If you attend this year’s fourth annual Martha’s Vineyard Mini Maker Faire on May 11, you’ll get a chance to see Sidney Morris’s two remarkable vehicles, the Wanderbus and the Dream Wagon.
The idea of a Wanderbus was Morris’ brainchild. In 2017, he initiated this “wandering” bus to carry children on adventures that they dream up. “It was about taking the kids’ ideas and just going, the concept being that to experience the community, you have to go into it,” Morris explained. “It was about a half-dozen kids ranging in age from 5 to 11, who were too young for elementary school, were just not fitting in, or who were playing hooky for a day.”
Morris said that he had an idea that the group could use the Island libraries as bus stops, a place to meet and to make decisions about where to wander.
“We started meeting at the West Tisbury library and putting ideas up on a whiteboard, and then they would vote, negotiate, come to consensus, and then we’d go do it,” Morris said. “They wanted to go to a glass-blowing studio, a lot of conservation places, Crane Appliance to look at the machines, and Not Your Sugar Mamas to make chocolate and bread. That was a really great trip. It was a pretty wide range of things the kids had in mind that they wanted to do, whether it was into stores or wildlife preserves.”
For Morris, the Wanderbus relates to the concept of “unschooling” or self-regulated learning, which doesn’t follow a curriculum but is rather driven by children’s own interests and facilitated by their parents or other adults doing the same thing, fueled by the democratic process.
About a year later, Morris asked himself, “‘Why don’t we make a mobile makerspace that we can tow behind the Wanderbus so wherever we go, there is always this other thing people can do?’” He dubbed it a Dream Wagon, which is a makerspace trailer towed behind the Wanderbus, quite literally an add-on. As Morris said, “It is a gallery of imagination headed for creation with whiteboards and markers everywhere.” This open-air mobile design studio invites children and adults alike to add their own inventive ideas on how to map out a makerspace trailer. In essence, it uses the mock-up trailer as a canvas for the real thing.
Morris defines a makerspace as a location, fixed or mobile, with a collection of tools and materials that are available for people to make things themselves, to teach others how to make things, and to learn how to make things of any variety. “So,” he shared, “I got a little trailer and started putting in scraps of wood from here and there, and invited a bunch of kids from the Wanderbus to come and help me build a very simple framework for it.”
“We worked feverishly for the next few days, and we almost made it in time for the Maker Faire last year, but we didn’t quite make it. So I took it to the Ag Fair for four days and collected people’s input, and to the Aquinnah library one time. It’s been waiting for this year’s Maker Faire. We’ll get a bunch of kids who were building it to be the masters of ceremonies, and encourage other people to come and talk about, draw about, and think about what could be in a makerspace,” Morris explained.
Morris will pull his Wanderbus and accompanying Dream Wagon right up to the Ag Hall. Both adults and kids will be welcomed into the trailer to add their design ideas on giant sheets of whiteboard. In addition, there will be tools and materials for those inclined to start making things right away.
“I think the maker movement is a tangent of this whole notion that we’re born learners; we’re born being creative, and we need to support those things above all right now, given that everything is changing minute by minute in the world. Creativity, flexibility, communication, cooperation, those are the things that need to work for us to survive,” he adds.
Martha’s Vineyard Mini Maker Faire, Saturday, May 11, from 10 am to 4 pm at the Ag Hall will be a free, family-friendly festival of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness in celebration of the maker movement. The Wanderbus and the Dream Wagon are projects of Vineyard Voyagers Inc., an educational nonprofit serving Island young people since 2000. For more information, contact Sidney Morris at 774-563-0200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.