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Un-expectation and other things we're buzzing about (Week 8, Day 1)

Rachel EconomyComment

It's Bee Week here at Tinkering School- welcome to the hive.

A "larval" tinkerer grows and emerges as a "bee" in this design sketch for the honeycomb group.

A "larval" tinkerer grows and emerges as a "bee" in this design sketch for the honeycomb group.


One of the primary practices that comes up at Tinkering School, and one of my favorites, involves upending our strange educational hierarchy tradition of "Don't know? Ask an adult" so that it now reads "Don't know? Ask each other" or even "Don't know? Ask a kid." So this morning when I was preparing to write this post, I asked a tinkerer for ideas on her favorite part of the week so far. 

And she said: "working on the giant flower garden."

For some reason, even though I think it's a great project, that's not what I was expecting. And that was one of my favorite parts of the week so far. 

It's easy to imagine that the unexpected would be an integral part of the physical tinkering and building process- something breaks, or doesn't fit, or can be used in a way never thought of before. But a more invisible, and in some ways more powerful, aspect of un-expectation comes from these true encounters with each other. The unknown parts of someone else's thoughts, ideas, preferences, joys and fears, can't (and shouldn't) be accounted for ahead of time. This constant action of meeting and re-meeting each other anew forms an essential part of collaboration, both in building structures and in building community.


It's not that I don't expect the best of someone I meet- I just can't make any assumptions about what that means to/for them. Showing up with each other in this "un-expecting" way demands a practice of presence and comfort with the unknown that we don't often see affirmed in our culture at large, and it is one of my favorite things about the Tinkering School. Because in addition to creating a collaborative community in just five days, it keeps us from getting into ruts with blinders up, keeps us from getting bored and checking out.

Difference is key here. Differentials between my idea and your idea open up a space where something new, bigger than either of us, can be explored and created. The delight of surprise in unexpected moments with other people's thoughts and ideas generates a fuel for creativity that the wood shop alone, even with all those inspiring drills and hinges and spinning saws, could never quite provide.

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