At 2:35 pm on a Wednesday in May, a series of amazing things happened. As school wrapped up for the day, with little fanfare a team of ninth grade teenage women started using power tools to assemble two massive rolling hangout pods in their school’s cafe. They spent the last six months designing and fabricating offsite at our maker space, The Department of Making + Doing. As the bell rang, attracted by the noise, the mind-blowing design of the pods and the unusual sight of young women confidently using power tools, a bunch of guys stopped and asked if they could help. In no time flat-with zero adult involvement-Lyza, Tiarra, Imani and the rest of the team were expertly teaching the guys how to use orbital sanders, drills and biscuit joiners on the project. As they worked together, teachers and the principal came by to give high fives, falling into rich conversations together of how more people could have helped; exploring how this type of project might be integrated in future learning, in and out of the classroom; and offering donations to support the project. Two and a half hours later, this new team had to be forced to stop, to head home for the day.
Early last winter, with the support of a grant from Cognizant through our maker space, The Department of Making + Doing, we got to work with a remarkable team of 9th grade ladies from the Science Leadership Academy’s Beeber Campus. This team of young ladies had started a club in their school called ‘Random Acts of Kindness’, with the intention of inspiring the classmates to make small improvements to the old school that SLA had just moved into. From the outset it was clear that Lyza, Imani, Idamis and the rest of the ladies had a lot of passion but lacked the skills, tools and support to fully realize their aims. We had the ladies analyze their learning environment, prioritize the changes they wanted to make and ultimately they landed on creating areas to hang out to help grow the unique learning culture of SLA’s main campus at Beeber. Over the ensuing months the ladies demonstrated incredible tenacity, braving numerous snowstorms, long travel distances and a challenging fabrication process to create their fantastic pods. Indeed, not only is the beauty of the pods truly notable but they did this work in out-of-school time and only received a grade from SLA for the first couple of months. Many of the team members are now key members of the Building Hero Project, help lead other Public Workshop projects and have inspired other students from their school to come to the Dept. of Making + Doing and get involved with Public Workshop. A few people have even inquired about ordering pods for their school or library!
What if this was happening at every school in Philadelphia?