In addition to the programs we host at the Exploratorium, the Tinkering Studio participates in several projects that expand our practice and research in after school programs. Tinkering on the museum floor, while very powerful, is by necessity limited in time, and only a small portion of our visitors return regularly to the workshop space. In an after school setting we have the privilege to design experiences that span multiple weeks, and curricula that develop over the course of months. We get to really know the kids, and structure our approach to value their prior knowledge, existing home practices, and equity and inclusivity.
Lighthouse Community Charter School
What do middle schoolers learn in afterschool STEM-rich Tinkering programs, and how is that learning recognized and leveraged in the school day?
These are the big questions we are investigating through a new research-practice partnership between the Exploratorium, Lighthouse Community Charter School, and the University of Washington. The collaboration involves participants across three organizations that bring to the table a variety of educational perspectives and backgrounds: teachers, afterschool educators, school staff, program coordinators, activity designers, and researchers.
San Francisco Boys & Girls Club Tinkering Program
Serving urban, predominantly low-income youth from immigrant and diasporic backgrounds, adult and teen tinkering educators join elementary and middle school-aged children in a regular workshop setting to explore, design and co-create stop-motion animation films, wooden pinball machines and musical instruments. Educators work to design inclusive and respectful tinkering learning environments that engage youth in deep thinking and meaning-making, draw upon their cultural and intellectual histories, and expand conceptions of teaching, learning, intelligence, and science.
The program is an ongoing partnership between the Exploratorium and San Francisco Boys & Girls Clubs, offering tinkering activities in clubhouses on a weekly basis. Sessions are co-taught with clubhouse staff and local teen staff and include projects rooted in artistic or social motivations while engaging youth in concepts and practices of science and engineering. Since its inception, the program has put equity at the fore. Working collaboratively with researchers, they also study the nature of teaching and learning in the program, how to design for equity, and what kinds of shifts in participation and identity emerge among participants (children, teens, and adults) over an extended period of involvement.
What does high-quality, equity-oriented, STEM-rich Tinkering look like, and how can we support educators to facilitate this?
The California Tinkering Afterschool Network (CTAN) was a research-practice partnership that came together to design for, implement, and study teaching and learning in STEM-rich afterschool tinkering programs serving youth from low-income, historically marginalized communities. This collaboration involved afterschool directors, facilitators, and researchers across the Community Science Workshop Network, Discovery Cube, Exploratorium, and Techbridge. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.