The Steward School hosts a Visiting Innovators Program that’s brought in some interesting people this year. Gary Stager visited earlier in the school year followed by Dr. Margaret Wertheim, who is known for her science writing, the Institute for Figuring, and the crocheted coral reef project, a project which emerged from an evening of sisters crocheting while watching Xena: Warrior Princess and Christine Wertheim‘s simple statement, “We could crochet a coral reef.”
Both of the Visiting Innovators Programs at Steward started with hands-on MakerFaire-like events for all ages. The maker event preceeding Dr. Wertheim’s session offered the opportunity to make squishy circuit coral reefs, crochet parts of the Steward School’s coral reef and more.
The hands-on event was followed by a talk by Dr. Wertheim with activities for kids in another room. (Do you know what it means to offer activities for kids and to host events that appeal to all ages? It means a lot.)
Dr. Wertheim talked about the origins of the crocheted coral reef project, the power of community-driven art/projects, what happens when you have a “science person” and an “art person” collaborate, and gender and technology. The short session really encompassed a lot of themes and issues that run through this whole maker movement, #makered, and STE(A)M.
Participatory Projects and Community
The crocheted coral reef started over 10 years ago and quickly took over the living room of the Wertheim sisters’ living room. The reef eventually made its way into exhibits all over the world. Satellite reefs soon popped up all over the world too.
The satellite reefs like the Colorado Department of Youth Corrections reef, the Latvian Schools coral reef, and the Irish coral reef are made by community members with diverse backgrounds. Some are scientists, crafters, artists, students, and prisoners. All have their names included in the exhibitions around the world and in the crocheted coral reef book. It was this insistence on including the names of all participants that was especially interesting to me. Ownership can be empowering.
Since attending the workshop, I’ve made several references to “Xena Princess Warrior Moments.” Wonderful things come out of downtime and those low pressure moments spent with people who compliment and energize us. Big ideas grow from those “I wonder…” and “We could make….” moments. Right now I’m very interested in being more sensitive to those in my life as well as helping students more attuned to those ideas that may seem trivial or small. It so happens that I’m taking a Visible Thinking class with a few colleagues. The class has provided many strategies for making one more aware of one’s thinking. I’m looking forward to unpacking what I’m learning and how it pairs with inquiry, research, and #makered.