Well, here it is. The end of August. We have had so many fun projects at Junior Day Camp this summer, from Dinosaurs to Poop Week and Space Week to Get Across the River! The time just flew by and we feel so lucky to have done so much collaborating, worked with so many great tinkerers, built BIG things, tried REALLY hard, and made so many excellent mistakes. Let's do it again next summer! Let the fall tinkering begin!
What an intense building week at Junior Day Camp! We can hardly believe we made it to Friday!
The morning was our final building session and it was important for us all to GO SLOW. When we are running out of time to do things that we want to do, too often we will rush, make silly mistakes (the kind that maybe we should have ALREADY learned from), or even get hurt. We were mindful to slow down and focus on collaborating instead of finishing the project. In fact, we even talked about how finishing the projects is NOT one of our four Tinkering School goals!
And while we did finish parts of the train to go through the river and the bridge to go over the river, we didn't finish all of the things we had hoped to accomplish. And that's okay! We discovered that you can learn a lot from not finishing what you had hoped to finish. And learning IS one of our four Tinkering School goals!
At the end of the day, the families of tinkerers came to see what we had built and to hear us discuss how we had collaborated, built things bigger than ourselves, tried hard, and made mistakes and learned from them all week.
Here are some photos of the day, and be sure to check out our Flickr page for even more!
It was another great week of Tinkering at Junior Day Camp! Thank you tinkerers! Keep on tinkering!
It turns out that it's really hard to cross an imaginary river. It's really hard to build a bridge and a train out of precut wood using teamwork and hardwork and lots of planning. We've spend the last two days making some big progress on these projects, despite that it's been really, really, hard!
Tomorrow, we wrap everything up and show it off in the afternoon, and I can't wait to see what happens!
Here are some highlights of the day:
Today was silly. Here's how:
This week, Junior Day Camp has a challenge: Cross the River two ways.
No, of course there isn't a real river at 1920 Bryant Street. Of course, the things we build are probably not going to be waterproof. Of course, we're going to build using the tools and materials that we practiced with all morning.
Yes, this is really just a challenge meant to get us to work as a team and learn more about building friendships and cool stuff out of wood. So, we're all pretty excited about it!
Here's a little glimpse of what today looked like:
... And then, the pitch. We have to cross the river two ways: OVER and THROUGH.
Everyone split into teams, and shared their ideas about what we would build to get us OVER the river, or THROUGH the river. I was lucky enough to sit in on the THROUGH brainstorm session, and it was pretty amazing. I was thinking boat, but they landed on train! We're making a train to travel through the river. Awesome!
The OVER team spent the afternoon chatting about replication and how to make a component that could be built, tested, and then replicated over and over to make a bridge of sorts. This group split into smaller groups and built some prototypes that they will chat about tomorrow.
And on a semi-related note, one of the folks from the OVER team decided to replicate a component by attaching wood together in a very unconventional way. Did you know you can make wood LONGER? Just ask Oscar how! Here's a preview:
All week we will be posting more photos and stories. Be sure to check out Flickr for more sweet/amazing/awesome photos.
So, I don't want to brag, but this was like, the best Thursday ever.
Tomorrow is our last day to build! Saturn and the Probe look awesome and I can't wait to post photos of the complete projects!
Get some sleep tonight, Tinkerers!
This summer, Tinkering School Day Camp launched a second location for younger folks (Junior Day Camp). It's an experiment where we have limited the age range of the Tinkerers and also limited their access to building materials and tools.
For this experiment, we started by limiting the age range of the attendees to between 5 and 7 years only.
In the past, we've tried out allowing 5 year olds to attend our workshops and camps -- sometimes it's developmentally (physically and also mentally) appropriate and engaging for them, and sometimes the physical labor of learning power tools and working in small team is too much too quick. Ultimately, we landed on age 6 as a failsafe minimum age, but in the spirit of Tinkering, we decided to revisit the restriction and also narrow the age range of the entire community. With a more targeted age range in Junior Day Camp, we can also focus on some of the specific needs and ways to engage these young folks in a way that's more developmentally appropriate to more attendees more consistently.
The second thing we changed for Junior Day Camp was the access to tools and materials.
Normally, in Summer Day Camp the Tinkerers learn to use a chop saw to infinitely alter 2x3 pieces into whatever combination and configuration is necessary to complete a project or meet a tinkering challenge. Partially due to the constraints of the location, we were unable to introduce a chopsaw at JDC. Mostly, the pilates studio next door would get upset by the noise, but also, what would happen if the kids only had access to precut wood?
We embraced the absence of a chop saw and eliminated cutting from the curriculum entirely. The kids work with limited sizes of 2x3s* in increments of 12" and 3" (from 9", 12", 15" all the way up to 96") and also plywood rectangles of varying sizes (15"x15", 12"x36", 48"x48", for example).
*We call these precut pieces "Legos." The incremental sizes were chosen to allow the kids to make perfect squares if necessary -- i.e. assembling two 12" and two 15" will make a 15" square. A 15"x15" square can then be sheathed by a 15"x15" precut sheet of plywood.
This limitation makes both the kids and the Collaborators a bit more creative when it comes to construction and also allows us to focus on the experience of the build over the (sometimes) complexity of the design. Additionally, by storing all the 12s in one bin, all the 15s in another, and all the 45s in another encourages the kids to begin to make the connections between an abstract inch number and its corresponding height or width (a really, really difficult concept to explain to this age group).
The foundational limitations of the experiment so far have been paying off. As staff, we've discovered ways to do more with less, and also the advantages of limiting access to materials. Sometimes, too many choices lead to a lack of action. Deciding the how to do something sometimes prevents the doing. If there are too many choices for how we never reach the do.
And, at Junior Day Camp despite only having a limited amount of wood in limited sizes, we sometimes still run into instances where abundance prevents progress.
Our main example of the abundance preventing progress phenomenon: the drills.
During Monday morning tool training, we need 14 drills in the space. We have three groups that rotate through three different training stations, and two of those stations require drills. With a maximum of 16 Tinkerers a session, we need 14 drills so that each kid can use one during training rotation and so that adults also have them. The math adds up.
But this is only true on Monday morning.
Because drills are battery powered, powerful, and super exciting, they often become the tool of choice during build time. Everyone wants a drill. Everyone wants to feel like they are contributing to the project in a meaningful and productive way. And drills are an easy solution to that. They make noise and make holes and drive screws and are actually really awesome to use.
So much sensory feedback! So much ability to annihilate wood!
But, if I'm 5 years old, sometimes this two-handed tool is too much for just me. I need a Partner Push (I need a partner to help me push hard enough make a hole.) I need another teammate's hand to hold up the back while I drive a screw. I simply need someone who is ready and willing to assist.
Sometimes while Tinkering, we need someone whose job it is to simply provide some help!
But, if everyone is holding a drill, there is no one available to help with a Partner Push. If everyone is holding a drill, there is no one available to help use the clamps. If everyone is holding a drill, who is going to use their body weight to prevent the wood from sliding across the floor? The answer, of course, is that if everyone has a drill in their hand, then no one is available to help in other ways.
Additionally, if everyone had a drill in their hand, the Tinkerers start to become possessive of the tools. "The Drill" turns into "My Drill." My Drill turns into a sense of ownership that can prevent the Tinkerers from working as a team. (If I put down MY DRILL, someone will take it. Other teammates can't use MY DRILL.)
In the spirit iteration, this summer we've been experimenting with ways to better address these instances the hinder teamwork.
- How do we teach the Tinkerers to view the drills as a tool that belongs to the collective community?
- How do we teach the Tinkerers to voluntarily take on different building roles as the projects progresses, for the sake of project progression? (OR, How can we teach a 5 year old to both anticipate, and choose to fill, the needs of a project team?)
Iteration One: Remove Tools.
On Wednesdays, we usually address the "my drill" problem at that morning's opening circle. To do this, we normally have a casual chat about how no one at Tinkering School brought their own drill from home. The drills belong to the program. We all agreed to share the tools. We all need the tools. Etcetera.
One Wednesday, a few weeks ago, we decided to not have the usual chat. I just took the drills off the wall. Of the 14 that usually live there, I left six, and we continued with our day as though everything was normal. After the project meetings, Tinkerers scampered to the tool wall to retrieve supplies and were met with a marked lack of resources.
Yes, there was a momentary freak out. But everything was fine.
And, with the limitation of only six drills, it was suddenly *necessary* for team members to find other jobs to do:
- Human Clamp.
- Future Hole Location Decider.
- Clamp Holder.
- Clamp Tightener.
- Wood Carrier.
- Clean Up Crew.
- Next Step Designer.
- Bolt Tightener.
These are real job titles decided by real Tinkerers. Also! These are all jobs that you can't do if you're holding a drill in your hand.
Placing constraints on these young folks has proven to be worth it. The goals of this camp say nothing about training Tinkerers in every tool ever invented. They don't really need to know that screws come in infinite sizes or that a 2x3 isn't the only shape wood comes in. The important bit has been that we're exposing these young minds to ways of thinking and doing and creating that they wouldn't normally be empowered with and trusted to do at their age. This includes working as a team to make something silly, and sometimes compromising by being a Wood Carrier and not a Hole Maker.
Just remove the drills. You'll probably be surprised what happens.
Update: We've also removed all the tape measures. Results = Incredible.
It's a delicate balance that we are walking at Junior Day Camp. One of the challenges that the Collaborators face is the decision of whether to ask the Tinkerers to endure a series of challenges that may or may not lead them to the answer, or to feed them the answers and solutions to problems and let them gain experience from that kind of labor.
With my Space Probe crew this week, I've been feeding them very little. We've tinkerered our way through some pretty basic but conceptually challenging problems, and it's turned out pretty awesome.
This all began yesterday morning.
The Space Probe began as a three foot by four foot by five foot cube made of only twelve pieces of wood. Next, the team decided we needed a floor.
We didn't initially plan to need a floor! In fact, if we would have decided that earlier in the design, we certainly would have designed our cube differently. Every contractor and Collaborator knows that you can't lay a floor without having studs underneath. The plywood will simply bend under the weight of humans.
For the sake of the group, I risked my life by trying to balance on a sheet of plywood stretched precariously across a distance of 48 inches. We went through this exercise for a very long time: me stepping on the wood, them watching it bend, us chatting about a solution, us trying a solution, and the solution failing. Over and over.
Eventually, we landed on the addition of five studs under the flooring.
After we installed a floor and a ceiling on our Space Probe Cube, last night I discovered that the structure was wiggly. Every contractor and Collaborator knows that to prevent a wiggle your quadrilateral needs a triangle. But I'm not gonna just tell the Tinkerers that.
We spent this morning brainstorming ways that we could correct the wiggle in the Space Probe structure. More screws needed, loose screws need tightening, more wood necessary, maybe the whole thing needs to come apart and be re-build?
Instead of rebuilding the whole structure, we brainstormed and tested some ways that we could make two pieces of wood secure. Does it wiggle with one screw? Two? Four? Six? The wiggle got worse as we tested and tested.
We finally figured out that by attaching just two screws as far apart as possible -- in opposite corners of that space -- the connection is more secure. So, how can we add that triangle shape to our Space Probe skeleton?
We found a solution.
Lastly, this afternoon we began prototyping some ideas for an addition to the Space Probe. Everyone is talking about robot arms that grasp things! I mean, I totally have an idea about how to do that, but instead of seeding it, we got out the paper and pencils and started to brainstorm.
The Tinkerers landed on an idea of arranging thin pieces of material in a sort-of lattice shape and attaching them together so that they hinge. The lattice shape would allow you to move the structure like scissors and extend and retract the mechanism.
Sure, it sounds great in theory! Let's actually try it out.
With rulers and paracord, a team sat for nearly the entire afternoon creating these mechanisms.
What we discovered is that it works -- sort of.
There was a lot wrong with the design but not the concept. We had a debriefing meeting and listed all the things that worked and all the things we needed to maybe improve upon. We landed on the idea to try it with wood and screws and see what happens!
We're currently in the middle of this experiment. I have no idea how or if this is going to work out, but I'm so excited to see what happens!
More Transmissions tomorrow!
The Tinkerers of Junior Day Camp are traveling to space this week!
But first, we had some important business to take care of. Because this is the first time that this group of humans has ever been in the same room and been asked to work on the same project, we had to get to know how to safely interact in the space and with each other.
To do that, we made some group agreements and also spent the morning learning about some new tools!
Check back all week for more photos and daily progress. Even more images can be found on Flickr!
Well, we did it!
During Poop Week, we made a shark that pooped candy, and also a giant toilet that kids could get flushed down!
We're pooped, so here are some quick highlights:
Whoa. Thursdays are a lot of work!
Thursdays are our last full day to work on the projects before Friday arrives and we spend half of the day taking everything apart! With that said, these Tinkerers really rocked it today.
Here are some of the highlights!
Tomorrow is going to be so much fun!
Wednesdays are often hard and tiring for a lot of reasons.
By this third day, the newness of the experience is starting to wear thin. As the Tinkerers get more and more comfortable with the space and with each other and with the tools, they start to figure out that working hard is really hard work. By Wednesday, we often have to have teamwork interventions and renew our group agreements and re-inspire these young builders to continue on a seemingly insurmountable task.
Today, we started opening circle by chatting about teamwork.
"I only want to make holes today," I told everyone. I took out a drill and loaded it with a bit and snapped in the battery, and tried to drill a hole into two adjacent 2x3s. Without fail, the pieces separated and slid across the floor.
"Someone needs to hold the wood!" Jack yelled, and jumped in to help.
Edina suggested we clamp the wood also, and then Benno started helping to clamp an assembly square in place. After everyone chipped in and then held down my project, I was able to drill a hole.
"But who's going to put in a screw?" someone asked.
How many people does it take to attach two pieces of wood together? Four. Two people to help with clamps, and then hold the wood. One to make a hole. One to drive a screw.
Today, figure out what job you are doing, and figure out who your team is. If are you in need of someone to do something, then ask. If you find yourself with nothing to do, offer some help! Also, as another Tinkerer added during opening circle, switch jobs if you need to!
The pep talk worked pretty well. After a really silly series of design sessions and plan making opportunities, we were able to make a lot of meaningful progress on both of our projects. The Tinkerers were asking for help and offering it, and were also switching up their routine by trying out different jobs and helping in different ways.
I can't wait to see what we accomplish tomorrow during our last full day of building!
Today we built!
Pictures speak better than words! Check it out:
The format of Tinkering School doesn't change much from week to week. Mondays generally look the same: training, getting to know one another, practicing. On Tuesdays, we are in building mode. Wednesday and Thursday is usually the same. Fridays are a little different because we also take apart the thing we have built together.
The change -- the Delta, as we call it at TS -- is that we flip and flop and scramble and try and fail and (un?)gracefully attempt different themes each time. Every time is different because the community is different, and also the projects are different.
And this week: it's poop.
But more about that in a moment.
First, we had to do what we usually do on Mondays! Tool training! Tool practice! Community Agreements! Getting to know one another!
Okay, back to poop.
I gotta be honest. I've been waiting ALL SUMMER for this week. I told the Tinkerers this right before announcing our theme of the week. It's just silly enough and just gross enough to keep it interesting and awesome to chat about during lunch and park time. I'm sure it's going to be a great conversation starter/maintainer after hours during family dinner time.
Oh, and bonus! This is already a popular topic between Collaborators and the Tinkerers during the summer anyway (for reasons still unknown to me!).
But silliness aside, we have a couple of awesome projects started!
This afternoon, we split into two teams who set out to tackle two very different projects. Each team started with a design session, where Tinkerers were able to jot, draw, and scribble down their individual ideas about what the projects should both do and look like. From there, we chatted through their ideas and synthesized them into team-designed schematics that will function as a gameplan for the rest of the week.
Simply put: team one is planning to make a 15 foot long shark that poops out candy.
Team two is making a toilet and sewer systems large enough to transport humans.
And yes, we're doing this in 5 days. With 15 kids. 4 adults. Using wood. Ready? So are we!
More later! Also be sure to check out the Flickr Album!
Swallowed By A Whale Week is here and Tinkering School is abuzz with excitement!
In the morning we spent some time getting to know one another, learning the safest way possible to use each tool in the workshop, and sharing ideas on how we can interact together in the workspace through our Group Agreement.
Tool Training was the next part of the day! We learned all about clamps and drills!!!
After lots of fun at the park, we revealed the projects that the Tinkerers could choose from: The Whale Mouth or A boat that would be swallowed by our whale!! After a design meeting, we got right to work.
Check out the SF Tinkering School Flickr for more photos throughout the week!
Yes, the title of this post is a rather poor word substitution joke about Wednesday being hump (fulcrum) day. But today was the day that the See Saw team got to work building the fulcrum for their see saw! The Tinkerers really put in a solid day of work today, and we went from having the merest sketches of our ideas built at the start of the day to having full, impressive structures by the end of the day. There's definitely more work to do, but we seem to be well on our way to having our own custom built playground on Friday!
The See Saw team had a good meeting in the morning, reviewing the progress they had already made, and making plans for the day to finish reinforcing the see saw lever and start building the fulcrum.
The See Saw team got straight to work and made great strides!
The Partner Swing team had a longer meeting in the morning. Because our project's first test ended in catastrophic failure yesterday, we had to revise our plans and come up with some new ways to reinforce our structure to make it strong enough to support swings. The Tinkerers came up with some good plans after reviewing how to work together effectively, and got to work!
We built hard for both build sessions, adding a huge amount of reinforcement to our swing frame! We also exhausted some tinkerers in the process.
By the end of the day, the swing team had a structure that was ready for a second test. Raising it up onto its base was an exciting ordeal, and required all hands on deck!
We tested the strength of the swing frame by having Evan slowly grab onto and hang from the crossbar, and it held up well! There's still some wobble to fix, but that's for tomorrow.
Wow! We had an incredibly productive second day. Tuesdays are always our first full day of building, and and both teams made a lot of progress.
Over at the Partner Swing team, we started our day off with a really good team meeting. We first discussed what it means to work together, and came up with some concrete ideas for how we could work effectively in a team. These included asking for help if you need it; offering help if you think you see someone who needs it; sharing ideas with one voice at a time so everyone could have a chance to be heard; finding a job that needed to be filled (not everyone can drill at the same time); and sticking with the same job for a while. These last two ideas led us to the realization that it could be really helpful to set up a job rotation system, where people sign up for certain jobs and stick with them for a while.
Next we set some goals for the day, and shared our thoughts about what we should try to do with our structure. We also drew out a color coded diagram on the whiteboard, and came up with a common vocabulary for the parts of our swing so that we could more easily talk about our structure with each other. We came up with terms like "triangle frame" and "crossbar."
Sharing important design considerations, and choosing jobs for ourselves in the job rotation schedule.
Our morning meeting did a really good job of exploring the ways in which we could collaborate well, and set us up for an excellent day of building! We made rapid progress and solved all kinds of problems togethers. Triangular frames pose interesting challenges since they tend to lack right angles, which allow rectangular pieces of wood to fit together easily.
By the end of the second build session, we had enough of a structure that we could try erecting it. Our test was incredible, specifically because it included catastrophic failure. Once we had lifted the structure upright, the crossbar detached itself from the triangle frame and was left hanging in midair from the pulley we had conscientiously used to raise it all safely. We learned that we needed to rebuild our structure to be much stronger.
The Group See Saw team started their day off with a surprisingly similar meeting, figuring out concrete ways to collaborate. Then they got straight to work designing and constructing, and quickly knocked out a 16 foot long see saw! So far the see saw seems to have enough handles to seat anywhere from 7 to 9 people at a time.
The See Saw team performed some excellent iterative building. After putting in a bunch of screws to attach plywood, they discovered that some screws had missed the 2x3 entirely!
The team also explored the nature of fulcrums and congruent triangles as applied to practical see saw design, and built a model to discover that the maximum height off the ground that a see saw rider will achieve will be twice the height of the fulcrum. This kind of modeling (stacking blocks of wood and things) is probably a process that is far older than Pythagorus, and it's amazing to see how much you can learn by participating in that kind of traditional exploration.
Today was the first day of a new week at Tinkering School! We have four main goals that we try to achieve during every day and every week of Tinkering School: to help one another collaborate and make friends; to try harder than usual; to learn from mistakes and failures; and to build something bigger than ourselves. This week we'll be trying to achieve these goals through building a Tinkering School take on a favorite place of many people: the playground!
When developing this theme, the collaborators all agreed that we love the playground (especially Evan, who can almost always be found at the very top of the play structure during park). But we also talked about how our favorite moments in Tinkering School and in life are when people are working together to achieve a bigger goal. So we decided to work with the Tinkerers to build playground equipment that requires multiple people to operate. Hence, Partner Playground!
We started the day with a discussion of our four main goals, and also worked together to create some group agreements about how to treat each other during the week.
After that, we moved onto tool training, taking the first steps down the path toward mastery over the drills and clamps.
After tool training, we took a break for lunch and some playtime at the park (and also, unbeknownst to the tinkerers, some play structure inspiration).
After park, we came back to the building, revealed the projects, and broke into groups for design sessions and some initial work!
Jay and his team will be trying to build a massive group see saw that seats a lot of tinkerers at once (possibly up to eight of them).
Evan and his team will be trying to build a partner swing! We aren't entirely sure what that means yet, but we do know now that we hope to be able to seat at least four people simultaneously on the same swing.