The Science Near Me blog is a partnership between Discover magazine and ScienceNearMe.org.
Humans are naturally curious, and our knack for tinkering has led to some of the world’s greatest inventions. But even if we don’t see ourselves as inventors, getting hands-on with technology, old and new, can be an enriching and educational experience (plus, it’s just plain fun!).
In fact, so many people love tinkering and creating that there’s an entire culture dedicated to it, called the maker movement. You might be familiar with Maker Faire, a series of huge expos where people can showcase their creations, learn new skills and simply marvel at the creativity of others. But did you know that smaller, localized maker events happen year-round at museums, science centers and other public spaces all over the country?
If you’re looking for interactive opportunities to learn about science and technology in your own backyard, Science Near Me can help! Our database is full of opportunities – read on to learn more about maker events and where you can find them.
What is the maker movement?
The maker movement is all about innovation. It challenges people to experiment with (typically new) technologies and create unique items with their own two hands. While many people have been naturally drawn to that do-it-yourself mentality throughout history, the modern-day maker movement took off in 2005 with the publication of Make: magazine and the first Maker Faire in 2006.
You’ll most certainly see plenty of 3D-printed trinkets and imaginative robots at your local Maker Faire, but you’ll also see displays like interactive LED art exhibits and cosplay contests. It’s not just new tech that defines the maker movement – it’s creativity, which can take many forms.
Harnessing that spirit, smaller museums like the Emerald Coast Science Center in Walton Beach, Florida, host maker events for kids and families year-round that are designed to spark curiosity and creativity. It’s a way to introduce people to new tools or processes and allow them to experiment in ways they may not have before.
For example, the science center hosts Maker Days for elementary school-aged kids on the first Monday and Tuesday of every month. “They are always hands-on, they're always creating something or doing something,” says Diane Fraser, director of the museum’s programming.
Maker Days are designed to be less about academic learning and more about creative play. “Having the opportunity to get tools in your hands creates a problem solver,” Fraser says. It’s especially important, she explains, for kids to learn at a young age that not every question has a right or wrong answer – sometimes you have to find your own creative solution.
Maker events also have a tie-in with science that goes beyond technology. The same curiosity and creativity that fuels our desire to make things is also a driving force for scientific exploration, Fraser says.
“A scientist is somebody that's curious about something, and actually makes observations and collects data,” she explains. “So that leads to some creativity, because if you're designing experiments, you have to creatively think about okay, well, how can I answer that question?”
Fostering that creative energy is something that anyone can do at any age. While many maker events are aimed at kids, there are plenty of opportunities for families wanting to explore together or adults looking for a chance to learn new skills on their own.
Maker events for the whole family
In addition to Maker Days, the Emerald Coast Science Center hosts Creation Station every third Saturday of the month. Kids and adults are invited to come by and explore different projects that combine design, research, art, engineering, and science. And in November, the museum is hosting a 21+ event for adults looking to get out for some crafty fun! Pints & Prints will introduce participants to the basics of printmaking on November 18.
September 30 is Nickelodeon Worldwide Day of Play, and museums in the U.S. are using the opportunity to host fun maker events for young audiences. Explora in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will host the PNC Mobile Learning Adventure truck with interactive experiments and other hands-on activities. And the Children’s Museum of Jacksonville in North Carolina will break out the slime for an exciting day of STEAM-centered events!
Many organizations have recurring maker events, such as the Southern California Rocket Association, which hosts public model rocket launches at the Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area several times a month. Series like these are a great way to meet fellow makers and get familiar with a particular niche.
Makerspaces can also be an ideal place for connecting with people who share your passion for creating. Every Wednesday at 10:00am local time, HeatSync Labs, a makerspace in Mesa, Arizona, hosts an open-house style event called Coffee & Code where makers can mingle and build things. They also have open hours and time reserved for makerspace members throughout the week.
If you can’t make it to a specific event, try finding a makerspace near you to get involved. These are places where people gather to tinker together – whether it be to program robots, build rockets or craft beautiful works of art.
How to find your local makerspace
You can also browse directly on Science Near Me’s website for maker events. Try keywords like “maker” “tinker” “hands-on” and “maker event” to narrow down opportunities in the database. You can visit Science Near Me partner Nation of Maker’s resource database if you’re trying to start your own makerspace or simply learn more about the maker movement. Happy making!
If your organization offers events, projects or programs that invite the public to engage in STEM, add it to Science Near Me!