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Monsters! (2016)

(Monster Failure) Monsters! All Girls - Session 5 - Day 5

Monsters! (2016)Amanda SimonsComment

Learn From Our Mistakes and Failures: 1 of 4 TS Goals
Today we did it. We really, really, did it. 

This week, we had two main projects with our team of all girls.

In the first project, two mini teams were each building one half of a monster that would be later combined. The trick to this was that the lead Collaborators, Piper and Molly, were not allowed to see what the other team was building. Each team built independently, and then had to come together and communicate about how to join the two halves together.

What's so hard about that?

Well, here's what happened...

The transport.

The transport.

The assembly.

The assembly.

The dilemma.

The dilemma.

The result.

The result.

What the teams wanted was a monster snowman of sorts, with all the components (over 16 feet of combined height!) stacked on top of one another. What they got, was an artful arrangement of all the pieces. Weight, time, and lack of wood touching attachment opportunities lead everyone to this solution.

Failure abound in the last minutes of the week! It was awesome!

The second project: a monster truck!

Not like the big wheel smashy smash kinda truck though. We're talking a double-decker cart on tiny wheels with a monster mouth and creepy attachments! The Tinkering Team that tackled this project really pushed through right to the final minutes as well.

In the end, we were able to load a massive amount of Tinkerers into the truck and wheel them around in front of the audience of families and friends!

What we didn't realize was that the safety testing really should have been completed with maximum load for real results. In the middle of the ride, failure. Two of the casters twisted out and broke the entire back end, giving everyone a pretty good jolt!



Before the casters were attached, we neglected to brace the corners with plywood triangles (a step that is normally second nature to the Collaborators). In the excitement of the week, the wheels were attached to the frame without bracing, and we went on our way. The result was the weight of 10 kids and all that wood pressing down on 4 or 5 screws.



Everything was fine.

Everything was fine.

With both of these projects failing in different ways, we had a super productive week and ample opportunity to dissect what we could have done better. This, my friends, is the core of this program: stepping back and allowing failures to happen, providing the scaffolding to discuss when they do, and then learning from those failures.

Oh, we also built some rad stuff.

Go girls!

(We're Called Collaborators + Don't Ask Permission) Monsters! All Girls - Session 5 - Day 3

Monsters! (2016)Amanda SimonsComment

"We're called Collaborators for a lot of reasons," was the message of today's opening circle. The adults at Tinkering School are not teachers, or instructors, or counselors, or even really mentors.

Our job title is Collaborator.

Our job is to collaborate.

So what does that mean, really?

Aren't we ALL collaborating on these projects in order to build something bigger than ourselves?
Isn't that like, the first goal of Tinkering School? To Collaborate and Make Friends?

Well, yes. We are all collaborating. The kids. The adults. We are all working on the common goal of problem solving and designing and collectively constructing some awesome things. We are doing this as a team. The adults don't have all the answers. And we certainly aren't the ones leading the design and construction of the project. When we're doing our jobs really well, the kids do that all themselves.

So, a couple of interesting things always emerge in this experiment with kids in tool competency and collective team-building:

  1. The Tinkerers often struggle with not looking to the adults for all the answers. We have to constantly curb this gravitation and push back on them by asking questions and also not providing answers. That's most of our work day: empowering the kids and redirecting the tendency for them to wait until we tell 'em what to do. 
  2. The Tinkerers often ask permission instead of providing informational statements. "Can I go get more screws?" "Can I go to the bathroom?" "Would it be okay if I cut a 48" piece of wood to complete the design?" Yes. Yes. Yes. Of course the answer is yes. Instead, just tell the adults what's up. I'm going to the bathroom. I'm getting more screws. I need an adult in the chop saw room with me so I can cut a 48" piece of wood.

And while it pains me to say this, we often see these behavior patterns most prevalent during our sessions with all girls. 

Today we decided to change that.

In opening circle, we gave everyone two pieces of information: 

The adults are Collaborators (we don't have the answers).
And, don't ask permission (just tell us What's Up.)

And I'd say our experiment of the day was pretty successful. With this direct instruction, the Tinkerers have left for the day and I am exhausted. I spent the whole day being told what to do by the kids. Go to the chop saw room. Help me on the bandsaw. Help me set up this cut with the circular saw. Go with me to find more plywood. Help me install these hinges. 

Thanks, girls. I'm gonna sleep well tonight!

Monsters! All Girls - Session 5 - Day 2

Monsters! (2016)Amanda SimonsComment

Today was Day 2 of Monster week! 

Question! Have you ever seen a monster that was mostly geometric? Me either. 

Part of the challenge of working with rectangular wood is finding ways to make it no longer rectangular OR to use rectangles to generate entirely different shapes. The Tinkerers dove head first into this problem first thing today. 

One of the Half Monster teams was trying to make three dimensional tentacles by first creating a skeleton of tubular triangles and then skinning the structure with different materials (TBA!) 

The Monster Truck team was learning how to cut out organic shapes using the bandsaw.

They also encountered what it means to have too many hands on one project -- this is an especially challenging problem with larger shapes being cut from heavy plywood and one person "driving" the piece through the saw. 

Lastly, the OTHER Half Monster team was making some giant hexagons (for a purpose I haven't quite yet discerned.) This task required some complex geometry, and a lot of folks working hard as a team. 

Whoa. So much happened today!

Also, here are a few more awesome highlights:

Monsters! All Girls Week - Session 5 - Day 1

Monsters! (2016)Amanda SimonsComment

...It's All Girls Week! And we're making Monsters!

But first, we had important some business to take care of. 

Mondays are sometimes hard for this reason.

Despite that our focus is hands on making, on Mondays, there's a lot of talking by the adults. We make a lot of agreements about how to treat each other and the space. We learn a lot of information about how to use complicated tools safely. We learn why it's best not to yell across a giant warehouse to get others' attention and why it's important to safely ask for the attention of others. 

As Collaborators, we also share a lot of antidotal information about our experiences working with wood and tools and peers.  

And for the kids, we all this new information is a lot. So, we create situations where hands on learning is privileged over direction instruction -- where the Tinkerers can get to know the new tools and themselves by failing and figuring it out. 

The kids are also learning how to work as a team -- and for many of them, this is their first time meeting one another. That aside, we hop right in and ask them to ask each other for help when they need it, and not rely too heavily on the direction of the adults. 

...And this is all just the first couple morning hours of Monday. 

So, in the afternoon, we got right down to more interesting business. 

This week, the theme is Monsters, and we are starting with three main projects: Monster Trucks, and a combined team project where one team is making one half of a monster, and one team is making the other half. The teams are creating their halves without communicating, and at the end of the week, they will join their creations together! 

After the introduction of the theme and the projects, we designed, and got down to building.

Tomorrow, with all that formal agreements and training and getting over the shock of a new team and a new environment out of the way, we get to build all day!

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