For: Parents, Teachers

Resource Type(s): Professional Development, Program

Grade Band: Elementary, Middle School

Subject(s): Arts, Science, Technology

The Tinkering Fundamentals course will offer educators and enthusiasts an opportunity to develop a practice of tinkering and making. We see tinkering as a serious endeavor—one that is generalizable across content and especially good at interweaving disciplines in a way that leads to complex projects and individualized learning opportunities. Tinkering has recently been introduced into the educational field as a potential driver of creativity, excitement, and innovation in science learning. It is seen by many as an effective means to engage in exploring STEM concepts, practices and phenomena.

Tinkering typically blends the high and low tech tools of science along with a strong aesthetic dimension that supports children’s (and adults’) self expression. NB: This is a hands-on course, so you will need several tools and materials to do weekly activities. You are welcome to purchase only what you don’t already have—or even better try to scrounge them from surplus stores! There is a list of recommended materials, which you can find here.

For over a decade, the Exploratorium has been developing science-rich tinkering activities for both children and adults. We see tinkering as a fun yet serious endeavor—spanning many disciplines and content areas and fostering connections between art, science, and technology. Learners follow their own path to understanding by investigating tools and materials and exploring questions that interest them. This opens up a wide range of possible answers rather than any specific “right” one, particularly for teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects in the classroom.

This course centers on activities related to Motion and Mechanisms, which offer a wealth of opportunities for thinking through making. In this course, we won’t just show you how we develop tinkering activities; we’ll also delve into why. We’ll focus on three important aspects: activity design around specific materials, facilitation strategies, and environmental organization. We’ll also share some guiding principles and learning indicators we’ve developed that can help you integrate tinkering into your elementary and middle-school science program. Whether you’re new to making or a seasoned tinkerer, we hope this course will help you take the next step! This course will start on July 27 and is freely available through Coursera upon registration.

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