This is one in a series of blog posts about our current Tinkering Studio projects and initiatives shared at the Exploratorium's 2022 Trade Show.
What does it mean to learn through play? We've been exploring what playful learning looks like in different settings, from the kitchen table to the museum floor. Recently, we've been working to adapt some of the tinkering activities we developed during the pandemic into more robust experiences for museum settings. Here's a little background on how we've been thinking about learning through play in both home and museum settings.
Tinkering’s active approach to learning about the world lends itself to being extended to the home and other informal environments, where there are many opportunities to practice thinking with your hands. With this in mind, we developed a collection of open-ended invitations to tinker with everyday materials around a series of themes (one of my personal favorites was exploring balance). People of all ages from all around the world tried out these invitations from their own spaces and shared about them on social media as part of Tinkering at Home.
Learning Through Play network
Building on the online invitations that we developed for Tinkering at Home, we're exploring what it means to 'learn through play' in a science center, and so are other science centers across the United States.
To start, we're developing new Unfacilitated Tinkering Experiences (UFTEs) for the museum floor that invite visitors to investigate a phenomenon in an open-ended, collaborative, and joyful way. We've been doing this work in collaboration with Ryan Jenkins of Wonderful Idea Company (check out his documentation of his residency with us for more). It's been an opportunity for us to collaborate with other teams at the Exploratorium too, like the Explainer group and Exhibit Developers.
How are UFTEs different than other museum exhibits?
When we design UFTEs, we try to create a playground, or exploration space, that supports visitors in expressing and sharing their own ideas around a science phenomenon. UFTEs can use looser parts than exhibits, meaning they may require some tending or materials organization throughout the day. They also support a variety of different outcomes rather than trying to demonstrate a single concept. And they're a chance to practice light facilitation, but don't rely on having a facilitator to welcome you into the space and support you along the way.
We've been working alongside exhibit developers Jessica Strick and Sam Haynor to develop UFTEs and exhibits around these themes. This is a stacking experience that Sam is testing out!
Since we don't have facilitators for these experiences, how can we design the materials and environment to invite creative risk-taking, collaboration, and open-ended exploration?
Prototyping and testing out these experiences with museum visitors has been a major part of our process as we continue to iterate on the material sets, prompts, and environments.
We're currently developing unfacilitated tinkering experiences focused around exploring balance, sound automata, ramps and rollers, and shadow remixes. We'll continue to share updates around what learning through play looks like in these four areas, and also how it extends to other phenomena as we continue to expand and develop UFTEs.
The LEGO Playful Learning Museum Network initiative is made possible through generous support from the LEGO Group.
Unfacilitated tinkering experiences are being developed in collaboration with Ryan Jenkins from Wonderful Idea Co.
Thank you to the High School Explainers team at the Exploratorium.