When kids walk in to Tinkering School, they know that they are going to build. They don't know what they're going to build.
Unlike lots of workshops, we do not reveal the project to kids or parents ahead of time. Until the day of a workshop, after Safety Training, the project remains a surprise. We've found that this has a few advantages..
Kids Have Context and Shared Vocabulary
By keeping the theme a surprise until after Safety Training--in which kids get to use the tools and feel the materials--kids enter the problem space together, with a shared sense of what's possible.
(Take our "Mission to Outer Space" week for example: If we had told 36 kids that a week of Summer Day Camp would be themed "Mission to Outer Space", the week would have started with 36 different visions of 36 different rocket ships built with 36 different toolsets out of 36 different sets of materials.)
Surprise Forces Spontaneity and Adaptability (and Cuts of Stubbornness)
Part of what (we hope) kids get from Tinkering School is a chance to solve real problems in real time. Keeping the project a surprise promotes spontaneity and adaptability.
To become better problem-solvers, kids need practice tackling problems with 30 minutes of warning--not 30 days!
Collaborators Stay Stoked
To create a successful workshop, the collaborators must be stoked. Naming all of our workshops "Tinkering School" (as opposed to "Build a Go-Kart Day") allows collaborators the flexibility to design themes/challenges/projects that they're excited about--and prevents the chore of repeats.
Surprises Are Fun
It's always true.