by Sheri Lucas, SelfDesign learning consultant and K-9 support coordinator

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I made the realization that my childhood had been different than that of most of my friends at that time. As a young mother, building my first home, I eagerly (yet blindly) took on several household building projects which earned me a surprising number of accolades from friends and acquaintances. Whether tiling a floor, reupholstering my couches, or building a set of kitchen cabinets, I was keen to ‘do it myself’. Don’t get me wrong, I was by no means skilled at any of these things, but that didn’t deter me from making an attempt. To be honest, until then, I thought that was what most people did. You see, when I was young, my parents did everything themselves. My dad single-handedly built an addition onto our house, fixed our car, rewired light switches, and could seemingly fix anything that broke. My mother, among other things, started her own business teaching sewing classes in our basement. I never did learn how to do most of those things from them, but they instilled in me something far greater: the belief that I could.

While I have no official data to back up my assumptions, it seemed to me at that time, that DIYing (Do It Yourself-ing) had become a bit of a dying phenomenon. Whether or not that was actually the case then, I would also unofficially say that DIYing has now made a comeback, and with a vengeance! The term DIY (or Maker) has grown to mean so much more than, “how to sew on a button” or “how to repair a leaky faucet”, to encompass just about any creative project whereby something is made, designed, repaired on your own, or in collaboration with others. In essence we can all be makers in one way or another.

Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE magazine and Maker Faire, says in his TED talk, that the Maker Movement is about tapping into what you love to do. He emphasizes that a maker is simply “an enthusiast . . . they are people who love what they do.” When I heard him speak those words, I was struck by the similarity between his description of a ‘Maker’ and my description of a ‘SelfDesigner’.

Over the six years that I have had the pleasure of being a SelfDesign learning consultant (LC), I have witnessed learners (aka Makers) who are in the emergent stages of their creative, curious, wonder-filled explorations all the way through to those who have written, directed, and filmed their their own movie, worked on a Lego robot that can ice cookies, invented a slug trap, started a dog-walking business, or designed and painted art to be sold.

In all of these instances, the starting point was a curiosity about something and a desire to explore that interest at a new level. Coupled with that was the magical ingredient of the involvement of a peer, parent, or mentor who served as a sounding board, helped fuel the fire, encouraged and inspired. The common thread among all of these learners seems to be a desire to create and use their hands, to invent – to contribute. I see kids and adults alike, yearning to take part in activities that feel meaningful to them!

In witnessing Makers (SelfDesigners) in action, I would venture to say that the far more valuable skills come not from the mastery attained in any given skill, but from allowing one’s curiosity to take him/her down a path of discovery, exploration, problem-solving, and tried and failed attempts. It just so happens that these same skills are at the very heart of the SelfDesign program as seen in the SelfDesigning LOs (learning outcomes) of Enthusiasm and Wonder, Flexibility, Learning to Learn, Engagement, and Systemic Thinking Skills. Additional skills are also cultivated in the areas of Relational Skills and Creativity as folks come together in creative collaboration. When participants work together, co-inspiring each other, sparks are ignited, imaginations flourish, and ideas emerge that are greater than what one might have devised on their own. It has been said that we are preparing today’s youth for a world that has not yet been invented.  What better way to prepare them, than by encouraging and nurturing their brilliant, creative, curious ideas!