Tinkering School

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2014 Session D - Juniors

Day 5 - Climbing higher

2014 Session D - JuniorsJoshua RothhaasComment

Thursday - it's back to work, after our day away at the beach. We spend the morning enjoying breakfast and cleaning up our bunks. When we finally meander up to the barn, it's with the excited energy of a group ready to build and tinker. The elevator team is on top of it - their goal today is to get the improvements on the elevator added and the elevator back in testing condition.

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Joey takes a moment to sit on top of a scaffold, gazing out.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Kaiden sets to work on a ladder for Tower Two.

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It comes together quickly.

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An upside down Oren, with a photo-bombing Gretchen for reference.


Of course, even the excitement of working on the climbing structure can't keep us from visiting with the chickens.

Isabella grabs "Feather Foot." IMG 4652

Makai coaxes "Zebra" onto his lap. IMG 4667

Lydia and Dora have been working hard on the "zip line" turned tram. They work on piecing together rails.

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Ludmilla left us a legacy when she departed on Tuesday - a gorgeous climbing wall. Today, we managed to mount it on the side of Tower One.

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Lydia gives it a go.

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Looks comfortable up top!

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Michael pauses work for a second to glance over. He's been a diligent member of the Tower One team from the start, and can almost always be found working on that tower.

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Portrait of the barn: A view from the side of Tower One.

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A true climbing structure like this one leaves room for gymnastics.

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Tekuru's grown a mustache.


Emma adds to the elevator.



Makai works on adding plywood to the side of the tower for shear strength.


Tower Two is finally stable enough to climb on top of. Mostly.

Josh tests it out.



Portrait of a Tinkerer: Michael, working.


A lesson on how to cut a rope with a sharp knife - one of the simple tasks that is so exceptionally satisfying. With a hot enough knife, it slides through paracord like butter, leaving behind perfect, fray-free ends. Something everyone should try at some point.

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Lilah, aboard the elevator - it's all smile.

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The mechanism consists of four pulleys- two on top and two on the bottom, with a cleat to stop it from slipping back down unintentionally. The rider pulls his or herself up by pulling down on the rope, and can push up on a piece of plywood controlling the cleat to drop down.

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Makai, enjoying himself.

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Your Daily Goat.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Dora, a elf in a the magical land of Tinker.

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The elevator "handle" for pulling yourself up - Tekuru takes control.

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Portrait of a Donkey Fan: Emma pets on of the farm's miniature donkeys.


Marco, heading back into the barn.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Michael, thoughtful.

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Kevin, one of our Junior Collaborators, explains something to Gretchen.

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Makai, armed with a drill and ready to take on any task.

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Gretchen, wrapped up as a present with a big, maroon bow.

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As a side project throughout the day, we've used stencils and blue and orange spray paint to make T-shirts. Some of the results ....

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The creativity is overwhelming.

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Satisfied with the success of the elevator tests, the team decorates. With splatter paint.

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Lilah and Emma customize their jeans.

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The creative energy extends to Josh's hair.

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We end the day with another bout at the tire swings. We've built more, bigger, higher. We're starting to see projects headed toward completion. Today's been a wonderful, exciting success.

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Day 4 - Beach Play

2014 Session D - JuniorsJoshua RothhaasComment

Today is beach day. A Tinkering School tradition for Wednesday, it gives us a chance to stop, take some time away from our project, and reset before heading back to work.

All packed and ready, Tekuru plays on the tree as she waits for the group to gather.

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Beach day means waving goodbye to our projects for a time, taking our minds off of them, and taking the chance to play with new challenges instead.

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We explore the tools we've had all week in a new light. Away from the context of the project, it can become anything. Focusing on a specific task restricts our ability to think outside the box - we take a second to reengage that part of our minds.

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We get hands on in new ways.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Kaiden, captivated.

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The beach is the perfect spot to experience a sense of freedom - outside of restricted walls. Boundaries seem limitless, the landscape open for exploration.

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Beach day is pure play. Not the fun of working through a challenge, dealing with frustrations, tinkering that working in the barn is, but and exciting, "weeee" type of fun. That's what we come here for, and we find it in abundance.

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The excitement is incredible. Taking a break resets our excitement for when we come back to the barn, and makes the next two day that much better for it.

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We race to explore - this energy for exploration, the joy of trying things out - we look for it when we build, when we tinker. Sometimes we can understand it better in the distilled form we can find on the beach, but when we come back, we can apply it to the barn.

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We jump boundaries.

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At the beach, the weight of a goal is lifted from us. The option to do nothing, in and of itself, often encourages us to try something. Failure has no consequences when nothing is resting on the success. So beach day encourages us to take risks, try new things.

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Its a chance to work with our group in a new context, too, learn about each other in a new way.


Portrait of a Facilitator: Josh drying off after a swim.

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And perhaps part of the reason we have beach day is how happy it makes us.

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Beach day gets us off to a running start on the second half of the week.

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We take a break from building, get a chance to clear our heads.


It gives us a chance to rest.

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We're in a different space, and that space offers new ways to gather.


We create - headbands out of paracord, sand castles, games.

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In a strange way, beach day can be the most productive day all week. It enables us to move forward, but it is itself more than that. It's an entire platform built for tinkering, exploring, learning in the true Tinkering School fashion - through freedom and hands on play.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Megan, home after the long day.

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After showers and dinner, we head down to the playground to swing on the tire swings - we aren't to tired to have more fun.


Swing battles! Take a look at that movement!


Day 3 - Progress and Playfulness

2014 Session D - JuniorsJoshua RothhaasComment

Rise and shine! Josh's ukulele strumming brings him a gathering of tinkerers outside after breakfast, who sing along and convince him to attempt to learn "The Best Day." We have "special breakfast" this morning, complete with warm waffles and sausages, equipping ourselves for a long day file with lots of progress.

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We head up to the barn to pick up where we left off on the projects. The second tower, which was built upside-down, was flipped half-way over last night during barn time, and one of the first things we did was turn it all the way up.


Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lydia using the handsaw.

P1150501 The elevator team sets up to work, re-thinking their design and gathering as a group to reset. Tuesday is great for this - Monday, we're given a chance to get used to the tools, try out things, and see what works. Tuesday gives us a chance to build on our successes, learn from our failures, and improve.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Megan, perched on the edge of the goat pen.


The elevator team, Joey, Emma, and Lilah, get started.


Kaiden, chop saw spinning, slices through a board. There's something powerful about cutting through wood in a single go.


The new brace for the elevator is coming along- meant to stop the ropes from interfering with the seating.


Ryker, up on make-shift scaffolding, works four feet off the ground to screw in some boards. Lots of the work today has to happen up high, so some of the first pieces we put together are "stool-like" scaffolds. These scaffolds are interesting in and of themselves as structures, and will be added to the climbing structure once they've accomplished their original purpose.


Lulu, drilling up - animated as always.


Portrait of a Tinkerer: Marco peers out from behind a beam. With a big, bandaged, thumbs up.


We head back up after lunch, and our progress makes leaps and bounds.

Makai sits on one of the scaffolds, reaching up to work on attaching diagonal braces for the top of the fort. Stabilization is the key aim of the day on the second tower- making sure it doesn't wobble at all before we attempt to climb up on it.

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The first tower's second story is beginning to come together. Almost all of the beams have been added, and the team sets to work on a "staircase" to the first floor.

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The elevator team, too, has been seeing huge amounts of progress- their triangular pieces attached, they look now to add plywood to stabilize and strengthen them

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Tekuru lends a hand painting the climbing wall - a bright, brilliant, happy yellow.

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Portrait of some Tinkerers: Dora and Tekuru, a bit crazy. In small quantities, craziness is encouraged - this bunch sure has the excited energy for it.


Your Daily Goat.

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We've been at work most of the afternoon - even goat breaks have been wearing thin. And so as a group, we head for the creek at the bottom of the the ranch - off on an adventure.

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Portrait of a walk: The discovery of a hole.

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We find a banana slug.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Tekuru, thrilled to be holding a lizard.

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Portrait of aforementioned lizard: Aboard a finger.

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Lulu and Megan examine it closely.

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Explorations abound.

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Today has been filled with work, pauses, work, and more play. We take moments to stop and see the chickens, rest and brush the goats. But we chug ever forward, always making progress. And so goes Tuesday.


Tuesday ends in movie night - featuring "The Incredibles." We eat popcorn, laugh, and gather together. It's wonderful.

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Day 2 - Let's build it big!

2014 Session D - JuniorsJoshua RothhaasComment

The morning begins slowly as we ease into our first day. We head down to feed the compost to the chickens - they love having us here, because they get bagels...

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Monday's special because it the day we begin - we learn what the project is going to be, and we set to work. And so we gather 'round to hear what we'll spend the week working on - our masterpiece to-be.

This week, we'll be building a giant jungle gym, spanning the barn, filled with sub-projects - anything the kids want to build. Minds set to work, cogs spin...

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The structure team takes a look at the beam and triangles in the barn roof for inspiration. Michael, Ludmila, Tekuru, and Dora all pitch in ideas.

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Pete, one of our collaborators, works with the elevator team: Emma, Lilah, Joey - the excitedly brainstorm.

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Gretchen and Isabella want to build a swing - and so they make their ideas a reality. Megan and Kaiden look on.

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The structure team builds beams.

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Joey tests out the plywood bottom for the elevator.

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A team works on a balance beam - to be hung above a still theoretical giant net.

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Within the hour, the barn is full of the sound of drills - construction has begun.

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Whittling breaks are encourages whenever the tinkerers feel they need one. Isabella takes advantage of that.

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The structural beams are going up.

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The "zip - line" team works on a wheeled cart that rolls down a track above the ground, with a gondola hanging from the bottom.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gretchen, grinning.

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Emma and Pete screw the elevator "cabin" together.

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Tekuru's first imaginings of the jungle gym.

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After lunch, we gather as a group to reframe the problem - shifting the goals from a triangular tower to two rectangular ones, so the zip - line can span the middle.

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Isabella and Ludmilla are building a climbing wall.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer - Marco proudly shows off his bandage - he nicked his thumb whittling this morning.

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A pointy stick holder. This group has taken pointy sticks to the next level.

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The walls for tower two, beginning to go up - it's getting bigger!

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The walls for tower one are coming together too. Michael's been among the hard workers on that team.

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Kaiden screws the walls of tower two in.

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The zip-line team discusses. This tight group has a lot of design challenges and finicky bits to think through, and have been attaching the problems as they come up with tremendous patience and persistence .

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Emma pauses her task to glance over.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lydia, determined.

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Lilah grabs a hammer.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Isabella, wistful.

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Makai, whittling - he, along with the rest of this group, filled with avid whittlerers, are getting good at the craft.

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Joey and the elevator team work out a clever solution for creating the hugely long braid they're working on.

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Ryker and Isabella, heading towards the barn together.

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Gretchen and Tree. She's found her niche, climbing up to help attach the pulley system for the elevator test.

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Megan tries... and it works. Sort-of. Its a bit "awkward" to ride in, reports Emma. And so it's back to the barn to tinker with the problem.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Michael at work.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Kaiden helps out.

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Isabellla's contracting a miniature village, built out of wood scraps carefully decorated with sharpie.

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Aiden tries out the first floor of the first tower. Success!

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After a great day in the barn - we have two tower each almost complete to the first floor, we head in for dinner.

Then, it's time to hit the tire swings.

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Tekuru is an developing artist - she lays down on the floor of the first story to draw.

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The partially completed deck inspires a group of painter.

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We have a jungle gym. It's begun - the chaos, the huge, ambitious goal of a project that reaches into the sky - or at least the rafters. This team can do it- their energy soars, and the week is just beginning. Let's build it big!

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Day 1 - Coalescence

2014 Session D - JuniorsJoshua RothhaasComment

Tinkerers sweep in, arriving slowly at first, then in bursts. Parents mill about, exploring, signing in, then hugs and goodbyes. Today is Sunday - the first day of a new session, of a new group, filled with potential. It's exciting and leisurely, fun mixed with pauses to absorb new tool training.

We gather as a group - introduce ourselves, and the talk about knife safety rules - and then, as Tinkering School tradition dictates, we all get a knife.

And the whittling begins.

Little sticks...

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Big sticks....

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A 2x3.... Any piece of wood will do.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gretchen grins at the successful completion of the Tinkering School perfected pointy stick - the most popular project.

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And then it's off to one of the most important Sunday activities - chop saw training. Understanding how to use this much loved tool safely is vital for the week to come - with the exception of the drills, it's the most used power tools.

Josh explains the basics as the group looks on.

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And then everyone has a go - the best way to learn is to try it yourself.

For pictures of more of the kids having a turn - check out the flickr feed.

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The proper response to a "ready" call - a silent thumbs up, so that any loud objections can be heard.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Ryker, curious.

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We learn by doing - in order to understand the direction in which a 2 x 3 is strong, we jump on it to break it. After three successive kids make an attempt, Ludmilla tries...

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A crowd watches Josh as he demonstrates how to use the drills.

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Oren contemplates.

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Portrait of the Barn: The rafters.

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Small groups grab pieces of scrap wood and put to use what they've learned, practicing drilling holes and screwing boards together.

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Hands of a Tinkerer: Makai, pre-drilling.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Tekuru glances over.

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Dinner is filled with discussions: the classic "Jiro's boat" (a discussion of possession and identity), and further storytelling.

We finish the evening with an early birthday celebration for Kevin (a Junior Collaborator), armed with the pie she brought with her for the group to share.

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And as the group gets more familiar with one another, they discover that the ledge in the girl's dorm room makes a great bench

For hanging out and talking...

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Or for stretching out on...

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But as all days do, this one pulls to an end. We've amped up the excitement, learned a bit about each other, and learned lots about how to use the tools that will aid us in the week ahead. We've been quick to grasp hold of what we've learned and apply it - at whittling, at the chop saw, with drills - and when we wake up, we'll be ready to learn about our challenge.

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