Cultivating Relationships with Makers Within Our Communities

Members of the Agency by Design: Early Childhood in the Making team visited the Boston Mini Maker Faire at the Boston Children's Museum to learn more about the work of makers in the New England area. 

Boston Mini Maker Faire at the Boston Children’s Museum on October 6-7, 2018

On October 7, 2018, members of the Agency by Design: Early Childhood in the Making team ventured out to the Boston Mini Maker Faire at the Boston Children’s Museum to engage and explore the myriad projects, new innovations, and makers representing the New England area. As described on the event’s website, the Mini Maker Faire was a “family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness” that invited participants to witness and engage with the process of making as part of a community.

Young learners building their “rockets” with a paper template

Throughout the faire, we came across multiple booths where makers were stationed to work with learners of all ages, introducing projects that inspired thinking and making from across the disciplines. One specific project we came across, the Einstein’s Workshop, encouraged young makers to build a “rocket” out of paper.

Observing young makers building and testing their rockets encouraged us to reflect on how educators can provide making experiences that allow young learners to ask Imagine If…-style questions. Questions like, “How can we innovate on an existing design?” “How do we make our designs more efficient?” “How do we make our designs more beautiful?” We also wondered when time is limited, like doing an activity at a Maker Faire booth or during a museum visit, how can we foster authentic inquiries that support deeper educational goals?

Interactive music compositions with sensory blocks

Beyond the rocket making booth, there were many more presenters and makers showcasing their innovations and ideas. Inside the museum we walked into a dark theatre full of sensory blocks that created musical compositions when they were moved around the space. The composer, Ryan Edwards from the Masary Studios, programmed a piece of music, in which each block was assigned to a different internal LED light color. Some colors indicated pitches on a predetermined range of MIDI sounds, while other colors represented different instrument sounds such as a snare drum and bass. When the blocks were moved around, the arrangement of the pitches and sounds changed, thus, creating audience-influenced variations on the composed piece. In a conversation with Ryan, we learned that he programmed the piece based on an x- and y- axis model (representing height and width), but that he omitted the z-axis (representing depth) from his programming, which meant that whether the blocks were located toward the front or back of the stage would not create changes to the composition. This served as a good reminder that putting creative constraints on making experiences, at times, helps us find opportunities for new designs and innovations.


Our team’s outing at the Boston Mini Maker Faire was both fun and fruitful in that it helped become more acquainted with the work of makers in our backyard in Boston—and all over New England. The setting of the Boston Children’s Museum invited an audience of young learners who may otherwise not have these experiences. The faire was also especially informative as our team moves forward with its current work on the Early Childhood in the Making project, which aims to bring the ideas of the Agency by Design framework to young learners. It is an important reminder for us to cultivate relationships with makers within our communities and learn from what others are doing.

This blog was published on November 9, 2018.
Authored by
Carolyn Ho

Carolyn is a researcher on the Agency by Design: Early Childhood in the Making project.