This project will investigate the benefits and challenges of including young children, along with their parents and caretakers, in activities in Makerspaces based in museums and non-formal learning centers. Working with a US museum, we will observe current provision aimed at young children, capitalising on the uniquely diverse array of making opportunities for young children in the Bay Area (a center of technological innovation due to its proximity to California’s Silicon Valley).

We will conduct a landscaping activity in order to map the current range of provision in museums and non-formal learning spaces across the Bay Area, identifying some of the barriers to expanding digital making opportunities for young children and collating good practice on how these might be overcome. The research will build on our current project, Parenting for a Digital Future, by recognizing and focusing on the role of parents in modelling or engaging with making activities to support emerging forms of individual or jointly negotiated digital literacy.

Our research blog, which includes updates on both Parenting for a Digital Future and our emerging findings from MakEY, can be found at Parenting for a Digital Future

Progress

Working with three museum-based makerspaces for young children in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are examining how parents and families act as learning resources and learning partners to support their young children’s making and tinkering activities both while visiting makerspaces and beyond. We have chosen to work in the Bay Area, a region known globally for technological innovation, in order to investigate how families and museum educators who are at the forefront of technology perceive the learning impacts of making now and into the future.

We have been conducting observations and interviewing parents, children and educators in three museums (the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito and the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley) in order to understand how museums seek to support families, and how and why families come to museum makerspaces as a way of engaging their children in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) learning, and how these broker these experiences into further opportunities to develop digital literacy. We are also working with museum educators in these sites to support their professional development by using our fieldwork to invite reflection on how to incorporate parents into making activities aimed at young children. Additionally, we have also been working with the Jacobs Institute, a makerspace for members of the UC Berkeley community, to ask current graduate and undergraduate makers to reflect on how their parents and families supported their initial interests in making and tinkering as children.

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