Calling any makerspace teachers..I need advice

I am part of a homeschool group and would love to offer classes on learning to work with lasers. Since I am pretty much self taught, I’m curious as to how you teachers go about working with students on this subject. Obviously they will not be able to learn software in one night, but is anyone willing to give me some ideas on what I CAN teach to get them interested?


Not sure which ages you’re working with, but unless they are super young, they will likely surprise you. I worked with tweens/teens in a computer-based afterschool program where kids used technology to explore their passions. These kids were using professional tools like Photoshop, Premiere, etc., with very little training. If kids are interested, they will learn. They generally haven’t learned to be afraid of making a mistake, especially with software, and so they are more open than many adults about figuring something out.

I personally would start with having them do simple drawings, scan them in, and etch them on a tile. That’s an easy way to show them how cool the machine is. From there, maybe let them design a box on one of the online tools and then attach their name or a piece of clip art or a drawing to it. They can also draw in Gimp or whatever and etch onto a piece of wood. After that, start to show them the basics of whatever tool(s) you’re using and give them space to experiment. Show them some of your favorite projects to broaden their scope about possibilities and then have them brainstorm things of their own. And then it’s just a matter of supporting them (rather than “teaching them”) as they figure out how to make it work.

If it’s just a night, any one of the first few options is a good intro.


I once taught a group of 3rd graders to use pro-level GIS software to make maps. I told their teacher to show them the basics, then stand back and be amazed how far they’d go!

Show them the basics, keep em from hurting anyone, and turn them loose! :sunglasses:


Great ideas! I’m thinking mainly middle to high school since my son is in 9th grade.
And you are probably right about the instinctive ability to work with design software…lol
It might turn into a monthly thing…


Ah, yeah. They’ll have no trouble at all.

Have fun! I’ve been thinking of offering some workshops for Girl Scout troops at the makerspace.


We’re exploring changing our IT vendor and one question led to another and he told me about a tool they use at schools. When you turn on the computer it boots into a virtual environment from a stored image. The kids can do anything they want to it because the next time the computer boots its the same approved image. Every few months they patch and update the OS, but there is no need to go figure out what was changed, because no fear.


That was my thought. “Homeschool kids? I ask them to teach me!” :wink:


you may find some want to visit more often. :slight_smile: but giving them a month between gives them lots of time to play on their own and create something for the next session.


The only other things I would suggest is to be aware of the different levels kids are at to start, and work with that. (My now-13-year-old got told “Outlines cut, fills engrave, and so do jpegs. Make things different colors for different operations” and then I got out of his way. The now-10-year-old will still draw things for tracing or make a simple design and ask for help zapping it.)

And to make something, almost anything, right at the beginning, so they have an idea what they’re working toward. Oh, and don’t necessarily expect them to be impressed.


I’ve worked/volunteered in a few different schools in their computer labs. This sounds great on paper, but if your IT team isn’t on the ball, it’s a nightmare. Sometimes you need to update something, so you do it on all of the machines, and then it resets the next day. Or you want to change a setting. If you have strong virus/firewall settings and limited privileges for the kids in terms of what they can install/change, it’s probably a better choice for teens. Generally speaking, which the always present exceptions, they aren’t messing in anything important. When I talk about no fear, I’m really referring to the willingness to try a new tool in a piece of software without being afraid that they’ll break it or ruin something or be embarrassed. In my experience, adults wait for you to lead them through every single step and are horrified when they make a mistake. I always try to reiterate that you’re not going to permanently ruin anything and mistakes are part of learning. On a related note, adults always want to grab the mouse from kids and “show them” how to do it. Hands off the mouse!

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My kids went to a science and technology magnet school. The oldest continually drove the IT guy absolutely nuts. He could circumvent anything they did to try to lock things out in the computer lab. I had a really hard time trying not to look smug and proud and pretend I was going to do something about it when they’d meet with me to complain about his antics, 'cause I thought they were being 'way too control freakish to begin with. :wink:

I should probably note that he wasn’t doing anything destructive. For instance, they blocked FTP protocols to prevent the kids downloading files from the Internet, but the kids all had their own websites and servers where they stored their homework assignments. If they forgot to print / copy them to take to school to turn in, they had no way to access them, which was just stupid. So DS wrote an FTP emulator that was accessed via HTTP, and completely circumvented the block. :heart_eyes:


It’s hard to get mad about a hack that’s both productive and smart!


The IT dept of a prior owner of the company I work for decided they would block all blogs and most message boards. When asked how the programmers were supposed to research work arounds and what not, they said they would white list individual sites as we found them. I said that sounded great for stack overflow, but unless you’re going to dedicate someone in IT to only unblocking coding blogs as the developers find ones they want to read we may as well all become Wally from Dilbert. They figured out a way to unblock blogs based on user id groups.


yeah, don’t get me started on the stupidity of what some of what websense and the like block for whatever random category they decide it’s in. my personal portfolio website was blocked as a “gaming” site. i think i mentioned somewhere on there that i played games. i may have had a link to a site that, among 20-something subboards, had one dedicated gaming subboard. that was enough to block my site as a gaming site and prevent me from checking my email.

oh, and they still block imgur. and sometimes some of not all, just enough to bork all sites hosted on whatever subdomain the .css files are on.

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When I worked at the hospital I had to fight with IT to get them to unblock EROWID. Because yeah, sometimes it’s actually kind of important to know things about street drugs when you’re treating someone who has them on board. :roll_eyes:


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