I have been leaning a lot about the maker movement, and how we can use the concepts behind it to teach American cultural aspects and the English language in American spaces/English schools. So when I was invited to deliver an enhancement workshop for Access students at Casa Thomas Jefferson last week I was very excited. I understood it could be a great chance to try something new. The English Access Micro Scholarship Program (Access) provides a foundation of English language skills to 13-20 year-olds from an economically disadvantaged background through after-school classes and intensive sessions. Access helps participants develop English skills that may lead to better jobs and educational prospects. Participants also gain the ability to compete for and participate in future exchange and study programs in the United States.
My role in the session was to have students experience a hands-on activity and engage in a task collaboratively. I brought with me Makey Makey kits, we talked about Halloween and I asked them what the connection between pumpkins and Halloween is. I asked them if it would be possible to turn vegetables or fruits into musical instruments, and I noticed they were curious and engaged. I told them it was possible if they had the right tools, gave each group a laptop computer, a Makey makey kit, vegetables, and some time to collaborate. They participated eagerly, failed, tried again, and learned not only some of the concepts behind the technical part of the activity but also that they are stronger when they work together, and that making an effort to achieve a goal is worthwhile and very reassuring. These students spoke English as a tool to engage in collaborative learning and may be curious enough to learn more about circuitry or computer programming.