Tinkering School

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Session E: Day 3 - Suddenly, We Went to the Beach

2016 Session E - MiddlesSerena G-H3 Comments

(written by Gever, Serena, and Zach)

There are a handful of foundational principles that we operate on at Tinkering School, one, formed out of necessity, is so ingrained that we hardly mention it these days: Make it Work With What You Have. It's a credo of sorts, that keeps us working within the set of constraints we are given: materials, location, time, and team. It also keeps us from running to the hardware store for a specialized part that, with just a bit more effort, we can design ourselves out of needing.

In securing the Conference Center at Elkus Ranch as our site, we had to accommodate a couple of already booked events. Of course we said, "sure, no problem, we can work around that," and then promptly forgot to write down the specific date. As a result, we had to decamp from the main hall yesterday, and move everyone off-campus from 8:45 till 16:30. We decided to treat it as an early beach day... knowing that the rhythm of the week would get skewed. No problem, make it work with what you have. Embrace the perturbation and see what new perspectives open up. We'll have a solid 3.5 day run to the end of the week where we can build like the obsessed and relentless inventors we all seem to be this session.

Everybody is up for breakfast an hour earlier than normal, then food is packed, vehicles are packed, and we are off to San Gregorio Beach - one of our favorites because there is so much driftwood. Now we just have to schlepp our supplies to the beach.

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We decide to put base camp on the other side of the lagoon...

Definitely a longer schlepp, but we're going to be at the beach for the whole day so it seems like it will be worth it. Right?

Walking in sand is good for the brain. Something about how you can't really run, combined with the sounds of the surf and the wind; it all adds up calming down the brain. Tinkering School might open a chain of mental and physical health spas called TRUDGE - we'll figure out how to make loose sand treadmills.

We don't make a pretty camp. The average age of our group, staff included, is about 12, so we just stop walking and plop down our stuff. Schlepp & Plop - in case TRUDGE doesn't catch on.

Lee realizes he's got three points of contact - time to whittle!

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Beckett

On a huge beach, with endless sand and driftwood, a huge hole is an anomaly that cannot be left unexplored.

Since we can't go back to the ranch until 4:30, and with the weather being very indecisive, we impose a "no swimming until noon" rule that limits immersion to ankle-deep only. Katherine and Shoshi immediately embrace the ankle limit ("make it work with what you have") and engage in some foam jumping.

While Ewon takes a rather more stately engagement with the water.

Meanwhile, back at the big hole, there's a whole lot of silliness.

And Gever and Elijah get into a long conversation. The fog played with us all day, sometimes seeming to appear simultaneously everywhere and other times licking around the corners of the lagoon.

Caroline's working at Day Camp this week and next, but her kite gets to go to the beach with us.

We came to TINKER, please send tools and materials.

For some reason, we've got a lot of lost heads today.

For those that care to pay attention, the beach offers many fine details and textures.

Mid-morning, the cards come out and the staff all experience a moment of "ah, not on the sand!" before deciding that it was going to happen anyway. Cards, whittling, and a hatful of Cheezits - does it get any better?

Collaborator Miles decides that it's time for the gang to learn how to play Hearts (which is the gateway to Bridge, as we all know). Allison, Beckett, and David are excited to learn.

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Collaborators Brian and Nicole set to work on an assemblage of sticks and stones.

Thomas grabs some twine and starts experimenting with kinetic fidget appliances.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Ewon

Then, in what seems like the blink of an eye, it's back to the truck for lunch. Collaborator Daniel takes over the PB&J assembly line.

The textures and contrasts are breathtaking.

With lunch concluded and a quick review of the rules of engagement, it's time to get into the water!

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Meanwhile, over by the lagoon, Gever has found some old rope and with a little help from Elijah and some tinkerers, he's started to build a raft. Make it work with what you have.

The tinkerers soon discover that the lagoon is much, much, warmer than the ocean. Trinity moves to the calmer shore with a chunk of wood she's taken a liking to.

Serena contributes to the raft project with some excellent lashing.

The whole purpose of beach day is to de-complexify life. Nik lays down for a moment that turns into a nice long nap. Teenagers need sleep the way that whales need krill.

Lee and Bob (aka Henry) have decided to spend the afternoon throwing wet sand at things. They float a log, play with it for a moment, and then step back and start throwing wet sand at it. This confuddles Gever, who is pretty sure that the reason to float a log is to so that you can paddle it - but sure, whatever floats your boat.

He appreciates when they pitch in with Zach to get the raft launched.

And they try floating about a bit, but not too much - because there's wet sand to be thrown at things.

Which gives Gever a chance to take the raft out for a paddle.

Robert makes himself a complicated stick and twine contraption, and then spends a long time figuring out how it behaves and learning to make it do tricks.

David takes the raft out for a spin, ends up drifting out into the deep part of the lagoon, and spends almost 40 minutes figuring out how to get back to shore. We were prepared to go get him, but the need never arose as we watched him perform an endless series of experiments to figure out how to get the raft to move in a direction and not just spin.

After a lovely, long, day at the beach we head back to the ranch for showers and start supper. A trip to the creek is mounted and the adventures begin in the pre-dinner down-time.

There's a skill to catching crawdads, and this group is figuring it out early in the week.

We have played in three bodies of water today; ocean, lagoon, and creek. A remarkable set of circumstances has created a unique moment in all of our lives, and we are grateful. These are the days that make being on this planet, at this moment, with these fine folks, seem like some miracle has occurred. Make it work with what you have, indeed.

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