Google the word “make” and what do you see? This was my search results:
The first thing you see in my Google Search is the definition. Words like construct, build, and bring about, are the defining characteristics of make. However, it depends who is using the word ‘make’ on whether we give value to the word or not. Think about it. If someone says they work construction and build(make) houses, we assume they struggled in school. If someone says they are a homemaker, we give them that look of ‘oh, you are just a homemaker’. But if someone says they are an engineer or actor, then the word ‘make’ is of great value. “I make movies.” “I design[make] rockets.” Can you hear the ooh’s and awes?
I am not denying the actor and the engineer are makers of great proportions. But, I am challenging the perception the construction worker and the homemaker are ‘less than’. All four occupations are valuable and require a different ‘make’ skill set. Yes, the engineer can design a rocket for NASA but can he get 2 kids to school (on time, dressed, and with their homework), go grocery shopping with the 2-year-old, clean the house, do the laundry, pick the kids up from school, get to soccer practice, make dinner, check homework, baths, bed, and a 100 other things with hardly a thanks? Possibly, but the homemaker is pretty amazing too if you ask me!
We have to stop devaluing ‘making’ in our society unless it comes with a big paycheck. Sylvia Martinez & Gary Stager in their book, Invent to Learn, say, “Not all projects have to be high tech. The goal is to stretch personal boundaries and venture out of comfort zones” (2013. p.207). On a plane trip a few years ago, I watched the movie, Joy, about miracle mop inventor, Joy Mangano. Click on the picture below to hear Joy’s perspective on making.
If you notice in the 35-second video, Joy uses a variation of the word make four (4) times. She has built an empire on making things from everyday materials; like a mop using yarn. Just imagine what children can do if they are allowed to create and make anything they can dream of? That is the same idea in the book, Invent to Learn. We need to give students time to make whatever they can imagine out of materials in the room.
Research reveals tinkering supports relevant skills for academic and scientific work and, given repeated opportunities to tinker, students develop a natural tinker mentality (Mader & Dertein, 2016).
A popular game in my house is . When my sons first bought this game, I was shocked at their fascination with it. Everything is square shaped and the graphics are very rudimentary as far as XBox games go. But my husband, three sons, two of my daughters-in-law, AND my two grandsons will play this game for hours. Until reading the book, Invent to Learn, I didn’t understand why. But I get it now! The game is a free space, with an unlimited amount of possibilities, materials, and adventures that are just waiting for them to explore (Farber, 2017)! They learn how to gather materials to make sandstone, to build all kinds of things. They grow crops and make food to survive. They are problem-solving and thinking critically the entire time they are playing the game. When they play together, they are creating houses and sharing resources. It is amazing!
The benefit of this game is the 21st-century skills they are learning and the focus on the four C’s.
Are you still not sure tinkering is a worthwhile activity? Consider this: Thomas Edison was a famous tinkerer. It took him over 6,000 plant materials and 1,000 tries to make the filament for the incandescent light bulb (Teaching Lifelong Learning, 2017)
So, cast your fears aside and jump into the tinkering of education! If you are unsure how to begin tinkering and making in the classroom, with limited resources and a fear of total chaos, I want to suggest Minecraft: Education Edition found at https://education.minecraft.net/.
Farber, M. (2017, December 1). Learning by Tinkering. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/learning-tinkering.
Mader, A., & Dertien, E. (2016, September 09.). Http://epde.info/epde2016/. Retrieved from https://www.utwente.nl/en/eemcs/educational-quality/teacher_development/Results/publications/tinkering/made2016-tinkering-as-method-in-academic-teaching.pdf
Teaching lifelong learning through tinkering. (2017, July 07). Retrieved from https://academicpartnerships.uta.edu/articles/education/lifelong-learning-through-tinkering.aspx