“When I was little I saw my grandmother using a sewing machine and I thought it looked so cool—it’s not like everyone can do it—it’s like…she’s sewing a dress by herself ! — and like, not a lot of people can do that….so when I got older I just wanted to be like one of those people that is creative and doing well manually with her hands…and that was really cool”
– Ashley (pseudonym), 12-year old girl who self-identified as Black
Ashley’s words here may seem like a girl’s ‘simple’ expression of admiration for her grandmother. However, her words alone cannot capture the energy with which Ashley spoke during a video interview about her interest in sewing and crafting at home. The happy tone of her voice, her facial expression and body gestures, and a big smile contributed to an awesome interview moment, where I perceived a girl full of curiosity, passion, admiration, and desire to become creative like her grandmother. Ashley’s contribution gives us a glimpse into the richness of intergenerational interactions and activities in the homes of non-dominant populations, and the potential these interactions have to impact desires for learning and future becoming of youths.
In this post, I introduce the reader to the findings of a research study on connected learning in the homes of non-dominant youth when engaged in ‘making’ through crafting. Our study Making at Home: Interest-Driven Practices and Supportive Relationships in Minoritized Homes (Peppler, Sedas, & Dahn, 2020) was published last month as part of a special issue from Education Sciences called Young Children, Maker Literacies and Social Change. This blog post could not have been made available at a more appropriate time, when joining conversations and taking actions for needed social change is so crucial. So it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the current public outcry and growing social movement protesting the latest attacks on the Black community that made it to the public eye. I think one way to enact positive social change is to continue to eradicate the deficit perspective surrounding non-dominant individuals and to continue highlighting the diversity of strengths and cultural capital all individuals bring to the table.
Over the last decade, the Maker Movement has given new energy to do-it-yourself (DIY), hands-on craft production activities that have been present for generations in one form or another. This movement has been important for educational organizations in helping to engage students in interest-driven learning using low and high tech materials and tools, from paper crafting to mini computers like Raspberry Pi. ‘Making’ is typically about tinkering and creation. It blends imagination with active learning, motivates problem solving, and seamlessly joins art and technology. Making calls on individuals, no matter their income, social status, or background, to bring whatever they have to contribute – their interests, culture, and skills – and create something.
The overarching research question for our study was to what extent and under what conditions minoritized youth engage in maker practices. Through surveys and interviews, we learned about the types of maker activities students were involved in, how and where they were introduced to the activities, and the resources that supported their making practices. The youths reported a myriad of making activities in the form of crafting projects: model building, sewing, scrapbooking, and jewelry making, among many others reported in our article. To our surprise, the majority of our participants, in this specific context and time, shared that it was in the home that they learned these making skills and activities, not in schools, online (e.g., YouTube), or in after-school programs, as we were expecting. For the most part, these participants credited family members with introducing them to their maker activities.
The connected learning framework and sociocultural concepts from Barbara Rogoff, Jean Lave, and Etienne Wenger allowed us to interpret and make sense of what looked like an interplay between the level of participation in making activities and a level of interaction or involvement between the youth and a family member. For instance, we identified different levels of participation in making, from youths that did not engage in any making activity to youths making artifacts as gifts for family members. We also noticed different levels of involvement or interaction between family members and the youth, from family members not involved at all or solely providing materials, to instances where the family member worked alongside the youth. The findings do show a more nuanced picture of how relationships (within the connected learning framework) mediate how these youths engage with their interests in making, opening up (or blocking) possibilities for learning pathways and academic, civic, and economic opportunities.
In conclusion, though the topic of making through crafts in the home may seem trivial in the current social context, our study surfaced evidence that opposes the pernicious deficit perspective by showing how familial relationships (immediate and extended) support participation (or learning) in the home. It is my hope as an educational researcher that the findings and implications of this study continue to strengthen the efforts of many to leverage the rich relational support and interest-driven activities that already exist in minoritized homes to better support all of our youth.
Disclaimer – This post represents my personal views and not of my co-authors.
R. Mishael Sedas has a Master in Education in Learning and Developmental Sciences from Indiana University and currently he is pursuing a PhD degree in Education from the University of California, Irvine. His personal profile at the UCI School of Education is http://education.uci.edu/phd-sedas_r_m.html
Peppler, K., Sedas, R. M., Dahn, M. (2020). Making at Home: Interest-Driven Practices and Supportive Relationships in Minoritized Homes. Education Sciences 10 (5), 143.
[Open access https://www.mdpi.com/2227-7102/10/5/143]