KID Museum’s Maker Educators are highly-trained and extremely busy — they develop innovative new programs and workshops, teach the school groups that come in every day, and design and facilitate camps, after-school programs, and weekend activities. They serve as mentors to our high school apprentices and our high school coding corps, and as inspiration to the thousands of children and families that visit KID Museum each year.
Amanda Puerto Thorne
1. Where are you from?
I was born in New York City and lived there until I was 10 when my family moved to Ridgewood, NJ.
2. Do you have a favorite workshop or program you helped develop?
3. Are there any workshops coming up that you’re excited about?
I am currently developing a few family workshops, which are always really fun. It’s completely different to think about how families work together, and design experiences that will allow for family learning. With families, you have a little bit more freedom in terms of material and tool choices, since there’s a grownup with every kid who can help out. You also need to keep in mind family dynamics and make sure there are ways for everyone to be included — and, for the kid to be the driver of the experience.
I’m also really excited to start using Scratch 3! The alpha was just released in January and it’s amazing! The final version will be released this summer.
4. What’s something you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
I made an open explore exhibit called Light Art that I think is really cool. It’s a very open-ended activity where visitors can experiment with mixing light, color, and shadow. It’s REALLY fun for learners of all ages and there are so many connections that a skilled facilitator can draw to the real world.
5. Do you have a preferred method of prototyping?
Short answer: The thumbless method.
Long answer: When I’m prototyping projects for early learners, I have to keep in mind that young children are still developing their fine motor skills and things like cutting, taping, and writing are much more challenging for them. I often test out whether my project ideas will work for small hands by trying to complete the project without using my thumbs. Obviously, it’s not a perfect comparison because most little kids do have thumbs, but it gives me a good baseline to think about what little hands can do. Little kids are still working on managing feelings like frustration, so finding the easiest way to do something helps to mitigate some of those feelings. I teach them a way of doing things that has a high chance of success.
6. What’s one of your favorite inventions?
Definitely gears. GEARS ARE SO COOL! I’m really into mechanisms, especially automata and kinetic sculpture that work in interesting ways.
7. Why did you decide to go into education, or specifically, maker education?
I’ve known forever that I wanted to work with kids. When I was younger I always just assumed I would be a classroom teacher. I came to the world of making (specifically, robotics and programming) kind of by accident, through my job in a research lab at Tufts University, where I received a degree in Child Development. I remember the specific “AHA” moment when I realized this was what I wanted to be doing. An amazing professor came to talk to my intro Child Development class about her research involving teaching young children to code. After hearing her lecture, I immediately emailed her to set up a meeting, got a job in her lab, and I’ve been hooked ever since!
8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from a teacher?
“This is hard, you’re not supposed to be good at it yet.”
9. What is your favorite snack for maker energy?
Cheetos are a very important and much coveted snack here at KID, but you also need to have a napkin handy or all of your projects will be a little bit orange. You may also find us eating Hint of Lime Tostitos, cheese sticks, and clementines.
10. Do you have a favorite thing you do outside of KID?
Taking care of my plants (I’m a total plant geek and have over 75 potted plants in my small 1-bedroom apartment), hiking with my husband and our pink pitbull Rosie, singing with the Choral Arts Society of Washington, and going to the opera at the Kennedy Center.