At Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and New York Hall of Science, we have been engaged in a research initiative about the kinds of learning that happens at our museums around making. The goals of the research have been to identify the kinds of learning that happens through making; describe and communicate this learning for the fields of informal learning research and practice; and recommend ways to design programs that support children’s and families’ engagement in this learning.
“Making” may be thought of as building or adapting objects using real tools and real materials and engaging learners in the process of using these tools and materials. While these programs and spaces serve a variety of goals, they overwhelmingly serve as sites of ambitious learning.
Here you will find each museum's framework for supporting learning through making; a description of the process each museum went through to empirically identify these frameworks; stories of how this research-practice approach is carried out and influences our work every day; and a collection of resources and publications that have been developed to share understanding and build capacity for the field around supporting learning through making in informal learning environments.
Principles of Practice
Frameworks for supporting learning through making in museums.
Our methods of working across research and practice to empirically identify learning through making in museums.
Stories of how a research-practice approach is carried out and helps to support learning every day in our museums.
Publications and tools to help engage museum practitioners in this approach to reflectively design and facilitation learning through making.
MAKESHOP® at Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
Developed in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) and the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out of School Environments (UPCLOSE), MAKESHOP® is a permanent 1,800 square foot exhibit space dedicated to nurturing informal learning opportunities and research-based understanding at the intersection of the digital and the physical. MAKESHOP has become a national model of research and practice around making as a learning process for informal and formal learning environments. Designed to engage all of the Museum’s 270,000 annual visitors, MAKESHOP provides meaningful and sustained making experiences that integrate digital technology and media projects with DIY “maker” elements. CMP has invested significantly in staffing for MAKESHOP, creating a dedicated facilitation team comprised of five skilled makers, artists and educators with specialties in digital media, sewing and flexible materials, electronics, woodworking, and informal learning. Through this work, the Children's Museum has been at the forefront of designing informal learning experiences through making in museums and libraries, as well as integrating learning research and practice around making as a learning process.
Little Makers at New York Hall of Science
Little Makers workshops at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) invite our youngest visitors (eighteen months to six years old) and their families to tinker, make, and play together. Each week, families join the early childhood education team in the museum’s Makerspace to explore a new set of materials, tools, and processes with projects ranging from hand-sewing and butter-making to woodworking and simple circuit construction. Little Makers encourages exploration of everyday materials and tools, and provides an opportunity for multigenerational families to learn together. While the materials and science phenomena explored change from week to week, the workshop’s station-based structure remains relatively constant. Materials and tools are introduced through an exploration station. Learners sketch out their ideas at a planning and design station. At the making station they create and build their projects. And a documentation station invites them to share their work by adding to a display or mural, telling a story about their creation, or snapping a photo.