As adults we are always looking for more time aren’t we. Yet, school breaks sometimes leave our kids with more time than they know what to do with. Let’s find ways to give our kids a fun break from school…and at the same time keep their minds active in productive ways.

Mentors & Makers Spring Break experiences are just the right balance of great creative fun and continues stretching of young minds. We’ll be using our unique mentor based model for kids camps, limiting the ratio to 3-4 students per peer mentor. The mentor will spend some time formally teaching the group background information and techniques. But, the bulk of the time will be spent working together on projects. Campers will learn more in this environment and they’ll explore further.

There are three one-day camps to choose from for Spring Break at Mentors & Makers: woodworking, laser cutter, and leather working. Click here to sign up.

What makes the mentor model different?

  • small-group learning is fundamentally different from large-group learning
  • some things cannot be learned without “doing”
  • having immediate feedback and correction accelerates learning

Small Group

Most of us have been groomed by a formal educational system geared at processing a large number of students using  the fewest possible resources.  Compulsory education in the United States has certainly been integral in our rise to position as world leader. But, every past generation has  appreciated that there is far more required than what can be taught in a formal setting. Our present generation of parents search diligently for those out-of-school experiences to enhance childhood, each aiming to propel our kids to the front of the pack. Some focus on sports, some on academics. The opportunities available to  this present generation of children are unprecedented. However, the big-group high-throughput model persists even there. Why? Obviously, because most of us cannot afford the one-on-one or small-group educational experiences. We know that our kids will learn faster when they receive individualized attention from the instructor. We know that a large group can only progress as fast as the slowest student. We know that a tighter reign has to be applied in a large group.

A mentor model is fundamentally different from the large group model. However, it is also fundamentally different from the teacher/classroom model. A mentor has content specific knowledge, just like a teacher. They may also employ some similar pedagogical tools to present background information. However, the relationship fosters an environment not afforded elsewhere. The person being mentored inherently feels more valued as an individual. The mentor motives are perceived to be less about a job and more about an investment between trusted parties.

Project Based Learning

The mentor model is akin to the apprentice model that still drives the licensing in many professions. Some knowledge simply cannot be gained without “doing.” If a picture is worth a thousand words, then on-the-job training is worth volumes. In fact, it is worth entire libraries. Otherwise, we would forego the apprenticeships, the resident programs, the internships altogether and send candidates to the library for a few years. It’s a preposterous proposal. Yet, that’s what our primary and secondary education has devolved to.  Over recent decades, project-based learning is making a comeback in many creative disciplines. Students report having a lot more fun in these environments while their mastery of content is also raised. Why? Because kids fundamentally like to learn and achieve new heights. As learning and accomplishment is accelerated, kids have more fun!

Immediate Feedback Accelerates Learning

Remember taking math quizzes in school? Some facts you got right and some you didn’t know. Now, imagine not getting the quiz results until months later. While waiting for the results, you continue to reinforce whatever errors may have in your facts table. By the end of wait you have repeatedly made the same mistake over and over, always believing it to be correct. Clearly, you’re going to develop some bad habits. That’s why quick feedback and correction is integral to the educational process. Homework assignments simply have to be graded and returned Before the test. How else can you learn from your mistakes! The mentor model at Mentors & Makers provides the solution in spades. Under close supervision, students won’t reinforce bad habits. The mentor will be there to help them evolve their techniques rapidly. “Practice” only forms habits. “Good Practice” makes perfect.

We hope your kids get to experience our mentor model over spring break. If not, keep an eye out for weekend workshops and summer camps. A break from school does not mean having to break from learning. Learning new skills IS fun!

 

I'm the manager of Mentors & Makers. That's not the most important thing about me, but the first concern that most visitors to this website have. Though I have a Ph.D in mechanical engineering, I don't fit well within many of the related stereotypes. I'm passionate about people, education, creativity, and God...not in any particular order. Mentors & Makers evolved from my long time investment in technology-based youth-mentoring programs. Specifically, I'm president of Brazos Robotics. Over the last two decades, we've experimented with a lot of programs, variations, and implementations. Mentors & Makers is the latest attempt to increase the impact that our investments have on the next generation.