Monday, February 19, 2018

My MakerFestival Family

Happy Family Day everyone! Today I'm feasting on a buffet lunch at a favourite restaurant with my husband, son, and daughter. For the majority of this weekend, however, I've spent it with another group of wonderful people that I enjoy spending time with - my "Maker Festival family".

I didn't get permission from them to post their faces on my blog, so you'll have to be content with some of the more "artsy" photographs. This is a shot of my Maker Festival peeps hiking along the Bruce Trail.

Maker Festival Toronto "is a celebration of Toronto's tech, DIY, and maker communities" (see and our big event is our annual Extravaganza, held at the Toronto Reference Library. It takes a lot of planning and organizing to make it happen. The "core team" of volunteers met for a retreat peppered with meetings this past weekend at a picturesque farm near Walters Falls, Ontario. Why bother travelling two-and-a-half hours north for a series of planning sessions? It was much more than that. 

Never underestimate the importance of bonding as a team. I know it can be trendy to mock those "team-building exercises" that corporations force their employees to attend, but learning about the other people you plan to collaborate with can be a powerful and positive source of energy and motivation.  We all chose to devote our time this weekend to being present and it makes a huge difference. All work and no play makes Maker Festival a dull team, so we did plenty of both. Away from the regular distractions of our lives in a new location, we had fun indoors and outdoors.

In addition to the hiking along the Bruce Trail, we went tobogganing on the property and also made a snow dinosaur sculpture together. 

It was a great opportunity to try new things, take risks, fail and reattempt, and creatively solve problems. For instance, Vicki decided that our dinosaur looked like it would be fun to ride. It's hard to tell in the photo above, but this snow creature is pretty tall. The first try at riding it didn't go so well.

We modified our snow beast with foot holds and other members gave Vicki a boost - and she was successful! This was analogous to the activities we attempt for Maker Festival Toronto. As Eric said during one of our talk times (and I'm paraphrasing here), "If we don't fail in at least one thing we try, we aren't trying boldly enough".

Our indoor times together also served multiple purposes. We had a storytelling evening, where the quality of listening was unparalleled, and the sharing personal and riveting. We played games, such as "The Thing from the Future", which got our creative juices flowing.

We also talked business. We shared our "whys" - the reasons for volunteering with this organization. We used the World Café brainstorm technique, as well as the Unconference model, to consider what might seem outlandish ideas or new directions or best practices. This is not a "sit on your laurels" sort of event. The wonderful thing about these sessions was that we are an eclectic, diverse group of people from different backgrounds (i.e. I'm the only teacher in the group), and everyone's voice was heard and acknowledged.

It wasn't easy to sacrifice a large portion of a long weekend to leave my family behind, but I'm so glad I attended this retreat. (Sorry Sophie and Melissa that illness kept you away; you missed a great time.) Thank you Eric, Jen, Andrew, Paul, Tom, David, Nathan, Jounghwa, and Vicki for making our Maker Festival planning retreat a memorable and rewarding experience

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