Trusting children with building materials is a key step in bolstering a child’s identity as an inventor and artist. Whether made of tape, paper or used wrappers transformed into a home, a bridge or something with no name at all, young artists develop a hands-on understanding of balance, weight, volume, three dimensions and permanence. As they construct, students learn about stretching time and as they are in the flow of making important sculptural choices while building, they loose track of their surroundings and can get completely taken over by their creation. This type of involvement strengthens the right and left brain hemispheres.
As spring and summer break approach, Bell art teachers encourage our families to set up a safe tinkering station in your home. Consider starting with simple tools like a tape measure, scrap paper, twisty ties, found objects, masking tape and glue. Later, when students are older, introduce hot glue and an adult monitored–low voltage, hand held drill, screws, nails and a hammer. Contact local carpenters to ask if they have wood scraps you can pick up, save popsicle sticks and corks. Get some sand paper so they can learn how to treat the wood with care before their sculpture is built and painted, or not. Take a walk with your young artist and pick up treasures you find cast off as trash but would make great art.
Consider the new STEAM learning objectives for developing 21st Century learning skills and how a “Maker Station” will help integrate Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. An essay from the 2012 Making Meaning Conference Symposium, CAISE, or Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education noted that these key factors can positively impact tinkerers:
- motivation and persistence
- process, problem solving and learning
- storytelling and sharing
- context and support
Additional concepts described by the makerspace community include
- identity (seeing oneself as someone who uses tools)
- authorship and agency (posing a problem, thinking independently about what to make next)
- digital-physical convergence (content knowledge inherent in many maker activities)
Started in 1967 “to explore how children and adults learn in and through the arts,” Project Zero at Harvard University, has made huge strides in researching the links between cognitive development and hands-on problem solving. They host learning conferences, artists in residence, research and online library of resources. Here are some interesting articles to read regarding their work: Mind/Shift and Project Zero Programs.
The Exploratorium in San Francisco is an interactive museum focusing on tinkering, experimental inquiry, science and experiments. They wrote two engaging books, Explorolab and The Art of Tinkering. Check them out!
Artist, Scott Weaver expresses the joys of tinkering in this informative video.
Many tinkerers have changed the world. Lenoardo DaVinci had volumes of materials he collected in his studio to bend, stretch and nail into a flying machine or robotic knight prototype. Rube Goldberg was multi-talented. He was a cartoonist, engineer and visionary. Who else would try to problem solve how to create a machine that can pull the cotton out of an asprin bottle? Although he did not build his inventions, his drawings show an incredible amount of original thinking. Another brilliant and lesser known group of tinkerers is the French sculptural, husband and wife team, ACM, which stands for Alfred and Marie Corinee. They have been known to fuse together discarded machine parts, fuses, feathers, sticks, sprockets and more. Check them out! We are fascinated with the variety of textures, layering and colors ACM blends together.
We have several videos and websites we suggest to inspire a home of tinkering and building. Remember not to aim for perfection but to allow the process of making, falling apart and restructuring with important building decisions to be the focus. Families who create together can do amazing things.
Sites of interest: Caine’s Arcade, The Tinkering School, Chicago Tinkering School
Locations to purchase cool tinkering materials and learn cool building skills: The Rebuilding Exchange http://rebuildingexchange.org/, The Resource Center of Chicago http://www.resourcecenterchicago.org/, The Waste Shed http://www.thewasteshed.com/ The American Science and Surplus http://www.sciplus.com/ Yard and Garage Sales!!! Your junk drawer Thrift Stores
Please let us know if you create a Tinkering station in your home and share pictures too!