Menlo Upper School students present their work at the Bay Area Makers Faire. Photo courtesy of Marc Allard on Menlo School Flickr.
By Kate Jeffries
One of Menlo Upper School’s most anticipated, annual events in the week prior to finals is the Menlo Maker Fest. Each year since I have been in the Upper School, we have had a special schedule in order to accommodate this event, forcing students to take an hour out of their day, the Friday before final exams, to attend the Maker Fest. Now, I know I might be sounding as if I am against the Maker Fest as a whole, but that is not my concern with the event. My concern is that Menlo prioritizes their STEM events while giving little attention to arts and humanities events, the Maker Fest being just one example of this.
To be clear, I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the Menlo Maker Fest in any way. I personally love to explore the tables on the quad each year and view all the different projects students spent a large amount of time and effort to create. However, I do think that there is a fundamental issue in the fact that the Maker Fest receives dedicated school time, required attendance and lots of publicity that arts and humanities events do not.
For example, when I took photography last year we produced lots of work that took weeks to create, shoot and edit. However, our exhibit was forced to be held late after school hours and was not publicized by Menlo. Thus, the attendance rate was much lower.
In addition, other Menlo arts groups such as the choir, orchestra and jazz band all put on wonderful performances that they worked very hard to create throughout the course of the year. Yet, these groups’ performances are limited to lunch-time shows, that are hardly advertised outside of the weekly Student Announcements emails, and shows outside of school hours when many students are preoccupied and unable to attend. Furthermore, both the moviemaking and AP art classes were forced to hold their end of the year events on the weekend as well.
The same is true for humanities events. While Writers Week is mentioned in the Student Planner, the schedule still fails to reserve any time in addition to lunch during school hours for all the speakers and performances throughout the week.
At the end of the day, I don’t think that we should remove the Maker Fest completely, but I do think that Menlo should rethink how to distribute time to every interest on campus. If Menlo put equal emphasis on each discipline, we would not have the issue of some areas of study receiving more recognition and time than others. Ultimately, Menlo should choose to either provide all fields of study with school hours to present their hard work or they should reserve these events to be solely outside of school and lunchtime occurrences.