My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book appealed to me right from the get go. Curt’s mix of examples, experiences and humor made this an enjoyably informative read. His writing style captured the playful spirit that nearly always accompanies a quality tinkering session.
The book is written with alternating chapter themes. The first chapter, and every other chapter that follows, describes a topic in which tinkering can occur. Examples include sound, magnetism, mechanics, circuits, chemistry, biology, and engineering with motors. If you are looking for ideas that could immediately find their way into your classroom, then look no further.
Curt provides material lists, tools to have, and pictures for nearly every step of the builds that are shown. Sometimes the text indicates a specific colored part to reference in the pictures, but the images are all black and white. Still, it isn’t too difficult to determine what part he’s talking about. (And the lack of color images may not be a concern in the digital versions of this book.)
Most importantly, Curt shares the types of conversation and questions that should be asked to help drive students deeper into the experience. Prompting the kids to discover concepts, to explain how they came to their conclusions, or to ask and answer their own personal questions with the materials in front of them are his goals. Curt promotes dialogues between student and teacher that go way beyond superficial discussions of fact and recollection.
The even chapters are dedicated to more of the “art and science” of using tinkering in a classroom setting. Themes for these chapters include tinkering and the learning process, good tinkering sessions, logistics, learning community and differentiated learning, questions and answers, and standards and assessments. If the odd chapters are all about what to do with your hands, these chapters are all about what to do with your mind. The even chapters unpack the reasons behind the learning decisions he made in the odd chapters.
Don’t expect heavy doses of theory in these even chapters, because as Curt explains early on, the heavy research work he leaves to the academics. He prefers to deal with the “boots on the ground” practice-based evidence he’s collected that supports “hands-on/minds-on”, “get dirty” learning that kids need. It is analogous to the science history he shares that credits the craftsmen working in the guilds of the Enlightenment as being the source of practical knowledge that the famous thinkers of that time would then weave into theory. And if it is learning theory pertaining to tinkering that you do want, you can find sprinkles of it in the stories Curt shares from his mentors. Additionally, more research paper styled sources are in the first appendix of the book.
So much of this book resonated with me and my own observations regarding how students grow as both independent and collaborative learners in the tinkering sessions I’ve designed for them. But even if you have never run such a session, this book explains everything you need to make one happen. Curt’s friendly, funny, and passionate story-telling style will fill you with the confidence you need to dive into the ways of tinkering. And if you needed a short primer or are short on time, I’d recommend reading the chapters on magnetism, learning, circuits, and questioning as your “must-read” chapters. I found plenty of treasure in these brief chapters.
No matter the tinkering level you possess as a teacher, or administrator, you can’t help but be convinced that “mucking around with stuff” type learning that students go through will help them to forge new connections to the tinkerable world around them.
Images in this post, but not shown in the Image Credits section, are my own.