My husband has talked for so long about starting a STEM club (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and these are subject areas which are far more his areas of interest and expertise than mine. The problem is, with work commitments, he never has the time or the energy. So, earlier this year, I decided I needed to start a technology club myself. My main motivation was the fact that I needed to do these type of projects with the boys because of their interest in these areas. And I figured I'd be more likely to actually do these things if I started a club and we joined with others to motivate us. My inspiration came from Caroline Alliston's "Technology for Fun". I had met Caroline at The Big Bang Fair one year, and our former home education group had started a group which we attended a few times before we moved away. My eldest son never wanted to follow the instructions, though - preferring to take the projects in his own direction. So I wanted my club to encourage the children to work independently by keeping the tasks open-ended and allowing them to run with them in their own way, working on their own or with friends, and helping one another. I decided to run the club at home and, therefore, numbers needed to remain quite small. Having put the word out on local networks, the club has involved four families besides ourselves - fourteen children aged 4-14.
The advantage of being at home is that we can use the tools which we have in our shed, and my eldest son delights in helping everyone use the tools they are not familiar with. At the beginning, I purchased a couple of Caroline's books, and decided to start with Technology for Fun 2, which seemed to have some good projects for our mixed age and ability group. I asked parents to buy a technology kit for each child, based on the kit list in the book, and easily ordered from Spiratronics at reasonable cost. (I think I spent about £20.00 on kits for my three boys.) I set up a closed Facebook group so that, in advance of each session, I can post other items we need to collect for our next project - bottle tops, pizza bases, cardboard boxes or whatever. Most of the items have been easy to collect or to source at very low cost.
So began some great times of learning - crazy, chaotic, noisy times ... but great fun. I have loved seeing the children tackle each project with such enthusiasm and confidence. I give them a brief introduction at the start of the session, and then they take the instructions and off they all go - in various directions. It is great to see them figure things out in pairs or groups, and to tackle problems together to tweak and improve their model if it isn't quite working. And, in some ways, us Mums being learners too has helped because the children take the lead. Quite often, one or more Dads have been able to come and join in. And, best of all, after an hour or so, each child has a unique creation, which demonstrates how they have taken the project and put their own stamp on it. Often, their creativity has exceeded my own imagination, or they have taken the project forward in a way I could not have imagined. Such an easy thing to organise, really, with such great results for autonomous learning. Why not start a group yourself?