This is a guest post from our summer intern Nomar!
Learning to sharpen your use of communication is something that is ever-growing. Every new experience we have with communication provides a new context in which you can use it in a different way. Prior to my experiences with the Tinkering Studio, the only interactions that I have had in working with groups of children was in a more instructional environment rather than an explorative one. One thing that has become very apparent to me is that it is one thing to be able to turn ideas and concepts into words that someone else can chew on and it is another thing to cultivate someone’s curiosity. The cultivation of thought differs from the feeding of information as it doesn’t have a teacher nor a student but instead a curious mind and its patron.
The cultivation of thought is a narrow sweet spot in the spectrum of balancing communication and space that is specific to each person. Some people learn very well when they are given information to memorize and books to study, but not everyone fits that mold. This then alters the concept of learning for people who learn differently as they start to feel like they’re “not good at learning”. People tend to forget that creativity and asking questions is a part of learning just as much as reading a biography is. But finding this sweet spot as a facilitator is indeed very challenging. I often times see parents forget to give their child space and authority to guide a learning experience because they quickly turn to shifting their attention to what they’re “supposed to see” rather then just letting them find out. Sometimes, our biases and urges to correct others get in our way of letting things happen. A helpful mindset to have when in this position is the beginner’s mindset.
As a facilitator for exploration, it is good to approach every new person with a receptive mind to get an idea of what that person needs in order to have an enriching experience supported by you. The beginner’s mindset also allows you to level with the learner as it can be hard to explore with full integrity when you have someone who you think is an expert hovering over you. Recently, a child building a scribble machine was a bit shy to ask me questions which was then impeding his ability to make any progress on his project. When I saw him sitting and looking around at everyone else, I would walk over and see how he was doing. At one point he asked me if what we were doing was easy for me. I replied by telling him it was actually my first time working with that activity and that I had only a few minutes of more experience than him. He asked me for my name and I his and by the end of it he had a functioning scribble machine and a piece of paper where he wrote up the materials he needed to make his own at home. That day I learned that it is important to be a friend along with a facilitator.
The same goes for working on a team. Getting to experience what it’s like to be on the Tinkering team has been a wonderful new experience with communication. Being conscious and respectful of one another’s time and interests is important to the team. Everything from figuring out what times work best for people to making sure that the people involved are genuinely interested and curious about the topic seems to be what drives the group. Everyone is always so open and ready to listen to your ideas and support you in whatever way they can. This practice of listening with fully open ears has shown me what the power of careful listening can do. Giving feedback and suggestions is just as important as listening with full attention. All these skills are crucial to cultivating each other's curiosity while maintaining a productive team.
As Tinkerers, there is a child in all of us who we need to let loose to guide our own learning experiences. And by tinkerers I mean anyone who has ever had any moments where exploration was the driving force in their learning experience. Some of us need to reconnect and communicate with that child within us to let go of what we feel is wrong or right and forget about feeling self-conscious. It is the curiosity within us that makes life so interesting but it is the communication among us that allows that curiosity to flourish.