Tinkering School

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Day One - A Slow and Steady Start

2013 session 4 - JuniorsJoshua Rothhaas1 Comment

Day one is a nice slow day. Josh is back to take the reins from Gever for a week, but this time it's planned. No 1am text about pink eye and plan b. The parents and kids roll in slowly throughout the hour and the energy levels are controlled but full of anticipation. For all but a few campers, this is their first time at tinkering school and they don't know what to expect. For some, it is their first overnight camp experience.

We start the day on a serious note. It's designed to scare and impart a serious tone around the tools we use. The tools are dangerous. They are explicitly designed to cut through wood. We are much softer than wood. If we use the tools right, they will never hurt us. If is miss use them or underestimate them, the ramifications could be terrible.

Together we write our rules. Josh is a big nut for collective agreements over at the day camp. "Don't kill, or try to kill, anyone else" is a particularly straightforward one this week. We all agreed it was a great rule.

The pace on monday is sluggish, and these 8-10 year olds handle it with grace. We'll have the rest of the week to rush. We walk through some safety and use the chop saw's and drills.

P1110420 The kids line up to take their turn at the chop saw.

P1110425 Joey takes the first go with the most popular power tool.

P1110429 Gretchen on the chop saw.

P1110436 Megan has her hair safely tied back.

P1110444 Rory on the chop saw.

P1110448 Ana lines up a clean cut.

P1110451 Amadeo on the chop saw.

P1110456 Yoel on the chop saw.

P1110460 The group explores drills.

After exploring drills and driving some screws Josh starts the first of a series of demonstrations designed to jumpstart our intuition. How are screws strong? How can you connect 1x4 on edge and make it feel sturdy? The crowd favorite is Oren (one of our collaborators this week) and Josh's ongoing rant that clamps are your ticket to freedom. Clamps are like big adult hands without the adults. In fact, adults use them all the time. They allow for independence of creation. They are Tinkering Schools first major bridge into resiliency and self direction.

These problems are interesting, but over the years we've discovered that they are fundamentally slow to catch on without direct instruction. Clamps could go undiscovered for the whole week. Discovering the notion of pre-drilling could cost us half of our usable wood through split ends and week joint. We address these clearly and early on so that we might get to more interesting problems with stronger feedback mechanisms as soon as possible. Does the roller coaster go? Does the boat float? Can we break safely? and so on.

P1110471 Bryn does a pull up on our 1x4 model, demonstrating how much stronger wood can get by adding the right piece at the right cross section.

P1110473 Joey puts all her weight on the 1x4.

P1110476 Maybe we should do a week where we make gym equipment?

P1110481Josh joins the pull up fun.

P1110485 In a quick demonstration of the power of a lever arm, josh ends the pull up fun.

Form there we move to our first challenge. Build a chair out of no more than 12 total feet of wood. Tired of demos and safety lessons and eager to get building, the kids dive right in.

P1110487 Megan and Rory get measuring.

P1110489 Ana is very focussed on a big idea.

P1110494 Ana does yoga on Josh's hyper minimalist example piece.

P1110501 Oren and Yoel work out some details.

P1110504 Jonah takes his ticket to freedom, a newly found understanding of conner guesting, and get right on his way to making a sturdy chair.

After cleaning up we head up the the house for some amazing dinner with Herb, our chef. After a few rounds of Pass the Pigs, a game of spoons, and some spider hunting, we call light out and head to bed.

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