girls in making, engineering, & coding.

What made you want to speak at Maker Faire?

To steal a quote from Austin Kleon, “good work does not happen in a vaccum” and neither does making.  As the maker movement keeps growing, with more and more people starting makerspaces in schools, libraries, museums, their backyards and spare rooms, I think it’s imperative that all of these micro-maker communities start to connect with each other, share what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.  Share what’s working and what doesn’t.  

Part of my current work as Innovation Manager has involved sharing my best practices with librarians and classroom teachers through Professional Development workshops.  Most of us are now familiar with the Maker Mindset, aka the Growth Mindset, but it doesn’t mean we’re comfortable leading hands-on electronics, modeling, or coding activities that encourage this mindset.  And that’s what my workshops aim to do, give educators confidence in teaching through failure and co-learning alongside their students.

How many years have you been teaching maker?

I have been mentoring and teaching for the last 9 years.  I first attended the Bay Area Maker Faire in 2009 and the very next year I was exhibiting with 4 young makers in the 2010 Maker Faire.  You could say I found my calling.

What keeps you interested?

What doesn’t? I am constantly curious and drawn inspiration from everything I see.  Plus, it helps to have 20 kids all saying, “Can we 3D print Fidget Spinners?” - which prompted a fidget spinner design contest on Tinkercad. The real interest comes from my makers - whatever they’re interested in, I’m interested in.

Describe the types of programs you offer at your Makerspace.

We offer a variety of after-school programs for middle & high school students.  One program in particular that has a lot of meaning for me is LunaTech, a program I developed to get girls interested in technology and bridge the gender gap with that field.  I developed it over 8 years ago, right about the time I started teaching.  

My background is in Computer Science and I never would have thought I’d pursue a degree like that had I not attended Smith College, a women’s college in Northampton, Ma. There’s a special kind of magical learning that happens when you put girls together.  Girls are social creatures and when you get a group together, give them a cause to work for, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish.  You see them blossom with curiosity, pour out their hearts in empathy with each other’s stories, and work together in an unstoppable force to achieve a goal. It’s really fun working with girls.

Encouraging more girls to learn and pursue technical degrees has always been a passion of mine and continues to be a driving force in my work at the Makerspace.


Favourite projects you have run at the makerspace - why?

I love electronics & making switches.  One of my favorite projects is Makey Makey instruments, for two reasons: 1) everyone loves music & 2) when students realize they can slap their best friend’s hand to make the sound of symbol crash, the look on their face is pure gold.

What do you think makes learning in a makerspace different from a regular school or other learning environment?

Our mission statement here at the Makerspace is simple: Curious. Wonder. Play.  I believe these three words resonate with all maker endeavours.  We want you to be curious about the world around you.  Wonder about how things work.  And playful in your experimentation and construction.

What makes MLC a ‘community’ makerspace?

We are a unique collaboration of partners: a school district, public library, and non-profit.  Through those partnerships we are really drawing on the experience and knowledge of everyone who makes up our community: the students and teachers at school, patrons of all ages from the library, and business folks.  And it is reflected in how the space is used: field trips in the mornings, after school programs for MS & HS, evening hours for adults, and community meetings spaces throughout.

‘Maker’ can be tricky to describe to someone who has never done it or visited a Maker Faire. How would you describe what maker is to someone who’s never heard of it?

We are all makers. Whatever you do to “create” things, that makes you a maker of that thing.  Maker Faire is a giant exhibition of all sorts of passions.  There’s a garden & food section, where you can learn to grow your own tomatoes or hydroponics or taste some delicious food, handmade & home grown.  There’s a lego car, a “lights-off” room where all the LED projects live, alternative transportation from hybrid vehicles to cupcake cars, cardboard robots, fire breathing mechanical sculptures, and miniature battleship wars on water.  And that’s only the beginning... if you can imagine it, it’s probably there, and if it’s not, they you should make it.

How do you think teaching maker differs from regular teaching - what tips would you give to new maker educators?

Be open to learning new things and learning WITH your students.  ASK lots of open-ended questions and encourage your students to ASK questions too.  Empower your students to be resourceful learners….because we really can’t predict what types of jobs/skills will be needed in the future, but we do know you’ll need to be adaptable.

A lot of people think you need to have studied engineering or computer science to teach maker but all kinds of people come to your makerspace. What do you think is the best training or background for someone who wants to teach a maker class?

Passion.  If you have it, share it. It’s as simple as that.

If you could make anything, what would it be?

I really want to make an outfit that interacts with your environment, like a shirt with LEDs that turns on in the dark and off when there’s light. It’s not something that hasn’t been done before, but I’ve never done it….yet.

Sara Bolduc is the Innovation Manager at the Marinovation Learning Center, a community makerspace in Hamilton, Novato, California. MLC is a partnership between Novato Unified School District, Marin County Free Library, and a non-profit, New Media Learning. Sara has been teaching maker for 9 years. This weekend, she’ll be speaking at 1:15-2pm on the Maker Ed stage at the San Mateo MakerFaire.

TinkerTech Founder Claire Comins worked with Sara years ago when Sara was running the Intel Computer Clubhouse in San Rafael, one of the first Clubhouses that promoted Maker. 

Photos: Sara and Savannah, a young maker first time exhibiting @ Maker Faire in 2010 who went on to study Mechanical Engineering at CalPoly. Emily and Sophia Comins enjoy making at Sara's LunaTech class