Leaving Salmon, Idaho takes effort. So when asked to join MakerEd’s Convening 2017 located in San Francisco, I said yes, fully knowing the journey that lay ahead. Salmon sits nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains and is surrounded by sweeping landscapes of sagebrush to the south and pine forest to the north. Most locals enjoy the solitude and isolation that this remote region offers and I was wondering how my last two years here would affect me upon re-entering civilization. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Oakland, CA I quickly realized the gap in the technological world. Everyday citizens were using Uber and Lyft to mobilize and headphones attached to smartphones accompanied their morning commute. They had everything down to a science and it was a beehive of activity with each with person playing a part in the overall dance. At times I got caught up in it all. At times I longed for the slow pace of Salmon. But I refocused on why I was in San Francisco in the first place and that was to represent that very rural voice that had been missing.
Accepting the proposal to speak in front of a group of 250 educators can certainly seem daunting, but knowing that most people in that room know more about making than me, having only started this journey a short 1.5 years ago, elevated that stress level. Having to wait around through keynotes, workshops, and demonstrations on the latest approaches to Making was the hardest part. How can one enjoy oneself at a conference like this knowing your moment is still to come? Deep breathing exercises and frequent walks around the building definitely helped ease the overwhelming feelings I experienced.
Prior to my 5 minutes of mini-fame, I made best use of my time and engaged. I had the good fortune of being toured around Autodesk’s 2nd floor display in the Landmark building where our conference opening reception was held.
Daniella Shoshan from MakerEd, pointed out the hack your name tag display as well as potential connections I should make during the evening’s soiree. I’m grateful to have received this inside information as it allowed me to connect with Nation of Maker’s Executive Director Dorothy Jones-Davis who has a passion for helping and doing, not to mention her resume is packed with years of experience. I got educated by Peter Wardrip from the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh on how to become a better facilitator. He helped break down different learner types that enter your Makerspace and identify strategies with which to engage them. You can find out more by playing the “Making Connections” card game yourself. I got to meet with Tim Carrigan from the Institute of Museum and Library Services who taught me some core Makerspace framework principles to think about before creating one myself. I learned quick maker hacks for children’s books from Nora Peters, a librarian from the boroughs of Pittsburgh, which I’m excited to bring back to Salmon. All of that led up to the moment at the end of the conference when the 12 brave souls who signed up to speak would unveil their stories.
I was sixth to speak, right in the middle of the pack. I listened to the professionalism and poise of the first few speakers as they gracefully took the stage. An in-house facilitator, trained as a graphical artist quickly drew each talk as it happened. Then it was my turn. Knowing full well my talk deviated from the norm I was nervous. I was not up there to educate as a Maker Educator, but instead to tell them how I’ve been educated from Making. My story must have rung true as I felt the room’s applause. No matter where you’re from or what your experience, a simple story can still resonate. And that’s what I did, I told my story.
The simple lesson I shared was that through Making we’re learning to listen. If we listen, if we create a dialogue between two people, then we have a chance at discovery despite politics, experiences, race, gender, or any other pre-judgements we might enter with. It was with this that I felt joy in my heart, for I knew that my trip was a success. I felt I gave something of myself on the floor and someone in that room walked away a bit more empowered, a bit more inspired, a bit more ready to engage. That is all I could hope for. It’s the same when we approach Making, one child at time, one mind at time, one change at a time. I’m grateful to be on this path.
For more information on how you can help the Salmon Public Library on their Making adventure check out bit.ly/SalmonMakerspace For more information on our current happenings check out our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accts @SalmonPublicLib