Making the World a Better Place at #InfyPathfinders 2018

By Jessica Henricks @JessH, STEM Program Manager, Girl Scouts of Northern California @GSNorCal | August 01, 2018

Jessica Henricks works in STEM Program at Girl Scouts of Northern California to create engaging space science and maker experiences for the council’s 70,000 girls and adult volunteer members. As an informal educator, she specializes in arts-integrated STEM (STEAM), inquiry-based science, and hands-on maker education.

Girl Scouts have always been makers—it’s right there in our mission statement: “building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” So when the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) invited Girl Scouts of Northern California (GSNorCal) to one of their Infy Makers Award professional development spaces, we jumped at the generous opportunity. I entered the experience with the question: how might Girl Scout STEM program use maker education to better achieve our 4 STEM Outcomes: STEM Interest, STEM Confidence, STEM Competence, and understanding of STEM value to society?

I arrived at Indiana University Bloomington on Sunday, joining over 550 educators taking a variety of computer science and maker courses at the 2018 Infosys Pathfinders Summer Institute. Throughout the week, I attended sessions and shared meals with a diverse group of passionate educators. We shared our wins and trying moments with the challenging coursework, and talked about how we might incorporate what we were learning at our respective organizations. The space was full of optimism for the powerful, positive impact our #InfyPathfinders coursework could have on our learners.

My path, the Maker Educator Collective Bootcamp, was aptly named; the long days were jam-packed. Myself and classmates were offered an incredible variety of sessions, ranging from the practical to the pedagogical. Throughout the week, we each participated in nearly twenty sessions led or organized by five world-class coaches: Adam Maltese, Anna Van Dordrecht, Casey Shea, Erin Riley, and IdaMae Craddock. Each coach leveraged their extensive experience to bring us inspirational “someday” and practical “Monday” ideas for our learning environments. The carefully crafted schedule offered us time to play with high and low-tech materials, try digital fabrication tools, hear about tools for documentation and evaluation, and explore a range of generative prompts and activities. We also enjoyed expert-led, hands-on starter experiences with MakeCode on three physical computing platforms: Chibi Chip, micro:bit, and Birdbrain Technology’s Hummingbird. In the evenings, we were invited to an assortment of receptions and showcases, after which many gathered for a celebratory toast in town.

#MECBootCamp participants also spent two larger blocks of time on deeper explorations. On day three, we collaborated in small groups to rapidly prototype an activity and test it with visiting high school students. I partnered up with BADM’s Ariel Spiegelman to prototype a Girl Scout Mechanical Engineering Paddle Boat Badge activity. The best surprise: all the laughter when a paddle sprays everyone! On day four, we developed individual passion projects to build upon on our return. I focused on how best to structure a makerspace for Girl Scouts to complete their Take Action projects.

I leave this whirlwind week of learning with my practice revitalized. As an experienced maker educator, this incredible sampler of the maker field deepened my understanding and focused my intent. I’m looking forward to leveraging my Summer Institute experience to support Girl Scout volunteers and staff in developing and delivering STEAM and maker programs to girls.

Making in education has evolved tremendously this past decade, and the educational field is embracing making as a playful and effective way to promote technological literacy. Making is a powerful, generative approach to developing citizens who can solve critical problems in society, and make the world a better place.

I’ll leave you with my Girl Scout maker tip for engaging with technology:

Micro:bit video

Make new friends…
Micro:bit video

Rubber band instrument video

But keep the old...
Rubber band instrument video