What can we learn from America’s National Week of Making?

From the 17th to the 23rd of June participants from all walks of life and all sectors of industry and education have been involved in the nation’s celebrated National Week of Making.


The raison d'être of this week is to underline the pivotal role that makers, builders and doers - no matter what age or background -have played a great role in ensuring that the nation has not stood still and contributed an enormous part in providing solutions to vital problems.


Perhaps it is best summed up by President Barack Obama, who was quoted as saying “We celebrate the tinkerers and dreamers whose talent and drive have brought new ideas to life, and we recommit to cultivating the next generation of problem solvers."

Mature couple working together on a tailoringSo, what can the UK learn from this? Is it high time to recognize our own illustrious history of ‘tinkerers and dreamers’ from all walks of life, be they of school age or nearing retirement?

Let’s look at what we mean when we refer to ‘making.’ The word makes reference to all outlets for turning inspiration and creativity into something tangible and useful. This could involve wood or metal work, artwork, digital design and other forms of creation. What is undisputed is the incredibly important role that ‘making’ plays in the development of our children, both in school and at home. It is one of the best ways to stimulate an interest in a subject or field.

Children at Play

Making and experimenting with how things fit together in general is recognized as a fundamental part of early years development and creates a strong foundation for an interest in construction, creativity and stimulating ideas for the growth of the individual.



Moving on to how ‘making’ is vital in the development of young people we need to understand that making can:

  • Imbue learners with the confidence to address real problems;
  • Encourage good teamwork as groups of young people can work together on a project, realizing that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and the ‘whole’ team can be stronger than the sum of its parts;
  • Nurture a healthy interest in science, technology, mathematics and engineering (areas identified by the government as needing a great injection of fresh, young blood) as well as the arts;
  • Focus the mind and direct it towards curiosity and away from accepting the status quo. Learning instead that science is a fluid concept and the current scientific proof of anything is always open to testing;
  • Stimulate engagement of students which plays a vital role in academic achievement going forward. Boredom is the enemy of development.

In the UK, perhaps schools could be encouraged to set aside a week, or even a couple of days a year, which are dedicated to making things. Perhaps students could spend one day working with wood, another with science experiments, art, metalwork and so forth.

young-female-makerOne of the most incredible examples of what young makers are capable of achieving came in 2011 in West Philadelphia. A group of 15 teenagers from a low-income school in West Philadelphia managed to build a 160mpg hybrid vehicle that outperformed similar vehicles made by industry professionals and Ivy League graduates. Surely such examples cannot be ignored.

The emphasis is not just on the education sector as Barrack Obama mentioned, an "all-hands-on-deck" effort is necessary; one that places the onus on not only schools and teachers, but also on companies, philanthropists and parents alike. Companies, for instance, could award sponsorships and apprenticeships for outstanding achievements in making, while researchers and young entrepreneurs for companies like Tribal, who provide educational equipment in our schools, could develop cost-efficient kits for young people to build their prototypes out of inexpensive materials.

One thing is certain, as the need to branch out away from fossil fuels and other non-renewable sources of energy and materials heightens, we need our young tinkerers more than ever.