This research paper explores the factors that contributed to the formation of Maker identity in a population of young adults. These "Young Makers" are learning skills, knowledge, and habits of mind that provide them with plausible pathways to STEM majors and careers. Thus, STEM educators are developing Maker-based curricula and opening makerspaces (Honey & Kanter, 2013) at a rapid pace. At the heart of these efforts is the question: how do educators optimally incorporate aspects of the Maker Movement into schools, museums, libraries, and extracurricular educational institutions? By moving immediately to the materials and tools or considering Making as part of a more traditional curricular program, we believe that educators may be missing the most important piece of the movement—the Makers themselves.
By using Gee’s identity lens categories (2000) as a theoretical starting point in concert with grounded theory in a parallel inductive-deductive analysis, we identified and categorized the ways that self-identified Young Makers describe the roots of their Maker identity. Data was gathered from 11 Young Makers through semi-structured critical incident interviews at large Maker Faires in the United States. Analysis of the data suggest that Young Makers attribute their Maker identity to meaningful personal relationships that encouraged or modeled Maker practices, sustained individual interactions with physical tools and materials, and opportunities to explore their personal interests in social contexts. By providing insight into the roots of Young Makers’ identities, we hope these findings prove useful to educators and administrators hoping to foster vibrant, authentic, and durable Maker cultures in their schools.
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