Lunch time tinkering turned out to be extremely popular. Though I didn’t know what to expect going in, these are a few of the takeaways I came away with:
To get started, all you need is cardboard and tape. Far and away, the most popular lunch time tinkering activity was constructing with cardboard. When I offered up the chance to design and make robots using any of the materials in the tinkering space, the overwhelming choice was cardboard. Have a good supply of cardboard and tape on hand.
You will see children at their best. When we started, I set three simple rules: 1. Everybody cleans up. 2. Everyone is invited to join in. 3. Everyone helps solve problems. Except for one incident, where a special needs child was initially excluded (and other children immediately spoke up for him) there was never a problem with behaviour. We all worked together.
Children want to explore their own ideas. On a day when we were making cardboard arcade games (as inspired by Caine’s Arcade), I wasn’t sure how the youngest children in grade one would fare. Did they even know what an arcade game was? I printed off examples of cardboard arcade games ahead of time for inspiration. Not one child looked at them. After we had our initial discussion (which we always did to remind students of the rules and the day’s task) the children got started. You could tell they wanted to build something and test it, to see if it would work. If it didn’t, they made changes and tested again.
You don’t need unlimited materials. Not having enough materials became part of a problem to solve. When we ran out of cardboard, the question became, what could you use instead? The students were never stuck. They always figured out another way to come at the problem.
Not everyone wants to tinker and that’s okay. As the weeks went on, there were “regulars” who came as often as they could. Others I never saw. I knew they were the ones who needed to go outside and run in the fresh air over the lunch hour. Tinkering did offer, for those children who needed it, a chance to putter and play in ways that suited their personalities.
Kids of all ages are capable tinkerers. One of our tinkering activities was taking apart old appliances and machines we gathered up. A grade one student had the challenging task of taking apart a broken stopwatch. With perseverance and focus, and the use of a tiny screwdriver she opened the stopwatch and organized the parts:
Pretty amazing for a six year old!