two students open up a set of tools

On February 28th, middle school students at Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School took part in a Makers Making Change device build, making assistive devices for children with disabilities in the Greater Toronto Area.

“The build event surpassed all of our expectations. [MMC outreach intern] Stephan came in and taught the students so much about the organization, about accessibility, and then gave them incredible hands-on experience by letting them adapt the toys themselves,” says middle school teacher Shira Wolch.

“The students had an absolute blast and learned so much. They talked about the day as a highlight for weeks later. The work they got to take part in really left an impact.”

In all, the students built seven Switch-Adapted Light Spinner Toys, which will be going to schools around the GTA that serve kids with disabilities.

“The program was the perfect balance of education, hands-on learning, and inspiration. Stephan really taught the students that accessibility isn’t as hard as they may have thought. With some open-source 3D printing, and a little bit of time and energy there is so much opportunity to improve the lives of people with disabilities,” explains Shira.

MMC outreach intern Stephan presenting to a class

For Shira, the Makers Making Change mission resonates with her personally as she has a daughter with a disability who uses switch-adapted toys.

“One of our core values at our school is ‘Tikkun Olam,’ which translates to ‘to fix or repair the world.’ This means that social justice is at the heart of much of our learning,” she says. “The students are always interested when we learn about these issues. How could they not be? But giving them the hands-on experience of actually making toys that will give kids access to play was magical. It brought the learning to life in such a tangible way.

“The workshop really met all of the students where they were. Some knew a lot about disability and accessibility, others knew very little, but by the end they all got it. The energy in the room was just electric (pun intended). The students were so proud of their work, and were really excited that actual kids would be playing with them. We really hope to do more work with MMC in the future.”