As many of you know, DesignMakePlay is a show produced in house at Zen Maker Lab that has been streaming live weekdays at 8:30am since April, 2020. Launching this show was part of the pivot we had to make as a result of Covid-19. Creating content and live streaming educational programming is how we persevere in a climate where face-to-face after school programs are not always ideal, especially this past Spring.
So what is Zen Maker Lab, and what do we do here? Well, it’s simple really. We are a North Vancouver based learning center positioned at the intersection of business design, and technology. Since 2013 we have provided children and youth across the lower mainland with quality STEAM education meant to inspire. In pursuit of striving for continued excellence, our vision is to empower the next generation of designers, makers, and healthy active citizens.
Every weekday, our team of educators interview a guest on DesignMakePlay, and this past week, we decided to feature some of our staff and instructors who make all of this possible. Hosted by none other than our founder and CEO, Cyri Jones, today’s guests included Ela Khorvash, Zachary Anderson, and Rodney Gilbert; instructors who teach our DesignMakePlay program.
Starting September 22nd, Zen Maker Lab will offer 2-hr online, instructor led, innovative classes for children in Grade 1-3, 4-7 and youth in Grades 8-12 (ten classes per day from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm Tuesdays to Saturdays!). Drop-in classes are available as well for families who find it hard to commit to a full curriculum, or are simply wanting to see what we are all about. Students and their parents can schedule modules they would like to be a part of and partake in each segment in a way that works with their schedule. Classes are divided into two content segments and a "play" break led by one of our athletes so that participants get physical activity as part of the program.
Khorvash, a designer and materials engineer schools children and youth about topics like animation, illustration, design, and fusion 360, a cloud-based software that blends industrial design, mechanical engineering, and machine tool programming into an easy to use tool for the purpose of product development. It was with this tool that Khorvash designed what we now call ZenShields, a face shield model which we manufactured and donated to hospitals in March to help first-responders in their fight against Covid-19.
Anderson, an electrical engineer and instructor focuses on the make aspect of this curriculum. Anderson bridges the gap between design and engineering by conveying ways in which skills cultivated in our design classes transfer to more technical projects like building the LED clock he designed. Anderson does a fantastic job of tying in fundamental concepts related to physics and mathematics while doing so.
Lastly, one of our play instructors Rodney Gilbert is a former NAIA athlete for Mayville State University where two-sport athlete competing in both football and baseball. Gilbert told us in our interview that as a student athlete, he spent his Summers coaching and facilitating Summer camps for children where he would teach them fundamental skills regarding baseball and team-building. He elaborated, stating that play is an aspect of youth development that often gets overlooked. Play is a necessary component to the many factors that help foster healthy brain function in youth. Besides the more obvious benefits like building physical strength and dexterity, play provides children opportunities for mental and emotional growth where they are forced to practice self-control, delay gratification, and use their creativity in a constructive manner. The whole idea behind what we do at Zen Maker Lab is to integrate these important topics of design, make and play in a hands-on, project-based way.
Instructors conduct small pods of four to six students here at the maker lab and stream that class for other students remotely. Other pods that want to learn at a distance in their own conglomerates can use the supplies we provide and interact with our instructors whenever they have questions. “It's brilliant, and pretty innovative” Anderson told DesignMakePlay, “I can't really think of anything else like this, this blended mix of virtual and online learning, but from what I can tell, I haven't seen many institutions doing this combination of local face to face learning pods in concert with virtual hubs around the world”. Internationally, we have a group of fifth grade students in Colombia and are set to have another faction in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Atlanta, Georgia. By the end of the four-week program, participants will have a firm grasp in relation to concepts concerning electronics, coding, design, physical literacy, measurement and data visualization, calligraphy, aeronautical engineering, and many other STEAM related areas of focus.
We highly encourage employers reading this to examine our Employer Program for assisting employees working remotely at home. Through this program, employers can purchase credits for our daily drop-in STEAM classes, learning pods, and other offerings that can help their employees cope with the increased demands of trying to entertain and educate their children while holding down their jobs. If like us, you are passionate about making learning affordable and real for future generations, our programs are perfect for you.