Urban Maker Club

Research series

Design and Society

The Urban Maker Club offers the pupils a place to transpose their own ideas in the form of personal enterprises, inventions or work or arts. Numerous tools and materials are made available to the pupils, so that they can undertake analogue and digital experiments. The Urban Maker Club works as a digital and social network, from which the pupils can present their projects to other pupils from this community and can be connected across the schools, by using the platform through the following link: www.urbanmakerclub.com

The Urban Maker Club’s aim is to transmit the joy of applied handicrafts to the pupils, as well as introducing additional handicraft jobs to the schools and deliver a stronger awareness for a sustainable lifestyle.

Youth without Handicraft

Our school education system is today- and this since two decades – predominantly “craftless”. The pupils do nothing with their hands, only with their head. How surprising that is! Every individual would agree that creativity should be encouraged from the youngest age. The belief in creative learning and doing, in that the creative force lies at the heart of the individuals, was already the starting point for the founding of modern nurseries in 1873 by Friedrich Fröbel. Already at that time, whether it has been done consciously or unconsciously, Fröbel created an approach to education that is also adapted to the requirements of the 21st century:

A pedagogy, which interacts with its environment and offers the children the possibility to interact with diverse toys, construction tools and other objects. One would thus be tempted to think that creative-manual learning definitely has its place in nurseries and school life, especially in Germany, where the pedagogical reform is so popular. But this is not the case.

In the 80s, such teaching fell victim to the reform. In the modern economy, so they justify it, one should not be able to drill. Instead of sitting on workshops’ banks, the children sat on school banks, reading texts about the different sort of jobs. In the past, schools often had metal workshops and wood workshops, where milling, brazing, sawing, and grinding were taught. Dexterity and artistry are merely taught anymore, manual work has been slowly pushed back in professional training and replaced by machines and digital tools, while at school it has been replaced by intellectual work.

The status quo is thus the following: we live in a world, in which the use of hands has not its place anymore. Countless technical devices improve and replace manual work. The work of the future is one using only knowledge, without the need to use our hands, and our devices will obey our commands simply by the sound of our voice. The digitalisation has thus led children to lose touch with the ‘material world’. One does not need a strong imagination to understand that the senses need stimulation to work properly. To not wither, they need to be used daily. The way many of our senses are stimulated depends on our perception of space and the way we find ourselves in it.

The young people and children of today grow up in a mediatised world, in which the experiences are predominantly gained indirectly. This world is technologised, so that it becomes more and more difficult to capture a certain coherence of it all. Our world is based on one-sided sensory experiences, which offer too little stimuli for the senses most dependent on physical closeness. What ensues from this is children who lack a balanced stimulation of all their senses. They live in an intensive and stimulating environment, without having the time or the chance to cope with the diverse stimulations. And this seems to be inevitable. Because our actual daily life is not giving us the required sensory experience anymore, we must create specific situations – including at school – to allow the one-sided stimulation to become balanced again. Current pedagogical concepts have still not found a satisfying answer to the question of how well our actual sense of reality, so deeply embedded in digitalisation, would accommodate itself with an educational approach, taking into consideration the entire sensorial perception.

Handicraft without Young Blood!

The result of the academization in the school teaching system is now to be examined: we have the first two generations, which grew up without handicraft. The economy has now given the alarm, and this in numerous countries, including Germany, where almost every handicraft’s business suffer the chronic lack of young blood. There are merely enough young people from whom handicrafts presents a life purpose. As explains a study of the Competence Centre for Skilled Workers at the Institute of the German Economy (Kompetenzentrum Fachkräftesicherung am Institut des deutschen Wirtschaft, KOFA) from April 2021, 54 000 journeymen and 5 500 master craftsmen are needed in handicrafts, as well as 28 000 apprenticeships that are still free this year. There are always fewer young people and particularly fewer of those who could answer to the requirements of working in a demanding sector of the handicrafts.

A design-oriented teaching approach

The pedagogical approach about Design developed by the Direktorenhaus these last 16 months, under Pascal Johanssen’s supervision, together with educators, designers, and learning research, wants to help handicrafts to make their return to the schools. This teaching approach brings together the awareness in design thinking, research on synaesthesia, and psychology, as well as following the expertise coming from the learning research. Groundwork provides insights in the idea that creativity comes primarily from an encompassing awareness. Like the melody that is not the sum of all single tones together, the perception is always an encompassing process: the melting of several impressions into a feeling of cohesion (“synaesthesia”).

A design teaching approach wants to enable pupils to experiment, using all sort of creative means. For example, within the scope of workshop projects outside the school environment, which would still be a part of the school: either as partially stationary workshop room or – even better – as separate studio, which would function as a culturally founded Maker Club. The content and structure of the club will be so conceived that it provides the optimal requirements to acquire experiences, promoting the use of all the senses: such as rooms for inspiration or workshop for stage design

A Maker Space which only provides tools is a concept, whose thinking is too reduced and too masculine. The transmission of knowledge should derive from its sensory origins, so that ideas about the teaching of aesthetics can be grasped, as it is already done for example in the actual Bauhaus. In the current learning approach of the Direktorenhaus, research approaches, among other things, will be made more productive. They were more or less developed at the MIT Media Lab by the Professor for learning research, Mitchel Resnick, whose knowledge can be summarised under these four founding principles: “Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play”. Such an approach presents the idea that the best way to encourage creativity

is to assist pupils in working on projects that fills them with passion, and encourage them to experiment in a playful way with friends and peers coming from the same framework. This approach is not sceptic about technology, on the contrary, it is rather optimistic towards it. It does not rate technical tools in an ethical context, but tries to look for activities to encourage creative expression in children, independent of moral categories – no matter whether the way to High-Tech, Low-Tech or No-Tech will be found. The Urban Maker Club would thus be developed from this design teaching approach.