Tinkering is the intersection of science, art, and technology. It is about using familiar materials in unfamiliar ways to create and “make” – individually or with others – something that has meaning to the tinkerer. It is a mindset. Tinkering is a unique form of STEM learning that is typically non-linear and centered in the vision of the maker. Tinkering facilitates STEM content learning through trial and error that builds conceptual understanding – often by what doesn’t work! The key to successful tinkering in afterschool is applying the three fundamentals: environment, materials and facilitation. Tinkering is also a perfect intersection for STEAM, or arts integration with science.
Tinkering provides a low-barrier and inspirational approach to engaging children in STEM learning activities. It is creative, playful, and learner-directed. A recent study from the California Tinkering Afterschool Network (CTAN) suggests that the iterative, creative and improvisational features of tinkering, when facilitated to optimize these features, can provide a powerful context for all students to experience success and develop understanding.
In partnership with the Montshire Museum and under the Noyce Foundation grant, afterschool programs in 2015-2017 were awarded tinkering kits, training, and educator resources for implementing an afterschool tinkering program. Programs who received the kits are also implementing the Tinkering Common Instrument that measures youth excitement, critical thinking, and perseverance. The outcome of the project is a body of exemplar tinkering programs and a pool of informal tinkering coaches/mentors who can their experiences with new tinkering efforts statewide.
These professional development workshops offer hands-on, interactive experiences for staff working in afterschool, summer, and expanded learning programs. Workshops are available upon request.