Tinkering School

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Mark Day/San Rafael

Harry Potter - Day 3 - Week 5 - Mark Day School

Mark Day Harry Potter, Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

"A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, 11 o'clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought-iron archway where the ticket box had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it. He had done it."

-- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

"Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land, there is none more curious... than the Basilisk, known also as the King of Serpents. This snake, which may reach gigantic size, and live many hundreds of years, is born from a chicken's egg, hatched beneath a toad."

-- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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I read longer versions of these passages to our tinkerers during our after-lunch circle to further inspire them (and to take advantage of the air conditioning), although I don't think they need much more inspiration based on the creative sketches they've made on whiteboards and the mathematics- and physics-based contemplation happening in conversations.

This morning, students rotated through three mechanical engineering workshops to learn about pulleys, levers, and structural reinforcement (hint: ask them which shape is the strongest). We're continuing to think about which part of our builds might move and how we might accomplish that.

It was a full day of building and at the end of the day, though we were hot and somewhat tired, we shared stories of ways that other tinkerers had helped us (carrying wood, partner pushing on a drill, etc.).

Visit our Flickr page for even more photos from today and the rest of the week.

Feeling the difference between lifting 12 pounds using a single pulley, two pulleys, and four pulleys.

Feeling the difference between lifting 12 pounds using a single pulley, two pulleys, and four pulleys.

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Elevators, flag poles, window blinds, cranes, wells, and more...

Elevators, flag poles, window blinds, cranes, wells, and more...

Testing how being closer or further from the fulcrum affects lifting strength.

Testing how being closer or further from the fulcrum affects lifting strength.

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Avi brought his own copy!

Avi brought his own copy!

Learning to add a gusset to wobbly table legs in order to strengthen them.

Learning to add a gusset to wobbly table legs in order to strengthen them.

The engine cab is taking shape.

The engine cab is taking shape.

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Jig sawed circles of plywood and chop sawed 2x4s are connected to form the front of the engine. 

Jig sawed circles of plywood and chop sawed 2x4s are connected to form the front of the engine. 

As collaborators, one of our roles is to model behavior that includes the design process, building techniques, safe use of tools and materials, and communication based on our social and emotional learning curriculum. We are facilitators more than anything and we enjoy seeing students take the lead on projects and involve their peers in the process:

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Click through the slideshow below for more photos from today:

Harry Potter - Day 2 - Week 5 - Mark Day School

Mark Day/San Rafael, Mark Day Harry PotterDavid St. MartinComment

We could feel the excitement in the air today even before camp started. Everyone just wanted to get building! Before we could build bigger than ourselves though, we needed to talk about carrying wood safely in a bustling construction zone. Once that discussion was had, tinkerers either went full steam ahead on The Hogwarts Express, or dove headlong into the Chamber of Secrets. 

Each day brings an opportunity to use the tools we learned about during Monday's tool training and to use new tools as well. Today's tools included a jig saw - great for cutting straight and curved lines in plywood - and a Sawzall - useful for cutting wood that is already connected to a frame and can't easily be moved onto sawhorses.

The heat made it easy to meet one of our goals, which is to try harder than usual... we used a break after lunch to cool off and reflect on what tinkering is and why we do it. It was an informative time, and many of the thoughts captured during that time highlighted the reason we do this work. 

Check out even more photos from today and the whole week on our Flickr page.

The base of the train is taking shape.

The base of the train is taking shape.

Using the Sawzall to trim part of the train base.

Using the Sawzall to trim part of the train base.

The basilisk body has several segments. Small groups are working together to build each one.

The basilisk body has several segments. Small groups are working together to build each one.

It takes several steps to be ready to use the jigsaw: measure and draw lines, clamp wood to sawhorse, put on ear protection and goggles, "is everybody ready?" safety call, and then it's time to cut.

It takes several steps to be ready to use the jigsaw: measure and draw lines, clamp wood to sawhorse, put on ear protection and goggles, "is everybody ready?" safety call, and then it's time to cut.

Assembly square + clamp + a partner to hold the wood = successful drilling.

Assembly square + clamp + a partner to hold the wood = successful drilling.

Individual student response to "What is tinkering?" and "Why do we tinker?"

Individual student response to "What is tinkering?" and "Why do we tinker?"

Our group summary

Our group summary

Sometimes a "partner push" is just what's needed to add enough pressure to the drill.

Sometimes a "partner push" is just what's needed to add enough pressure to the drill.

Individual student response to "What is tinkering?" and "Why do we tinker?"

Individual student response to "What is tinkering?" and "Why do we tinker?"

Our group summary

Our group summary

Click through the slideshow below for more photos.

Wild Animals - Day 4 - Week 4 - Mark Day School

Mark Day/San Rafael, Mark Day Wild AnimalsTatian GreenleafComment

What sound does a Tigray make in the wild? It's hard to describe but our intrepid tinkerers have developed a system of PVC pipes that approximates it quite nicely. And now that the head is attached to the body, defining features such as ears are starting to appear.

How large are Belephant wings? Larger than you might expect. And how will the Belephant move? Answering that required tilting the animal on its side and propping it up to add wheels. It was a team effort for sure.

After our mechanical engineering workshops earlier in the week, answers to previously daunting questions came within reach... Q: "How can we make this wobbly head stronger?" A: "Triangles!" Q: "How should we raise and lower these wings?" A: "Pulleys!" "Levers!"

And we're making mistakes and learning from them, as we always do. I myself showed students how to attach hinges for a wing and after they had connected it with four screws, I realized I had placed it on the wrong side of the 2x3. Modeling a positive spirit and being humble is something we collaborators do all the time. Today's demonstration at open circle was about how to keep a drill bit straight to avoid breaking it. We've lost a few to pressure applied at an angle.

We also train on new tools as tinkerers need them. Today's additions to our toolbox were a jigsaw (for some; quite a few tinkerers had already used it earlier in the week), a hacksaw, and a heated rope cutter.

See even more photos from today and the rest of the week on our Flickr page.

 
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A Pirate's Life - Day 5 - Week 3 - Mark Day School

Mark Day Pirates (2018), Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

Shiver me timbers! It's time to walk the plank. Or rather, the balance beam, as our pirate tinkerers prefer. And onward through the booby trap, with its disguised safe route, leading to a hideaway complete with trap door and tunnel. But that's not all! Away in a courtyard lumbers a towering ship with mast and pirate flag. And lest you get too complacent, our cannons will fire and we'll have you ducking below the deck of the vessel. Or climbing the ladders to take in the view of our crow's nest.

So it is with mixed emotions that our camp week comes to an end. When we asked at closing circle in what ways students had achieved the Tinkering School goals, several tinkerers commented on the many friends they had made and the experiences they had had working in teams to build large structures.

But there were also little things that surprised and delighted me and showed that our tinkerers were full of creative verve: the illustrations along the ship's hull, the colorful gems on top of the treasure chest, the hand-written signs taking on pirates' personas, and the figurehead leading the ship.

We started the week by hearing a poem written by yours truly to inspire us on our pirate journey. Here are a couple of stanzas:

‘Cause we’re pirates, we arrr!
We sail near and far
Following the trusty north star
We’ll steal all of your gold
A pirate’s life doesn’t get old
But sometimes the ship’s a bit cold

So we’ll throw on our jackets
Take a look through our ‘scope
And see just whose treasure we gets!

Many a pirate knows that ships and hideaways come and go. And thus we found ourselves dismantling our creations (thank you, family members and loved ones for helping!) and returning the materials to their original states. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle may be a modern concept but it's one even pirates find useful. Many a screw and 2x3 were transformed from fantasy back into metal and wood for the next journey that awaits.

And even though our ship and hideaway are now a fond memory, the experience will live on within us...

A pirate's life for us!

Spy more pirate mischief on arrr Flickr page.

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A Pirate's Life - Day 4 - Week 3 - Mark Day School

Mark Day Pirates (2018), Mark Day/San RafaelDavid St. MartinComment

Our ship is about to set sail, our Hideaway is almost complete! Today we performed the delicate operation of flipping the giant hull of the ship and installing the massive mast. We made major progress on the tunnel system as well, so there's a chance we'll actually be finished in time! 

We spent some time in morning circle talking about our goals for the week, and reflecting on the fact that our goals do not include finishing anything. They include trying harder than usual, collaborating, making mistakes we learn from and building bigger than ourselves. We dearly want to finish though! We'll use the other goals to propel us toward finishing, and no matter how far we get, we'll have a good story to tell, and a set of more important goals to think about. 

More photos on Flickr

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A Pirate's Life - Day 3 - Week 3 - Mark Day School

Mark Day Pirates (2018), Mark Day/San RafaelDavid St. MartinComment

The pirate's life isn't easy, but it's always interesting, and today was a big, interesting day for us. We made progress on our tunnel system and treasure chest, we tested our canon, and our ship hull is almost complete! As a group we definitely tried harder than usual today. 

This morning we took a little time to be well-informed pirate builders by experimenting with levers, pulleys and reinforcement techniques as well. This translated into an afternoon full of ideas and reinforcements. Tomorrow the lever concepts will be put to good use as we turn the giant ship over so we can install the upper deck!

Tomorrow is our last full day of building. It's often the hardest day, but also the most exciting as we see our vision coming together. To prepare, we spent a little time at the end of the day talking about how we could take care of ourselves, and take care of each other. Tomorrow will be full of hard work, hard problems to solve and compromise. Something every one of these pirates can handle!

Here's a link to more photos from the week on our Flickr Feed.

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Experiments with pulleys

Experiments with pulleys

Trying reinforcements

Trying reinforcements

A Pirate's Life - Day 2 - Week 3 - Mark Day School

Mark Day Pirates (2018), Mark Day/San RafaelDavid St. MartinComment

Tuesday is a big building day at Tinkering School. We have our idea, we're inspired to build and full of energy, so we build! 

We took a little time to discuss tinkering. What is tinkering? Why do we tinker? The tinkerers responded with some beautifully thoughtful answers! 

Throughout the day, there were plenty of examples of students helping each other, whether by holding a piece of wood, clamping something together, or doing a "partner push" (see yesterday's blog post). During closing circle, everyone had an opportunity to share a moment in which someone else helped them. Almost every hand went up to tell a story. Now that's teamwork!

Check out photos from today and the rest of the week on our Flickr page.

 

Thinking about the question "what is tinkering?"

Thinking about the question "what is tinkering?"

A project orientation meeting as we begin our day..we're building a ship!

A project orientation meeting as we begin our day..we're building a ship!

Why do we tinker? We got a lot of insightful answers, and this amazingly creative AND insightful one!

Why do we tinker? We got a lot of insightful answers, and this amazingly creative AND insightful one!

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A Pirate's Life - Day 1 - Week 3 - Mark Day School

Mark Day Pirates (2018), Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

We're imagining ourselves (or arrrselves) as pirates this week! We sailed into the day by sharing our goals for the week: collaborate and make friends, try harder than usual, build something bigger than ourselves, and make mistakes and learn from them. We also brainstormed a list of Group Agreements (you may have heard of the Golden Rule but were you also aware of the Platinum Rule? It says to "treat others the way they want to be treated.").

Then we got down to the business of learning to use tools properly during our Tool Training. Each student had an opportunity to practice using a chop saw, drill, and clamp. With these tools and our materials (primarily 2x3s and plywood but also hinges, pulleys, and wheels), I can't wait to see what we build by Friday!

It's great to see friendships already forming on the first day. Sometimes a "partner push" is needed to drive a screw; one person operates the drill while the other person helps to push down on the top of the drill. And one of our agreements is to ask "How can I help?" which immediately allows someone to tell us a specific action we can take such as "Could you hold this wood" or "Would you mind clamping these together?" We can build even bigger and grander when we work together.

A good part of this afternoon was spent designing the two builds for the week: a pirate ship and a pirate island hideaway. Students take the lead by sketching ideas, sharing their visions with the group, and then planning their "cut lists" for materials.

Check out more photos from today on our Flickr page.

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Building a bridge using clamps.

Building a bridge using clamps.

Testing the strength of the bridge.

Testing the strength of the bridge.

Chop saw training after our "is everybody ready?" safety check.

Chop saw training after our "is everybody ready?" safety check.

Some students also learned to use the jig saw for cutting through plywood.

Some students also learned to use the jig saw for cutting through plywood.

Drill training leads to student independence when connecting pieces of 2x3.

Drill training leads to student independence when connecting pieces of 2x3.

A partner hold (hand or foot) can be a help.

A partner hold (hand or foot) can be a help.

A student's design for a turtle-shaped pirate hideaway.

A student's design for a turtle-shaped pirate hideaway.

So many details (and labels) for a pirate ship... on wheels.

So many details (and labels) for a pirate ship... on wheels.

Wacky Fairgrounds - Day 5 - Week 2 - Mark Day School

Mark Day Fairground, Day Camp, Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

The moment we've been waiting for has arrived! It's Wacky Fairgrounds project reveal day! The students were excited to show off their hard work but before family members arrived, there was just enough time to put on the finishing touches: wheels on the go kart, feet on the AFFs (animals/furniture/food... we actually didn't end up making any food), and faces on the bowling pins. We were striving to express personality among the AFFs but it was a fun surprise to see the pins take on characteristics as well. 

Both of the builds also needed to be tested before everyone took a ride. We started with a smaller kid on the go kart and progressed to larger kids and even adults. For the carousel, we spun it without riders, then added one student and then another and another until we were up to capacity at 8 student riders.  Even with nine students, there was no creaking or cracking of wood and no sagging or unbalancing of the carefully-designed platform. Success!

Today's work embodied our goals for the week: collaborating and making friends, trying harder than usual, building something bigger than ourselves, and making mistakes and learning from them. At closing circle, our tinkerers shared ways that they had experienced these goals.

Check out many more photos from today and the rest of the week on Flickr.

Clamping a wing in preparation for screwing it down.

Clamping a wing in preparation for screwing it down.

Two people clamping makes for efficient work.

Two people clamping makes for efficient work.

The ramp has good bones.

The ramp has good bones.

Securing a 3.5 foot tall, 8 foot long ramp.

Securing a 3.5 foot tall, 8 foot long ramp.

Two screws in each connection.

Two screws in each connection.

The strongest building shape is a triangle... how many can you count? And the ladder is finally attached!

The strongest building shape is a triangle... how many can you count? And the ladder is finally attached!

The pig gets a handlebar and a face.

The pig gets a handlebar and a face.

Adding a gusset to stabilize the chair. No more wobble!

Adding a gusset to stabilize the chair. No more wobble!

After making angled cuts on the bottom of the 4x4 post to resemble a sharpened pencil, the team lifts it into place on the carousel platform.

After making angled cuts on the bottom of the 4x4 post to resemble a sharpened pencil, the team lifts it into place on the carousel platform.

So much math and tool use (drills, jigsaw, chop saw and more) went into the puzzle piece platform.

So much math and tool use (drills, jigsaw, chop saw and more) went into the puzzle piece platform.

Wacky Fairgrounds - Day 4 - Week 2 - Mark Day School

Mark Day Fairground, Mark Day/San Rafael, Day CampDavid St. MartinComment

What is tinkering? Why do we tinker? We started the day with those questions, and we got some insightful answers: "To express creativity," "to discover new ways of thinking," "to make our ideas real." 

Today was our last big day to build and the group came together, on their own, in an impressive way. Perseverance emerged as a theme as the sun got hot in the afternoon, and large unsolved problems loomed with only hours left to build. By the end of the day, we had a working carousel platform, a sturdy go-cart, and a ramp almost ready to be sheeted. Tomorrow will be hard, but not impossible as we prepare for unveil our creations!

 

 

Wacky Fairgrounds - Day 2 - Week 2 - Mark Day School

Mark Day Fairground, Mark Day/San RafaelDavid St. MartinComment

Wow. what a day of building! Interesting  groups of tinkerers are beginning to form around different components like the animals and benches for the carousel, or the platform for the Bowler Coaster.  One small dedicated group is working on the geometry and building  of the carousel platform-no small feat, since they are having to make cuts accurate to 1/16th of an inch! 

In closing circle today many students shared their highlights and learning moments from the day. Several people said they'd created new friends. Tomorrow we continue the build! 

Check out all the photos from today and the rest of the week on Flickr.

The platform for the Bowler Coaster needs to be strong & Stable

The platform for the Bowler Coaster needs to be strong & Stable

A small group has been working with Charles to make the critical base of the carousel.  

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