Its time to use your brain and play with the cardboard!

“When we abandon our prejudices and superstitions in order to create the conditions in which anything is possible, teachers and children alike will exceed our expectations” (Stager, 2015).

Anything is possible motivational poster in abstract frame with quotes.

Famed fashion designer, Vera Wang, was planning her wedding in 1989.  She could not find a single wedding dress she liked.  She had not designed a wedding dress before but she was a fashion designer.  So, she began to sketch, edit, sketch, edit, until she had a design to make a prototype.  From the prototype, she determined her final tweaks before creating a beautiful wedding dress for her wedding. The following year, she opened her own bridal boutique and has become one of, if not the best, wedding dress designer in the world.

This is an example of Design Thinking.  Design Thinking is a process being defined and implemented in educational classrooms.  Just like Vera Wang, students conduct research and determine what the problem is.  From there, students ideate.  This phase of design thinking is where Stager’s “making” goes into effect.

Gary Stager, in his book, states kids need time to freely make things, tinker, and be creative without constraints (Stager, 2013).   This stage allows students to be creative in ways others may not have thought of yet.  This is where I would live if I could.  Just create item after item after item.  How fun would that be?

When the making intertwines with ideate, it is to find a solution to a problem.  However, Stager insists students need time to just tinker and play.  This open space is a blank canvas for young minds to ponder all possibilities, and develop something out of raw materials.

—moving beyond the general expectations or activities modeled in the Tinkering Studio to do or create something completely different (Bevan, Gutwill, Petrich, & Wilkinson, 2014).

We have lost the value of play.  I recently interviewed a gentleman who grew up in Trinidad.  At the age of 12, he was forced to quit school and get a job to help support the household.  Even before that, everything was about work; cleaning house, doing laundry, cooking, etc.  He was never allowed to play or be a kid; just work (ECAR, personal interview, October, 2018).


So, next time your students want to play instead of following the lesson, pull out the box of scrap material, the popsicle sticks, and the cardboard boxes and let them loose.

“I was relieved to see in the videos [of tinkering in the museum and in classrooms] how students were setting goals for themselves, asking deep questions, interacting with the facilitators and responding to their feedback (Bevan et al., 2014).


In next week’s blog, we will continue our exploration of Design Thinking.


Bevan, B., Gutwill, J. P., Petrich, M., & Wilkinson, K. (2014). Learning through STEM-rich tinkering: Findings from a jointly negotiated research project taken up in practice. Science Education,99(1), 98-120. doi:10.1002/sce.21151

ECAR, personal interview, October, 2018.

Stager, G. S. (2015). Outside the skinner box. Independent School74(2), 26. Retrieved from



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