BROOKINGS – The Children’s Museum of South Dakota’s after school program began again recently, offering children a chance to learn the art of “making.”
Open to 25 kids, the After School Maker Studio program started up Aug. 28. It goes Tuesdays through Fridays from 3-5:30 p.m. for children ages 5 and up.
Last October, museum staff wanted to better utilize their upstairs Creative Kidoodle Art Studio and so looked into a concept they had heard about: maker studios. After a round of research and preparations, they started a series of classes for kids that looked at different “making opportunities, whether it was engineering, robotics, something in the arts or pottery,” according to Carrie Benson, Children’s Museum of South Dakota’s director of education.
There is a feature activity each week. The museum provides the necessary tools and materials, and the kids can work on the activity at their own pace.
“We learned very quickly that you can’t limit the time. One thing about our after-school program is that kids can work on something and come back to it,” Benson said. “Some kids come every Wednesday, and we’ll save their project for them until they come back that Wednesday. Some kids come every day of the week. We have a variety of ways that families have been using this space, so I think we’re unique in that we can be ready each time a child comes back.”
Last week, the feature activity was canvas painting.
“So, we talked through the process of doing a painting, from sketching your idea to then picking your colors to the process of painting. We talked to them about some people who paint what they see, some people paint what they feel, some people paint memories, some people paint things they love. Then the kids got to take that work home,” Benson said.
And they get to use real tools, which was an important inclusion.
“They like real tools, so we try to find real tools whenever we can. Like if we have wire out, they get real wire cutters. Obviously there’s someone in here keeping an eye on safety, but we let them use real tools that makers and people use, which is important to us,” Benson said.
“We try to give them a genuine experience of what making with those tools and materials is like. Instead of giving them a kid version of it, we give them real pottery wheels. We want them to have a genuine experience so that as they continue to grow and make, they can expand off that and find their passion in art or science or whatever else it might be without feeling like we’ve compromised the tools that we’ve given them,” added Jess Flint, a museum educator.
A lot of the activities allow the kids to approach it in their own way, and that’s intentional.
“We have flex and varied seating so kids can find where they’re comfortable and can almost design their own unique little space,” Benson said.
One thing they’re excited about doing soon is bringing in featured local makers.
“We’re currently working with three different people – we’re still nailing down the details, so we don’t have specifics yet – but we are inviting makers from around the community to come in and show children their skills and to inspire making in different ways,” Benson said.
Parents can have their kids join through several different ways, space permitting: at the museum’s front desk, by calling at 692-6700 or through their website at www.prairieplay.org.
Contact Eric Sandbulte at [email protected].
CMSD photo: Louie Jia, a regular participant in Maker Studio programming at the Children’s Museum of South Dakota, works with LEGOs in the studio.