Making the world of maker education work for everyone: Listening to what youth say


by Susan Klimczak -

I've been an education organizer for Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn for a dozen years. Many of our youth have moved on to college and beyond and sometimes I lose track of them.  So, late one night I decided to google "Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn" to see what came up.  

To my surprise, I found two inspiring articles in The Riveter online magazine written by two youth teachers from way back in the day, Jasmine Rose-Olescu and Xia Josiah Faeduwor.  I write a lot of grant proposals about what I believe is important about Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn, but the truth about the impact rings even more true in the words of these youth.

The first article, "Technology is Child's Play in the New Civil Rights Movement" traces one young African American's journey through technology and making.  Jasmine write about her belief that, "it’s time to use technology to support the Civil Rights Movement’s next phase." 

As a young girl speaking about her longing to learn new technologies, she recalls her mother's cautioning words, "There are people in this world who will underestimate you. They’ll say little things. They’ll doubt that you’re smart, they’ll doubt that you’re kind, some will even treat you like less than a human being deserves."

Jasmine writes movingly about the importance of programs like Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn that,

reach as many people as possible by training highly-dedicated youth in these fields, who will then spark an interest in technology and science in the hearts and minds of younger students.

She talkes about the impact, saying, 

having teenagers of color teach their younger counterparts of color not only increases representation in technology, but it also inspires the next generation to do the same.

In the second article, "Let's discuss Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn," Jasmine interviews another former youth teacher and current college mentor Xia Josiah-Faeduwor. Her words about the importance of our program touched me deeply when she said, 

This program does a lot for marginalized communities, especially in terms of providing pathways to education. In the summer, we give children in urban communities a chance to learn from people who look like them, who are close to their age, and who can relate to them. That…is amazing because you don’t often [see] youth teaching other youth,…especially not in something that is perceived to be as complicated as technology. But, we teach kids the basics and, in doing that, we encourage them to teach themselves more. Us teaching them lets them know that there is a place for them in the STEM fields. That’s just what we do for kids that aren’t in the program as youth teachers or mentors. For the program members, you get the ability to be a leader, to be an innovator regardless of your skill level. 

Xia sums up better than I could what needs to happen to get more of our youth of color and young women represented in STEM and in making,

We need to see more people that look like us doing technology. That way, technology can be seen as cool and, [as a result], more people would want to get involved with it. Another important thing is to talk to members of the community and to get them to talk to each other more about what they want, what they want to accomplish, and what they want to learn. When communities have these types of discussions, they see each others’ strengths, and they learn from each other and grow.

To attract and welcome those who are under-represented in STEM, along with the "technologies of the earth" --- the technical skils and knowledge in STEM --- it is important to infuse our maker education programs with "technologies of the heart" --- those human beliefs and practices that bring out the best in us and enhance our relationships with each other.