Sonoma County proponents of maker movement lauded at White House

The build-it-yourself maker movement, which has deep roots in Sonoma County, was recognized at the White House Friday, with local education leaders among those honored.|

The build-it-yourself maker movement, which has deep roots in Sonoma County, was recognized at the White House on Friday, with leaders from the Sonoma County Office of Education and Sonoma State University among the guests of honor.

Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Steve Herrington, Sonoma State University Dean of the School of Education Carlos Ayala and SSU associate education professor Jessica Parker were among 100 guests at Friday’s event, which kicked off the second ?annual National Week of Making.

“It’s very exciting,” said Ayala, speaking by cellphone from Washington D.C. “It’s nice to be at the center of (the maker movement) in some ways as we see it spread across the nation.”

Ayala, Herrington and Parker had been invited in recognition of a new maker certificate program that SSU and the Sonoma County Office of Education, or SCOE, developed together and rolled out this year.

The 50-hour program teaches the hands-on, innovative concepts associated with the maker movement and gives educators ideas how to include maker activities in their science, math, engineering, arts and technology curriculum.

The maker movement emphasizes learning-by-doing in a social environment and encourages anyone from budding engineers to casual tinkerers to try their hands at building something useful. Maker classes and festivals have encouraged children and adults to tackle projects in robotics, woodworking, electronics and other areas.

Sonoma County’s certificate program isn’t just for teachers. Principals, librarians, parents, students and members of the public interested in starting a maker program can take the course.

The program is just one of a number of countywide efforts to include maker activities in local education, said Mickey Porter, deputy superintendent at SCOE.

On Friday, SCOE wrapped up a weeklong training for a select group of Sonoma County teachers interested in integrating maker concepts into their classrooms. Over the course of the week, teachers worked in a maker space at SCOE, crafting ?inventions that they plan-ned to use in their curriculum.

A third-grade teacher created an interactive model of a local watershed that could later be compared to images like Geographic Information Systems maps, said Dan Blake, director of innovation at SCOE.

A high school teacher took apart a VCR and ?converted it into a motorized vehicle, which he planned to use as a companion to teaching the science fiction novel “Ender’s Game.”

Parker said the maker certificate program hasn’t just caught the eye of White House officials. Since it launched in the fall, she has been getting inquiries about it from around the country.

Other California State University campuses are interested in adopting similar programs, and SSU plans to hold a conference on the subject in the fall, Ayala said.

Parker and Porter said the effort to integrate the maker movement into education began a few years ago when an Analy High School teacher, Casey Shea, took note of Sebastopol resident Dale Dougherty’s work creating a magazine for makers and launching the first Maker Faire in 2006. He collaborated with Dougherty to create a class called Project Make and things took off from there.

“It’s quite an honor for us to be recognized at the national level when it all came from a classroom teacher taking a risk,” Porter said. “We’re uniquely poised to become a leader in the nation.”

Staff Writer Jamie Hansen blogs about education at You can reach her at 521-5205 or

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