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The Tinkering Lab

The Tinkering Lab at our school is a place that nurtures the development of creative and scientific thinking.  A place for our children to explore, test, ask questions and think in new ways.  It is a space that recognizes children’s natural curiosity and drive for hands on exploration of ‘real’ materials.  The materials in the lab act as a catalyst for creative and inventive thinking.  They challenge the children to choose, theorize, and use known materials in unknown  or creative ways.  There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to use these materials. Rather the lab provides the opportunity for children to take risks in their thinking, and to think ‘outside of the box’.

Real tools are provided for the children’s use.  How to use the tools is explicitly taught, and happens with guidance and safety, and direct supervision.  One of the guiding principles of learning and thinking in a Reggio inspired school, is the vision that children from a very young age, are extremely ‘competent and capable’.  Children learn most readily and easily in a laboratory-type environment where they can experiment, enjoy and find out things for themselves.” (Malaguzzi)

The JK’s first visit was a natural extension of the work they had been carrying out with ‘Transformation of Materials and Structures’.  The children were introduced to the space, explored the many fascinating materials and experimented with some of the supplies. The rules were simple to enjoy the Tinkering Lab, but of utmost importance:

  • No running
  • Respect for each other and the work of others
  • No lifting of very heavy things
  • No touching tools, without guidance and full supervision

The children were asked questions such as:

  •  “What do you know about Tinkering?”
  • “What kind of tools do you see?”
  • “If you came her to create, what kind of projects would you like to design?”

Mr. Rafael asked this most poignant and thought provoking question of the JK:
“What do you have that is a super powerful tool?”

As we thought about this, Mrs. Modeste and I we considered that the answer was perhaps your ‘brain’. Mr. Rafael shared that he thought that, “It is your imagination!”

We have been given a challenge to think, to imagine and decide upon what we would like to build and what materials would need to be gathered.Like any new language, learning the language of new materials involves much discovery, trial and error, and experimentation. The design process to produce the interactive space involves creating and drawing an idea, planning its execution and considering alternatives.  Other skills such as problem solving, thinking about the requirements, modifying original ideas, constructing the design, and testing the design will need to be explored. This all takes time.  Over the coming weeks the children will experience firsthand the design process, as they revisit the questions and dialogue to make decisions about what we will create collaboratively or in smaller groups.

As R. shared, “In the Tinkering Lab you can make anything you want!”

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