Throughout the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen countless examples of communities coming together to support one another. Whether it was local, general public makerspaces manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) or youth-serving creative centers facilitating virtual maker activities with take-home kits, we know that communities are stronger together.
The data also makes clear that participation in after-school enrichment programs provides clear, measurable benefits for learners. We also know that many learners cannot access Out-of-School-Time (OST) programming for myriad reasons such as scheduling, pricing, lack of transportation, serving as a caregiver, etc. To fully realize the potential of both K-12 school and OST programming, it is vital that we create coherence and pathways between schools and the broader community’s offerings. Seeing firsthand the power of people and organizations working together, the power of a Maker Learning Ecosystem is incredibly clear.
A Maker Learning Ecosystem is the interconnected system of people and organizations working together to ensure educators and learners have access to maker learning support and opportunities wherever they are in the region.
Imagine the following scenario: A public high school business education teacher is facilitating a unit on entrepreneurship, encouraging their learners to develop products and actualize a business model. Unfortunately, they do not have access to an in-school makerspace. The teacher, aware of the local Maker Learning Ecosystem, taps into the network to partner with a youth makerspace in the community, ensuring their learners have a place to continue working on a design project they started in school. Those same students could then find a local small business within the ecosystem to partner with as a distributor for their newly launched product line.
The more robust an ecosystem is, the better equipped it is to ensure educators and learners can enter and move throughout the network, receiving appropriate support from different organizations and people. To that end, Digital Promise is excited to announce the Establishing Maker Learning Ecosystems Cohort.
The Establishing Maker Learning Ecosystems Cohort is a six-month collaborative professional learning and regional development experience designed to bring together leaders from K-12 and community-based organizations from around the country. Comprised of regional teams representing a K-12 school and a community-based organization from the same region, cohort members will work across teams to catalyze the creation, growth, and strengthening of regional ecosystems that create and support opportunities for maker educators and learners. Each cohort team will also identify a targeted population subgroup for whom they will design and implement solutions to issues of equitable access to maker learning experiences.
Throughout the cohort experience, each regional team will receive:
The Establishing Maker Learning Ecosystems Cohort application will be open until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 30, 2021. A preview of the application can be found here. Prior to applying, be sure to identify an organization in your community with whom you will partner. Cohort teams should be comprised of the following:
Representatives from both organizations should collaborate on the application; however, only one cohort team representative should submit the application on behalf of both organizations. We encourage prospective applicants to use the application preview to collect both organization’s responses for later submission using the online application.
Have questions about the application process and cohort experience? Please attend our virtual informational session on Wednesday, July 14 from 7–8 p.m. EDT.