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Mixing a classic Exploratorium activity with OctoStudio under the Brazilian sun

Learners in Brazil tinker with OctoStudio
A group gathering in a creative learning setting

Recently, I had the opportunity to connect once more with Brazil's educational community at a conference hosted by RBAC, an organization known for its work focused on creative learning across the country. The dedication, thoughtfulness, and ingenuity of Brazilian educators never fail to impress me, and I was eager to reconnect and explore collaborative learning with this network.


A spinning kaleidoscopic image

In the days leading up to my visit to the University of Sao Joao Del Rei in Brazil, I found myself captivated by a topic that has always intrigued me: kaleidoscopes as an investigation of mirror symmetry (inspiration came from our collaborators at LEGO Playful Museum Network). Deciding to take a risk, I decided to cook up an interactive workshop that I had never attempted before: combining physical kaleidoscopes with the digital OctoStudio coding platform (building on a piece by my TS teammate Ryoko, featured at the top of our Symmetry and Mirrors page). Although it would have been a safer choice to present something familiar to a large group of 200 participants in an unknown setting, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try something I truly felt excited about. And besides that, adhering to one of our prototyping principles – creating new activities by merging a classic exploratorium activity with a fresh material – has always brought new insights and discoveries.


I had doubts about fully committing to this idea with so many participants in a foreign environment. However, I reached out to a fantastic Brazilian collaborator, Nathan Rabinovitch, whose enthusiasm for the plan gave me the push I needed and convinced me to give it a try. We set out on a journey to introduce a new digital tool to a classic Tinkering Studio mirror activity. The result? More than 100 educators exploring Kaleidos-Code with a lot of joy, excitement, often confusion, and most of all a sense of discovering and sense-making together.


An OctoStudio project featuring a parrot

A moving parrot project made in OctoStudio


A personal project made with OctoStudio
A kaleidoscope leaves project made in OctoStudio

Armed with just two mirrors and their cell phones, participants delved into experimenting with mirrors and patterns, using code to animate kaleidoscopic patterns created from sprites, photos of their surroundings, or hand-made drawings. The sharing of their unique creations among participants felt seamless and added an extra layer of collaborative learning to the workshop. 

Learners drawing at a table

At the physical kaleidoscope stations that Nathan had created inspired by a prototype from the Exploratorium, participants were playfully learning about mirror placement, rotational symmetries, and reflections, punctuated by moments of exchanging observations and celebration.

A highlight of our workshop design was the blend of fast-paced, fleeting in nature digital engagement with the familiar, slow-paced pen-drawing interactions at the traditional kaleidoscope stations. It was easy to see that inquiry-based learning thrives in environments with diverse resources, technologies, and modes of interaction.


As Nathan and I together with the conference participants navigated this uncharted territory, I was also reminded of the value of taking risks, trusting learners, and giving them agency to be partners in designing their own learning experience. By providing  these opportunities, we not only expand our own horizons as educators and learners but also refine and improve the activities and technologies we design.