How A Makerspace in Juvenile Hall Helps Young People See Their Value

Unlike many teachers who choose to work in schools because they were good students themselves, Michelle Carlson understands what it’s like to hate school. As a kid she couldn’t see the point of any of the material she was supposed to learn, and working for good grades without a clear reason wasn’t enough to motivate her. She did eventually graduate high school and went to college because her parents told her it was an important way to gain financial independence. She and her sister had to pay their own way, working at coffee shops and carpooling 40 miles each way to school at Chico State.
When she graduated, Carlson started a business, but eventually decided she wanted to help make school different for kids in the next generation. She started working at the Tehama County Office of Education and in her spare time created a makerspace in the office. Teachers can bring their classes into the makerspace and its success has sparked some schools to create their own. Older students can also sign up to become Makerspace Ambassadors, where they spend half their time working on passion projects and half their time creating useful things like promotional posters for local businesses and nonprofit organizations.
‘They get to be human in there. They get to be who they are, and recognized and valued for their humanity.’Michelle CarlsonAll kinds of students signed up for the Ambassador program — some were good students looking to …