Since June, a digital creative playground for teens has been open at the Centennial Library, giving youth access to high powered laptops, cameras, lighting equipment, and other digital media creation tools.
Perhaps surprisingly, the 'digital maker space', as it's called, is being mostly used by home schooled students.
“Technology is maybe a weak spot for home schooling,” said Ali Smith, a mom who home schools her children Ezra, 18, and Ewan, 13, and who both use the space. “Unless you do it for a living you really don’t have the knowledge base or the equipment to teach a lot of technology skills.”
The program is designed for teens of all types but with home schooled kids “it just took off,” said program lead Katie Huckson, who handles day-to-day operations in the space, which is run by Digital Creator North.
Since the program’s launch in June, home school kids have been the most frequent users said Huckson.
Since opening, the teens have done stop motion animation, storyboarding, filming, editing, used a green screen, worked with Photoshop, meme-making, and have completed three weeks of courses on manual digital photography.
“Sometimes they come in just to play Xbox,” said Huckson.
The home school teens come in regularly every Friday for two hours.
It’s not just a way to get access to technology, but a way for them to socialize.
Most of the children have their individual home classes and curriculum but they also participate in outside-of-home activities like the digital maker lab sessions.
These are usually organzied through the MESS (Moms, Education, Support, and Socialization) home schooled Facebook group.
“It gives them access to equipment we don't have,” said mom Candace Withers, whose son Issaac Withers, 14, uses the space. “The program is wonderful. I’m not computer literate and (the program) teaches them things we couldn’t.”
The home schooled kids eat up all the digital toys and time they get to hang out with each other.
“We don’t have that much social interaction besides this,” said Isaac Withers, an only child, “which is good in some way so we don’t get sick of each other too much. It’s great for us homeschoolers to interact with each other.”
Withers especially enjoys playing Xbox and Monopoly.
Using the space, Sydney Hopkins, 12, learned a lot about digital photography recently.
“I never used Photoshop before,” said Hopkins who also recently learned about aperture, ISO, and other manual camera functions. “I didn’t know about any of this stuff until three weeks ago. It’s actually very complicated but once you understand it, it’s fun and easy to use.”
Next up for the home schooled children are workshops on blogging and they’ll be using their new photography skills to create a home school yearbook for all the youth in the MESS group.
Huckson said the space is open to all teens, not just ones that are home schooled.
The space is open Mon. - Thur., 3-9 p.m., Fri., 1:30-5:30 p.m., and Sat. 12-4 p.m.
From Oct. 16-21, for Ontario Public Library week, Digital Creator North is putting on a teen photo contest with prizes.
They are looking for photos taken in and around one of the public libraries and teens are encouraged to come in and the digital maker space's equipment and they can also use their own.
More information can be found here.