Pop up makerspaces in Siglufjörður, Iceland, July 2018
Kristín Dýrfjörð – University of Akureyri
Every other year a travelling Folk song and Cultural festival is set up in Iceland, 2018 it was in the Northern coastal town Siglufjörður, Iceland (figure 1). One of the organizers contacted me and asked me to set up an outside pop-up makerspace for one day of the festival, for the local community. The summer of 2018 was the summer that never arrived in Iceland, and on the day of the pop-up makerspace the weather was not on our side. The rain poured down and the temperature was around 10 degrees Celsius. I worried that no children would show up, also because we were situated a little on the outskirt of the main attractions.
The aim of the project was to give children access to materials in order to foster their creativity. I decided to offer construction resources so that they could build different types of marble runs, and I also provided chunks of red clay. Because it is easy to combine makerspace ideology with concepts of sustainability, I decided to use as much scrap material as I could. The day before the pop-up I went to local hardware store and they gave me a lot of things that they were going to throw away such as timber and different types of plastic, as well as paper tubes. During wintertime I had whittled (from tree cuts from the University ground) tools to use with the clay. When I was designing my tools I thought about them from ergonomic point of view, but I also wanted them to be playful. I wanted them to fit well in the hands of children, as well as look like something unusual that could be used in different manner to the way they normally used tools.
Not many children turned up due to the weather, but those that came stopped a long time; they played non-stop from 13.00 – 14.30. There were three girls aged from 3- 7 and one boy aged around 8. First, they all played with the tubes and the construction materials (figure 4). After about 30 minutes, the girls sat down and started playing with the clay (figure 5). They talked a lot and made up stories around their clay; they were making things from nature like nests and eggs as well as birds. When I asked them what they had been doing, they said playing with clay AND chatting together. The girls did not know each other beforehand, so this was their way of bonding and getting to know each other. The smallest girl (she will turn 3 in September), was gazing at the older girls and imitating part of what they were doing with the clay, finding her way into the conversations with them. All of the children used the tools and I could see that they fitted quite well into their hands.
Playing with clay out in the rain gets messy, and one of the girls asked where she could clean her hands, I pointed toward nearest puddle (it was lot of them around, after all the rain). The girl said she believed It to be too cold and dirty, I put my hands in and cleaned them. She then followed and told the others that this was actually not cold water, just nice.
Even though the weather was Icelandic, and the children few in number, I learned so many things from being with them and I got to try out my new tools. I strongly recommend using clay outside during summertime, in rainy weather as well as sunshine. I knew beforehand that the construction materials would work in any weather. When using the construction materials, the children used languages connected to problem-solving and they put forward their own ideas, They talked about the size of the balls, about how heavy they were, about the steepness of the tubes, about how fast the different types of ball were running along the tubes, and so on.
The pop-up makerspace led to a range of learning, and the grandparent of two of the children reported that they wished to set up a similar space in their garden following the event!