In 2011, not long after starting Kaleidoscope, a friend suggested that I get a table at the local Farmer’s Market, to promote my business. I’d volunteers with our market before and supported the non-profit that hosts it, so it seemed like a good place to network.

But I didn’t want a boring table filled with brochures. My business was all about making science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fun, so I wanted to plan an activity that would attract kids to my table, allowing me to interact with them and their parents.

In the end I decided to pick up a variety of vegetables and fruit at the market. I cut them in half, made some simple paint trays and had the kids stamp the food onto paper. We talked about the shapes they made. We talked about color mixing. We learned about all those delicious veggies. It was a ton of fun.

Before long I was a regular at the market. Parents looked for my table, kids were excited to see me and my business grew. Not only was this great for spreading the word about what I do, it was fun and I was serving my community. So, I started expanding.

Now I attend multiple markets each summer. I host programs at parks, playground, community pools, local events and pretty much anywhere I can get a table and host for STEM and Maker fun.

Why does this matter? Because over the years of reaching out into the community with these kinds of activities I realized that many of these kids and their parents didn’t think of themselves as good at math, or excited about science or talented enough to be makers. But if you’re just out doing some chores, there’s no stress, no assumptions, no judgement. There’s just fun. 

And let’s face it, not everyone has a Makerspace nearby. Even if they did, not everyone feel comfortable walking in and saying, “I don’t know how to do this. Will you teach me?”

And that’s how you engage kids. That’s how you open the door to learning and creating. That’s how you shift perceptions.

So at World Maker Faire NY 2018 I gave a short talk about “Making Everywhere” to encourage other out there and bring maker and STEM activities into their communities.

Here’s some information from the presentation.  Download your own copy of the handout. Please feel free to share!

Why plan maker activities in nontraditional places?

  • Because not everyone knows what a making is all about.
  • Because not everyone knows what a makerspace is.
  • Because not everyone feels comfortable walking into a makerspace for the first time.
  • Because meeting kids on their turf can increase engagement.
  • Because we need you to help with maker outreach and welcome others into making.
  • Because your will meet new makers with new ideas.
  • Because it’s a ton of fun to get out there and share what you do!

Places to consider:

  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Community and Holiday Events
  • Recreation Department Programs
  • Pools and Playgrounds
  • Outdoor Music Concerts
  • Sporting Events
  • Car Shows
  • Local Summer Camps

A few tips to make your making easier:

  1. If the event has vending, ask for any table fees to be waived. Most events are happy to have extra free activities for people to enjoy, so they’re happy to trade space to secure those kinds of entertainment. If you do need to pay for a table, consider asking for tips or donations to help with the cost. Or bring something simple that you can sell.
  2. If possible plan a make-and-take project. It doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many, many simple maker activities you can share that won’t break the bank. Kids love to take home what they’ve created and share it with others. If you have a blog consider highlighting a project from it or printing instructions for further projects.
  3. If you’re planning to bring technology like robots, 3D printers, rockets, drones, etc. talk with the event coordinator about your needs. Especially with outdoor events, it may be challenging to get power and there may be safety rules in place that could make certain activities inappropriate. While you’re at it make sure you check with the event coordinator about any insurance needs as well. 
  4. Outdoor event? Plan for bad weather. Pack everything into plastic bins and bring a clear plastic drop cloth to cover your tables. If you have access to a portable canopy, bring it for shade and rain protection. Don’t forget weights for the legs. And plan a way protect your paperwork from the breeze – painted rocks as paperweights, binder clips, rubber bands, bungee cords, etc.
  5. It’s ok to bring publicity about your library, makerspace, school or company. Let people know what you do and invite them to come to your space to continue learning and creating.
  6. Pack lightly. Pack in a way that is easy for you to move around. For example, use multiple smaller containers and pack onto a wheeled cart or folding hand truck, for example. Plan for how your materials will stay organized while you’re out with the public. And make sure everything will fit easily in your vehicle. You don’t want to spend a ton of time at the end of an event packing up.
  7. Organize your table. You don’t want to just throw everything on the table and consider it done. Use ray, bowls, etc. to keep things neat. Bonus: If you use plastic food containers, not only will everything stay dry, but set up and clean up is really easy!
  8. Speaking of neatness, plan to have a way to collect trash. Many locations may not have trash cans available. Bring paper towels or rags for clean up. Cover your work surfaces. Lysol wipes and sanitizing hand wipes are really handy to have.
  9. Plan to have emergency items with you. They may include: A roll of duct tape, a good pair of scissors, a pocket knife, a small toolset, a first kit, a flashlight and a battery backup for your electronic devices. 
  10. Don’t forget the food. It can be tough to get away from your table for food, and at a lot of events it will be expensive. Packing in a lunch in a small cooler with plenty of water is really, really helpful.
  11. Share what you’re doing on social media. Remember this is about outreach and making your making accessible to others. You take pictures and talk it up! (Note: If you’re taking pictures of kids, make sure you have parent permission. )

Got questions? I’m here to help. Email me at sandy@enrichscience.com for help or connect on Twitter with @KaleidoscopeSci or on Facebook as KaleidoscopeEnrichment.

Download your own copy of the handout.

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