The 7th and 8th Grade Tinkering elective was a buzz of activity today, and everyone is making headway on their projects. The scroll saw, drill press and laser cutter were all going at different points as students finally took practical steps toward the creation of their instrument ideas!
For my students, dreaming up an idea is easy. Given the theme of musical instruments, it takes us only minutes to come up with a boatload of ideas to be excited about-a guitar shaped like fighter jet, a harmonica that flipps out of a case with the flick of the wrist…an old-time street organ..a mini conga drum!
It takes a little bit more energy to put that idea to paper. To actually draw your dream means you have to actually think about the shape and lines in more concrete ways. You may start feeling a bit uncertain, or you might start noticing some conflicts between your dream and real-world design issues. Maybe you start worrying you don’t have the skills or the tools to do what you want to do. It takes a bit more encouragement from me to get my students to push past this hurdle and just get their ideas down in some physical form.
It takes a lot more energy to actually attempt to make a physical model of your idea.
Where do you start? What materials do you use? How does it actually work? What if you fail?! Saying you want to make a guitar that looks like a fighter jet is one thing, but actually making it is a much bigger thing.
This is where I have to push my students over the hump. Sometimes this is just simple encouragement to try something. “Take this piece of wood and get started!”
Other times it means checking in every 5 minutes “I want you to start by putting a hole in that box like you drew on the design,” then 5 minutes later, “ what’s next? You have the hole, now just try to attach your box. Tape and glue might be where you start.” “Remember, it is all about just making that first attempt.”
A first attempt will almost never be perfect, especially if you are building something that really excites you. Some would call these first attempts failures, but it is hard to say that when you realize that those “failures” are what every real success is built on. Learning to just get started is a lesson in itself, and as the year progresses, I see more and more students just jumping in and trying things. I think we can count that as a success!
Tatian Greenleaf is the Design, Tinkering and Technology Intergrator at Mark Day School.