Whenever I attempt to define what we mean by "tinkering" it always feels half done. Wander-y and incomplete. It's our name, and it means a lot to us. Here is one more wildly incomplete attempt.
Success is a momentary reprieve from failure. Failure is fundamental to the process of learning. Failure, in its most enlightened form, is data collection. It is, in many ways and when treated with bravery and an open mind, another term for refinement.
We made our own clay,
and started our own clay hut.
Given that assumption, one could say that tinkering is the process of finding increasingly interesting ways to fail.
When it didnt work we tried something new.
We made our own bricks.
Very few people actually care that you made a thing. They care that you had the tenacity and problem solving skills and the creativity needed to make a thing where there previously wasn't one. And maybe that's why we call ourselves Tinkering School. We teach tinkering. We don't teach how to make things. We provide an environment where tenacity, problem-solving and creativity have room to grow. Where kids have room for data collection and refinement (or failure, if you prefer). And on a few rare occasions, we may even enjoy that gentle reprieve of success.