Davidson takes the maker movement philosophy to the next level
The maker movement continues to sweep the world, reshaping the face of modern manufacturing, recycling, and sustainability. A technologically advanced take on the DIY model of creating things, the maker movement (also called the New Industrial Revolution) promotes the idea that everyone can learn how to make their own products and find ways to repurpose used materials—a credo that has been heartily embraced and now elevated to a higher level by the Davidson Institute of Science Education, the science literacy arm of the Weizmann Institute.
With digital fabrication tools like 3D printers and laser cutters becoming increasingly accessible to the general public— machinery that historically only cutters becoming increasingly accessible to the general public— machinery that historically only their artisanal spirit to construct their own creations. This DIY approach is further fueled by today’s emphasis on promoting sustainability and reclaiming used items, rather than purchasing new products.
All hands on deck
Classroom teachers have also started adopting this hands-on approach, incorporating more project-based learning into their curriculum. In 2018, building on the philosophy of the maker movement, the Davidson Institute launched the Make Science program. In this weekly afterschool activity on the Davidson campus, students of all ages and levels (i.e. the “science makers”) are invited to explore science topics via the use of a wide variety of tools, designing their own learning experiences and products while understanding firsthand the connection between scientific concepts and their creative applications.
This past year, for example, participants studied the chemistry of crystals, using design software and 3D printers to fashion functional lamps out of borax crystals; in another project, they experimented with scientific protocols to make different types of slime. In this way, Davidson students are exposed to multiple areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and actively experience how these disciplines intersect and benefit one another.
“By providing a combination of a chemical laboratory, classic carpentry equipment, and an advanced technological workshop, the Make Science initiative offers a kind of science ‘playground’ for children,” says program director Michal Bahat. “It is full of surprises and endless creative possibilities, which not only teaches students how to design and invent, but also shows them that science can be fun, informative, relevant, and empowering.”
Dimensions of growth
The Make Science team recently expanded the program beyond the Rehovot campus, taking weekly trips about an hour drive south to work with 8th and 9th grade students in the city of Ofakim, an underserved population which greatly benefits from such exposure to quality science education Committed to reaching other regions in Israel’s periphery as well, the Davidson Institute now plans to launch Make Science programs in Netivot (just north of Ofakim) as well as in communities along the Gaza border.
Back on campus, Davidson is preparing to further incorporate the Make Science philosophy into a variety of other educational programs. To ensure everyone can enjoy this innovative approach, a Makers Lab is in the works, and will be housed in the main building of the Clore Garden of Science—the Weizmann Institute’s landmark open-air science museum currently under extensive renovation.
Once completed, this lab will be equipped with sophisticated machinery—such as laser cutters, 3D printers, centrifuges, and more—and will adjoin the Clore Garden’s culinary and multidisciplinary labs. These unique experimental spaces are being constructed in close proximity to each other to encourage a dynamic interplay between their scientific projects, offering participants of Davidson programs an even wider range of options for science exploration, discovery, and delight.