Junior Lab Berlin



During the Easter holidays, Sven Ehmann (@se_etc) organized an incredible camp for kids to tinker with technology called Junior Lab..

Over the course of several days, young people were first introduced to software, hardware and the web.

Then they chose from a theme (Mutant Heroes, Musical Instruments, and Fashion Accessories) and made projects using 3D printers, Arduinos, wearables, and more.

Sven kindly invited me to run several workshops about the web. I decided to teach search and credibility, so that participants had some deeper familiarity with finding good online resources that they could use later in the week.

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I used the Kraken the Code activity from the Mozilla Clubs curriculum originally developed by MOUSE. Thank to MOUSE’s generosity in sharing their curriculum, I could easily localize it into German.

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To localize and adapt Kraken the Code to the workshop, here’s what I changed:

  • In German, “Kraken” means octopus and not so many people are familiar with the kraken legend. Instead, I remixed the activity to be about unicorns. Meredith from MOUSE pointed me to a great resource for more cryptozoology ideas.
  • At the beginning of the workshop, I did a spectrogram, asking first if they thought unicorns were real. Then I asked whether the truth can be found online.
  • Younger kids loved talking about unicorns, but the older ones weren’t so keen. So for them, I asked each participant to say something they’re not sure if exists or not, for example aliens or parallel universes. By having the students suggest their own topic, they were more invested in the results.
  • Each group was of a different age. The younger kids (8-11) had a hard time using the printed worksheets and sometimes even using the computer properly. With help, they still managed and taught each other, but it was a stretch. On the other hand, the activity was perfect for 12-14 year olds. They used the worksheet really well and could reflect easily on what to trust and why online.
  • It always helps to have some ambient making activities available. Many kids came to the workshop early, and to bridge the time until we started, I had them draw robots and stick on googly eyes. It helps to have some fun craft activity at hand for such time gaps.
“A unicorn is simply a nag with a horn on its forehead.” — Participant

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I enjoyed running the workshop and was greatly indebted to Sven and Juliana for helping facilitate. If I were to do it next time, I might try the Hack Your News or Story of Us activity and have the students make a digital story about what they’re making at Junior Lab.

It was really beautiful to see Junior Lab in action. It’s something Berlin greatly needs, and I hope it continues and grows!

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