The Tinkering Fundamentals course will offer educators and enthusiasts an opportunity to develop a practice of tinkering and making. We see tinkering as a serious endeavor—one that is generalizable across content and especially good at interweaving disciplines in a way that leads to complex projects and individualized learning opportunities. Tinkering has recently been introduced into the educational field as a potential driver of creativity, excitement, and innovation in science learning. It is seen by many as an effective means to engage in exploring STEM concepts, practices and phenomena. Tinkering typically blends the high and low tech tools of science along with a strong aesthetic dimension that supports children’s (and adults) self expression.
For over a decade, the Exploratorium has been developing science-rich tinkering activities for both children and adults. We see tinkering as a fun yet serious endeavor—spanning many disciplines and content areas and fostering connections between art, science, and technology. Learners follow their own path to understanding by investigating tools and materials and exploring questions that interest them. This opens up a wide range of possible answers rather than any “right” one, particularly for teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects in the classroom. This course centers on circuit-related activities, which offer a wealth of opportunities for thinking through making.
In this course, we won’t just show you how we develop tinkering activities; we’ll also delve into why. We’ll focus on three important aspects: activity design around specific materials, facilitation strategies, and environmental organization. We’ll also share some guiding principles and learning indicators we’ve developed that can help you integrate tinkering into your elementary and middle-school science program. Whether you’re new to making or a seasoned tinkerer, we hope this course will help you take the next step!
OUR APPROACH TO TEACHING
This is a hands-on workshop, not a lecture-based class. Participation is essential! We want everyone to be making and tinkering together: trying things out, asking questions, sharing ideas, and reflecting together as a community. This is a wonderful chance to tinker and learn alongside people from all over the world and from all walks of life, so don’t be shy!
PLEASE NOTE: Although this course will not have active instructor participation, we have put a great deal of effort towards creating a supportive space that encourages exploration. We’ll give you a few ways to get started; prompt you to share your own observations and experience as learners, designers and facilitators; and hopefully spark interesting conversations and discoveries along the way. While it’s not a requirement, we encourage you to take this class with a friend or colleague or meet with other people in your area: having support or doing activities with others will enhance your experience and help you stay engaged.
REQUIRED COURSE MATERIALS
You will need several tools and materials to do weekly course activities. Pre-bundled materials are available from the Exploratorium store at www.artoftinkering.com. Please obtain all materials as soon as possible, well in advance of when you will need them in the course. Be sure to allow extra time for shipping and, if you are outside the U.S., for customs. In some cases, certain items may require assembly. Please refer to the Resources section to review this course’s activity guides.
Introduction to Tinkering What is tinkering? What does it mean to you? Is it different from engineering or other forms of making? We'll explore these questions in the readings and forums while getting a sneak preview of the activities we'll be sharing over the following modules.
Initial Explorations Tinkering is all about making, so let's get started. In this module we begin with a basic circuit board activity, which helps learners make physical and conceptual connections between electrical components. You will learn how to build your own set to play with and why we designed it this way.
Learning Dimensions In this module, we'll explore erratic motion and art-making with an activity called Scribbling Machines. We'll also investigate how tinkering maps on to different indicators of learning.
Tinkering Tenets and Personal Expression We'll explore the aesthetic dimensions of tinkering with a full rundown of our Paper Circuits and Sewn Circuits activities, including key design elements and important principles.
Coding, Computation and Facilitation Strategies A look at the high-tech side of tinkering. In this module, we'll also explore strategies for facilitation and deep engagement.
Putting It All Together It's your turn! How will you take what you've learned in this class and apply it to your own life and practice? We'll help you come up with a detailed action plan and get feedback from other students in the class. By the end of this module you'll complete your project, your peer assessments and review other people's work.
Mike Petrich, Karen Wilkinson, Luigi Anzivino and Bronwyn Bevan