September 10, 2013

Design Make Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators

Edited by Margaret Honey and David E. Kanter, 2013 

Edited by Margaret Honey and David E. Kanter of the New York Hall of Science, Design-Make-Play is an exciting anthology that explores the roles of—you guessed it—designing, making, and playing in 21st Century STEM education. The book combines a series of framing articles that set the stage for designing, making, and playing in education and then takes a deep dive into a series of case studies that put designing, making, and playing into action. Though this collection of essays and case studies takes readers on a tour of makerspaces, museums, and school settings throughout the United States, it is also worth noting that “Design-Make-Play” is a popular initiative of the New York Hall of Science. Here, Design-Make-Play is described as a learning methodology that has “the potential to foster young people’s scientific imaginations” (more about this program can be found at the New York Hall of Science’s website, or by checking out their cool promo video).

The anthology kicks off with an introduction by Honey and Kanter wherein they discuss the rationale for the anthology and provide some useful definitions for “design,” “make,” and “play.”

Design: the iterative selection and arrangement of elements to form a whole by which people create artifacts, systems, and tools intended to solve a range of problems, large and small. (p. 3)

Make: to build or adapt objects by hand, for the simple personal pleasure of figuring out how things work. (p. 4)

Play: a fun, voluntary activity that often involves make-believe, invention, and innovation. (p. 4)

Following Honey and Kanter’s introduction, the framing essays situate the book’s core ideas within the maker movement, Federal interests in making, and within the Next Generation Science Standards. The case studies are elemental to showing how designing, making, and playing can be put into action in a variety of settings. Told from a variety of perspectives the case studies range from profiles of learning environments at the Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio in San Francisco to the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh and from an exploration ofScratch and the Makey Makey to a discussion of squishy circuits in the classroom.

There is great enthusiasm throughout Design-Make-Play for the STEM learning that takes place when young people engage in maker activities. Nonetheless, most of the case studies are descriptions or profiles of organizations or maker technologies, as opposed to in depth investigations. While I share the enthusiasm for designing, making, and playing in education that the authors express, I’m curious to see what research around these subjects will look like. It’s my hope that the Agency by Design team can add to this knowledge as we continue our investigation of thinking and learning in design and maker educational environments.

-Edward, September 10, 2013