Design Den internship promotes hands-on, collaborative learning

Every summer, the Design Den in the Mayborn Museum Complex employs interns who facilitate informal education, encouraging visitors to the museum to embrace their own ways of learning. Photo courtesy of Emily Clark

Thomas Moran | Arts and Life Editor

In many educational settings, teachers employ a variety of methods and philosophies to transfer knowledge and experience to their students. But a more recent trend in education, called the Maker Movement, is shifting the paradigm and encouraging students to gain knowledge and understanding through their own hands-on experiences. The Mayborn Museum Complex has a space called the Design Den, which is solely dedicated to this educational philosophy, and four Baylor students are interning in the space this summer.

According to Adweek, the Maker Movement encourages learners to tap into their “self-reliance and combine that with open-course learning.” Equipped with the materials they need, learners are encouraged to tinker and experiment with the supplies to reach some sort of conclusion or point of understanding in their own unique way, as opposed to other teaching philosophies that propose a more rigid method of learning with a predefined outcome.

Emily Clark is the Design Den coordinator and leads all of the activities that go on in the area.

“I gather supplies, think of activity ideas, train staff to be stellar maker facilitators and spend time sharing ideas and strategies with other maker educators throughout the museum field and in the K-12 education field,” Clark said.

The Maker Movement has prompted many museums and schools to open areas like the Design Den that promote hands-on, open-ended and collaborative learning.

“We encourage our visitors to learn how to do something new, but also to strengthen their collaboration and communication skills as they work with other visitors. It’s a space built on creative community,” Clark said.

Clark said the benefits of maker spaces expand beyond the pros of a standard classroom setting.

“Throughout the field, there is a lot of focus on making and tinkering as a way to increase practice of the four Cs of 21st century learning: collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. There are soft skills that can’t be taught in classroom in the same way we teach math or history, yet they are such important skills for a professional in the 21st century.”

While most of what goes on in the Design Den is geared toward enriching and educating the young visitors who come through the museum, previous interns said they learned just as much through their time in the Design Den.

Fort Worth senior Carinna Polley interned in the Design Den last summer.

“We facilitated different activities that taught the kids useful skills like woodworking, sewing and circuitry and also created our own activity that was meant to teach the kids a certain skill,” Polley said. “I definitely learned communication and the ability to work well with other people. Really being able to take a step back and letting the kid decide what path their project would take was a big thing for me.”

Lagos, Nigeria, senior Maxwell Agwamba interned alongside in the Design Den last summer.

“What I did was plan activities that were STEM-based for middle-school-aged to elementary-school-aged kids and just encourage them to learn outside the classroom,” Agwamba said. “It was a great experience overall. I learned how to facilitate activities that would engage children and how to plan activities with goals in mind.”

The interns help facilitate activities in a wide range of areas like sewing, woodworking, electric circuits and more.

“I particularly enjoyed sewing,” Agwamba said. “I had never sewn before, so for that activity, we had to teach the kids how to use a sewing machine. They could sew whatever they wanted. Most of the kids sewed a pillow. I was able to learn how to teach little kids how to use a complex sewing machine.”

Beyond the daily activities of working with visitors to the museum, the interns also helped lead several summer camps, which involved more in-depth activities, Agwamba said. With a variety of children coming the museum daily, the interns were tasked with meeting the needs of an array of learning styles.

“I learned about how there are different types of learners,” Agwamba said. “Not all kids learn the same way. That was a great thing to kind of explore as the summer went by. Some kids learn by observance, some kids learn by doing and some kids learn by jumping into it head first.”

Although the internship involves facilitating learning, Agwamba, a mechanical engineering major, said you don’t need to be an education major to thrive in the position.

Applications for the Design Den Maker Internships are open through Thursday online and run from May 28 through Aug. 9.

“I am looking for people who are passionate, creative and excited to learn,” Clark said. “Most interns spend the summer learning themselves just as much as they are facilitating learning for others. We sew, solder, build and create — the ideal maker intern applicant thinks that sounds like the most fun summer ever. And it is.”