We began a very condensed version of 'Intro to Tinkering' workshop with Talents center staff yesterday by introducing two tinkering activities that will be part of the Science Festival. Over the next month, some of our tinkering studio™ team from the Exploratorium will be co-facilitating with Talents staff sharing hints and tips and reflecting on our collective experience with these activities.
We choose two of our core tinkering activities ~ circuit boards and scribbling machines ~ as a starting point for learning about tinkering as a philosophy and discussed how we might help people develop a tinkering disposition as they do more and more of these kinds of activities. Drawing on direct experience with the materials made for interesting discussion. Talents staff were quick to point out that it can be tricky to be both a learner and simultaneously have to consider how you would facilitate something like this with a visitor to the festival. This will be our focus over the next several weeks as we all get a chance to practice and further develop facilitation skills while getting to know the activities better as well.
Comments from the discussion I enjoyed hearing related nicely to the design principles we've developed for the tinkering studio™:
"It felt very collaborative and I found myself learning from others. Everyone was very helpful to everyone, offering ideas or suggestions."
"It was different because rather than having the teacher dictating what to you do next, we were given further materials and offered an opportunity to do more and more complicated things."
"It felt for me as if my brain was being rewired a little bit, because things that I thought I understood about circuits were not quite right, now I truly understand them after having worked with the materials."
"In the beginning it was hard to know what to do, because you could do anything. Eventually you came up with an idea and that kept you going because you would change many things as you went along."
There was a great deal of discussion around perceived differences between variables dealing with scientific ideas and those that many considered more design or artistic type ideas. The need for iteration was mentioned as well. I enjoyed this part of the conversation quite a bit since I think tinkering as an approach blurs the boundaries between traditional disciplines like art and science, but also throws in a few unexpected things like playfulness and whimsy.
Observations specific to design and construction of scribbling machines were: