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Bay Area Discovery Museum, California, USA: Case Study

In this video, Dr Alison Buxton interviews Dr Lisa Regalla, Deputy Director of the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum
The Bay Area Discovery Museum is a fantastic museum in San Francisco. We’ve been really, really inspired by one of their outreach schemes, the Try It Truck. So it’s been absolutely fantastic. We have got Lisa Regalla from the Bay Area Discovery Museum to talk to us today and tell us all about their project. So, hi Lisa, it’s great you’re able to join us. So how does the Try It Truck actually work in practice? So our Try It Truck is always out in the community, and it shows up, rolls up to a school or a library or a community centre in the area. And when the doors open on the back, what rolls out are a bunch of what we call pods.
And the pods are basically little carts. Some are workbenches. Some are just for storage of materials, and we have tables next to it. But basically, what we set up all around the truck and outside the truck are about 8 to 10 different stations. And those stations bring engineering and the engineering design process to life in different ways. So the three main things that we focus on with the Try It Truck, one is exposure to different kinds of tools and technology.
So we always have a few stations that focus on some low-tech tools like teaching children how to use hammers and nails, or having rasps and sandpaper so they can shape wood, as well as high-tech tools in different emerging technologies, like we have a 3D printer and a laser cutter on the truck as well. Kind of our second category of things that we - experiences that we bring - are really open-ended exploration that build a lot of kind of spatial reasoning skills. So we’ll have PVC pipes and connectors and different tarps so children can make all sorts of designs and castles and forts with it, right? But there’s no directions. There’s no instructions.
So just all the materials there for them to explore and to use their imagination. And then the third kind of station are ones that offer a kind of an engineering challenge. So for example, we have a water table, and we have a table next to it that has little animals there. And you know, your challenge is to build a raft for that animal that can successfully get it from point A to point B. Or we have airplanes or catapults or things like that. And those are really focused on that think, make, try, that engineering design process throughout the time. And so when that truck comes up, we have all of those stations outlined.
And then children get to pick and choose which stations they want to go to. We don’t force children to go to every station. They have to try at least two. So we want them to try at least two new things. But if they are really, really into that fort-building with PVC pipes, they can stay at that station for a half hour before they move on to the next station. And so that idea, again, of choice is a big part of our experience. So the Try It Truck is a mobile makerspace. Why do you think makerspaces are so important, and what skills can they help children develop?
Yeah, I believe that makerspaces have been really important in number one, helping to break down silos in different kinds of educational settings. Makerspaces inherently blend science, and engineering, and the arts, and theatre in these really beautiful and natural ways. And I think that’s really helped departments that may not have normally collaborated start to collaborate and work together. And it helps those that come to the makerspace to be able to see things in a more holistic way. And the other things, I think, some of the skills that children gain through that is a lot of iteration and persistence through challenge. You know, there’s a lot of kind of tinkering and trying things that happen in a makerspace.
And you can get frustrated. And for young children, especially, that’s something that they really have to build the skills to learn how to work through, to work through that frustration and build that persistence to keep trying again. A makerspace doesn’t have to be a room with four walls, as we’ve seen with our truck and many other makerspaces around the world. It can be a couple of bins, a corner of your classroom, right?
It’s just a place where you’re able to build your curiosity, where children have ownership of what they’re doing, and I think that’s one of the key factors that we tried to make happen in the Try It Truck experiences that we offer, as well as many makerspaces that we see around the world. I think the Try It Truck is successful here in the San Francisco Bay Area because it’s what the community wanted for the young children in our area. And I think if we hadn’t taken that time and made assumptions about what our community wanted in that area, it might not be as successful as it was and so as it is.
Well, thank you so much, Lisa, for your time and talking to us about your amazing project. We’re really excited, and we’re hoping that we can have lots of that same inspiration and excitement over here. Thank you. I’m so excited for you all, to see your bus come to light. Yeah, it’ll be really good.

In this video, Alison talks to Dr Lisa Regalla, Deputy Director of the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

The Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) was the first in the world to introduce makerspaces for young children, and Lisa outlines the museum’s approach.

BADM launched a mobile makerspace in Spring 2017, the ‘Try It Truck’. Lisa describes how the Try It Truck works and outlines the ways in which the truck enables children to address engineering problems through a hands-on approach.

What would you add to your mobile makerspace?

B-roll video footage by Ashlyn Perri, provided by the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Our thanks to Ashlyn Perri and Samantha Malpiedi for their support in the making of this video.

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Makerspaces for Creative Learning

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