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One Inch Tall (May 2015)

"One Inch Tall" Final Day Grand Finale Reading and Performance

One Inch Tall (May 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

When, just one month ago, Nathan and I proposed that we "build a poem" with the After School Tinkerers, I don't think that either of us really knew what that meant. 

During our own planning phases, we searched for writings that illustrated vivid pictures and evoked sounds, or smells, or actions that might allow some exciting creativity and out of the box desigining. Over text message, we exchanged photos of our own beloved childhood poems. We tried to imagine what it would be like to step back from leading a singular, concrete, After School project, and allow one to unfold naturally, line-by-line, over the course of only a few short weeks. And, more importantly, is it possible (crazy) to ask 6 year olds to do literary analysis in a class that usually teaches the culture and safety of woodshop?


Let's just try it, and we'll see what happens, Nathan and I told one another.

Well, a lot happened!

The poem was an easy sell, and asking these super imaginative small humans to design and actualize the imagery was a cake walk. They knew what worms, and ants, and spider webs looked like. They knew how to draw them, and roughly how to translate that 2D information into 3D sculpture. They were psyched about painting, and using alternative materials to creatively construct weird, functional, playful props.

Teaching the shop tools was easy. They understood drills, and screws, and the chop saw. Hinges. Rope. Knots. Hot glue guns, and the many, many other tools and materials, and funky functional things hanging out around the shop.

But, admittedly, the only challenging sell, that came up over and over during the course of this 4-week experiment, was found in the first line of the poem that we used:

"If you were only one inch tall, you'd ride a worm to school."

As soon as I read that line on the second day, for the very first time, after asking that group of super imaginative Tinkerers to close their eyes and picture everything I said, I knew we pitching to a tough crowd.

"If YOU were only one inch tall, YOU'D ride a worm to school."

How could we ever convince these energetic young folks to make a human analogue to ride and play on these amazing props we would later construct? How dare Nathan or I ever suggest that they wouldn't actually be riding a worm, or swinging on a spider web, or surfing (skateboarding) across the shop?  Even after we constructed the person that would ride/swing/surf on these amazing things, the question came up again and again.

"But why?" the retort was, each session, as we started a new component of the poem. "Why can't WE ride on it?"

"Because we made that person to do it!" or "Because we don't have enough time to make it safe for people to try out!" or "Because..." Well, because once building and teamwork and learning become full on play, then it's usually all over. While we appreciate, enjoy, and encourage play, 8 sessions of 90 short minutes and an 18-line poem is just too much and too little all at once! Our time is best spent working all together on the project.

Whatever the answer, it never satisfied their curiosity and excitement.

Insofar as during the second to last session, Senya and I were having a discussion about the color of the "stick of gum." She insisted on blue, and when I asked her why, she answered plainly, "because gum is blue." I asked her how she knew that, because it didn't say so in the poem. To that, she responded, "well, the poem also says that WE are riding the worm."

You're absolutely right.

Literary analysis with early elementary aged Tinkerers? No problem. No problem at all!


Be sure to check out the Flickr Photo Album of the entire session, as well as the video below.

Spider's Thread Swing and Some Hinge Hips

One Inch Tall (May 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

Last week, a few of the After School Special Session Tinkerers started to create another line from our Shel Silverstein poem. With "You'd swing upon a spider's thread" as their new literal prompt, the group came up with an interesting interpretation that sparked new avenues for Tinkering and problem solving.

Imagine, if you will, a spider's web hung high above the shop, parallel to the floor. Dangling from it, simply, a swing. The Tinkerers decided on a size and shape for the spiderweb, and carefully constructed a structure to later hold criss-crossing rope. 

In this case, the aesthetic decision to use rope sparked the need to pause for a brief lesson in knot tying. It really is harder than one might imagine. 

As the web-making team continued with their octagonal structure and knot-tying, a few of the other Tinkerers set out to solve another problem -- our "One Inch Tall" person was not originally designed to sit down! How is it going to use the swing?

We had to perform some quick surgery to modify the One Inch Tall person's hips. We cut and installed an extra piece of wood and a couple of hinges to allow for bending, and then quickly moved on to creating a swing seat to allow the person to sit upright without flopping over. 

At the end of the session, our person joined us for an excited and rowdy closing circle, where we discussed the looming time constrain of only two more sessions left!

How are we going to finish this poem? I know I'm anxious to find out!

From Wood to Paint to Rope to Springy Tubey Things

One Inch Tall (May 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

During last week's After School Special Session, the Tinkerers expanded way beyond just screws and wood, and into creative incorporation of mixed media into their One Inch Tall project. This part of the process is always very fascinating to me, and it seems to always happen in our sessions -- once a conceptual project is drafted into a rough skeleton, the Tinkerers are able to suddenly consider all sorts of aesthetic details: What color is it? Does it move, and how? Should we add some texture? How can we simulate some effect using stuff around the shop? Look at all this stuff around the shop!

They discover paint, and hinges, and rope, and casters, and all sorts of other things, and those things then get folded into the project. What I find particularly interesting is the non-functional aesthetic details. I mean, sometimes a project just needs a purple smiley face, or a golden ponytail. Decoration is an essential recharging moment for these young builders, as well as a moment to incorporate their other skills and interests.

And now that the paint and glue have had the weekend to dry, we will continue building today!

Close your eyes, and imagine that you are only One Inch Tall!

One Inch Tall (May 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

Close your eyes. Now, I want you to picture this story as I read it aloud. Think about the colors, and textures, and size of all the characters. Ready? Here we go. 

"If you were only one inch tall, you'd ride a worm to school..." Laughter erupted! "The teardrop of a crying ant would be your swimming pool," More laughter! Snickering, and smiles, and eyes peeking open!

As I went on reading "One Inch Tall" by Shel Silverstein, I immediately knew that this was going to be a great project. We're trying out something we've never done before -- the Tinkerers are going to recreate this poem, line by line, and wow, are they loving it already!

This silly poem is inspiring so many questions! "How tall is an inch?" Someone shouts! Another Tinkerer answers, "Wait! We have one inch screws!"

The one inch screws became instrumental in our design phase, as everyone tried to make their ideas on paper to scale. 

We started at the beginning of the poem--riding a worm to school. During design phase, the Tinkerers all had some really great ideas about what it might look like to ride a worm. Steering mechanisms, and wheels, and segments, and seating. They thought of everything! 

After drawing out some ideas, we began construction! 

To be continued next week!

First Day of May "Special Session"

One Inch Tall (May 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

During the month of May, Tinkering School is running a special session. We're trying out something we've never done before: after school two days a week! It's the same amount of building time, but we're just trying to get it all in before summer starts. This means that Nathan and I will see the same group of Tinkerers on both Tuesdays and Thursdays!

On the first day, just like each Tinkering School experience, we got to know some tools and each other. This meant learning names, the chop saw, drills, and clamps.

Here are a few highlights:

Gus admires the structure that everyone built using scrap wood and clamps. 

Gus admires the structure that everyone built using scrap wood and clamps. 

Keira preparing to cut some very, very colorful wood. 

Keira preparing to cut some very, very colorful wood. 

Some awesome assembly by Beckett and Nolan. 

Some awesome assembly by Beckett and Nolan. 

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